Teaching Kids the Difference Between Need and Want

Mom and daughter shopping for clothesLearning the basic difference between need and want is a skill that your child will carry with him or her well into adulthood. Knowing how to differentiate between the two can help both with your budget today and your child’s future financial success.

Teaching the difference between need and want can be difficult in some circumstances. As a parent, you want to enable your child to have everything they want in life. However, it’s also important to learn how and when to say no to your child, too.

The perfect opportunity to teach your child the difference between need and want is when they ask you for something new.

Do you need this item?

A “need” is something that you absolutely cannot live without. Examples of needs include:

  • Food and water
  • Transportation
  • Shelter
  • Clothing

A “want” is something that you would like to have, but you could survive without it. Examples of wants include:

  • Candy or soda
  • Toys
  • New sporting equipment
  • Designer-brand clothes

When your child asks for something new, answer their request with this simple question: Can you continue living without this item? If the answer is yes, then this item is not a necessity.

How to determine if something is a need or a want

PBS Kids suggests having your child write a list of the things that they believe are necessary for their day-to-day life. Then, ask them why they believe these items are necessary. Ask your child to write down a list of the things they want as well, and ask why he they want these items. Guide your child to adjust their mindset if they have categorized anything incorrectly.

For example, if your child says that they need a brand-new, designer-label jacket to stay warm in the winter, point out that while it’s correct that a jacket is a necessity, the designer-label is a nice-to-have item, rather than a requirement.

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Categories: Parenting Tips
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