What to do when your kids compare themselves to a wealthier family:
MY SIX-YEAR-OLD CAME HOME FROM A PLAYDATE AND COMPLAINED THAT "SO-AND-SO HAS SUCH A BIG CLOSET, WHY DON'T I GET ONE TOO?"
DR. RUTHERFORD: These words can certainly be tough for a parent to hear, but I wouldn’t deny what the child is saying. It probably was a big, beautiful closet. What we're not sure about is what her motivation was for asking this question. Is she feeling jealous of what the other child has, or is she simply curious that other people live differently than she does?
The key is for the parent to resist getting defensive. A good response might be something like, “Gee, isn’t she lucky to have that.”
It's fine to empathize with the child's feelings, too, and say: “I understand that you’d like a big closet like that, too, and maybe you will have one someday.”
MOLLY: This question was submitted to our website from a mom in Los Angeles. If I were this Mom, I know my first reaction would be to say: “Well, you get to go to ice skating classes and maybe they don’t; everyone is different and has different things."
I think it's important that children realize that they don't necessarily have to have or do the same things as their friends do. Maybe that's getting too defensive?
DR. RUTHERFORD: Yes, I think that's getting too defensive. I would take a different approach and say,"It's a beautiful house and closet, isn't it. I really...
Molly Skyar and Dr. Rutherford publish Conversations With My Mother.com, an online resource for offering practical parenting tips and psychological insight into raising kids.
Dr. Rutherford is a Clinical Psychologist with a busy family practice for more than 30 years. She has degrees from Duke University, New York University, and the University of Denver.