Home > A1 > I Want! I Want! I Need!

I Want! I Want! I Need!

In economics class, we recently learned about the difference between “wants” and “needs”. This difference should seem obvious to most, but the fact is, most children today seem confused about that difference. Parents are partially to blame because they are not modeling the difference between recognizing what is a “want” versus what is a “need”.

Imagine a mom and her little girl walking into the mall.  The first thing the child “wants” is a doll she sees in the window. She explains to her mom that everyone has one and that she “needs” one to be like the others.  Being a good mother, the mom explains that the child does not “need” things in order to make friends, she just “wants” them.  The child is upset and crying, but it is a lesson learned… or is it?  In the next store window, the mom sees that the Apple Store has the IPhone 5 in stock! Of course, the mother has been “needing” to buy one since it came out, but the stores have been out of stock, so she is thrilled that she can buy one immediately! Therefore, she goes in, daughter following, to buy it even though she already has a working phone. She is giving her daughter mixed signals; she tells her daughter that she does not “need” a doll, but acts as if she “needs” an IPhone 5 even though her daughter will realize that she does not truly “need” the phone, but simply “wants” it.

Kids learn by examples, not by words. How often have we been told one thing but taught another by our elders? This isn’t a new concept. Everyone knows that children follow the examples of those that they admire.  If parents do not teach their children the difference between “wants” and “needs” by their examples, how can they expect the children not to grow up as a nation of spoiled children.  Necessary needs are “the obvious things that every person needs to stay alive. I include food, water, shelter, and not much else in this category. These are the things without which we would not be alive.” Wouldn’t the nation be a better place if, instead of spending eight hundred dollars to have the latest and greatest technology, that same money was spent on others that truly can’t afford their own needs (food, water, clothing, shelter).


“According to one poll, commissioned by Time and CNN, two-thirds of American parents think that their children are spoiled.” Why is that? I believe it is because children are getting what they “want” far more often than just what they “need”.  Compare children in the U.S. to those in needy countries. No one will argue that the attitudes of children in countries that struggle simply to meet true needs of their citizens differ greatly than the attitudes of American children. We are a wealthy nation and are able to give children far more perhaps than their parents had growing up.  On the surface this may seem like a good thing, but we have to analyze how this excess is really affecting them.  Are the children grateful for what they have, or are they exhibiting a sense of entitlement?

“Children need our love, attention, acceptance, support and time.  Our kids want but do not need computer games, iPods, Facebook, sleepovers and ultimately get their driver’s license and go to parties and concerts.”  Maybe if parents spent more time with their children and modeled donating their money and efforts to the needy versus to the Apple Store, we would be fostering a different generation of children.

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  1. morgane14
    March 18, 2013 at 7:19 am

    How are the two-thirds of American parents defining spoiled? Are they saying their kids have too many things? Or that their kids are not grateful for what they have?

  2. govdaniellem
    March 18, 2013 at 7:21 am

    I agree with you completely. I especially think this is important because those children will eventually be adults and adults will just continue to set a false impression repeatedly. Good job 🙂

  3. March 18, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Is it possible that needs extend beyond basic needs of food, water, shelter, etc.? Maslow, for example, argues that once those base level needs are met people often require things like love and belonging for their own psychological well being. Therefore, “sleepovers” or “parties and concerts” may indeed provide some level of friendship and personal connection that is (on some level) a “need.”

  4. govabbyj
    March 18, 2013 at 7:41 am

    I like your piece, but maybe revisit your final paragraph and take out “sleepovers”. I would also elaborate on the the parents donating money because this is neither a “want” nor a “need”. You could say that the parents are helping others by fulfilling other people’s “needs”.

  5. govtoric
    March 18, 2013 at 7:59 am

    I agree with your analysis. There is a distinct difference between wants and needs and that difference is often blurred. Children will only learn the difference from their parents, but how can they when their parents don’t even know? You pose a lot of critical questions about society. Additionally, I like your progression from the example to children in general to your opinion.

  6. govabbyj
    March 18, 2013 at 8:19 am

    (Abby, Sadie, Reeve, Andrew H): In your article it can also be related to opportunity cost. The parents are having to sacrifice their most desirable “want” (the iPhone 5) to be a good example for their children.

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