The Haves and the Have-Mores: When Kids Get Comparisonitis


comparisonitisIt’s almost back-to-school time, when our thoughts turn to new teachers, backpacks … and, potentially, how to contend with a bad case of comparisonitis: That is, your kid’s.

RELATED: Quiz: Do You Have Money Comparisonitis?

“My daughter had to start in a new school last year,” explains Jeanine Groebe*, mother of Martina, 12, who lives in central New Jersey. ”I’d recently gotten divorced, and we moved.”

One afternoon, Martina brought a couple of girls home with her, and her mom was thrilled she was making new friends—until she overheard her daughter explaining that they had had to live in this small apartment because “their big house had been ‘broken’ in Hurricane Sandy.”

The only problem? There was no big house. Martina had made the whole story up.

“When the other girls left, I asked her why she lied about where we live,” says Groebe, “and she admitted she was embarrassed by our new apartment because her new friends all live in big houses.”

Groebe felt bad that her daughter was upset enough to lie, she says, and explained that they were lucky to have a nice place to live.

Welcome to the age of pint-size comparisonitis.

RELATED: How to Cure Your Money Comparisonitis

Where Our Kids Get Their Ideas

Let’s face it: We all want our children to have everything they could ever possibly want. It’s hard to deny them anything. We feel this way out of love, but we may also use gifts to assuage our guilt for not being able to spend as much time with them as we feel we should. Some moms are generous just because they can afford to be.

Over 76% of parents say their spending on kids has gotten out of control. But are we, ourselves, part of the problem, and what role does where we choose to live and raise our children play?

  • Matthew Gordon

    A grandfather’s camera isn’t an age-appropriate gift for an 11-year old. When Melissa asked “What am I supposed to do with this?” she was absolutely right. I’m not sure what she’s supposed to do with it either. As far as him having taken pictures with it at family gatherings, keep in mind most of those family gatherings probably took place before Melissa was born.

    Something passed down in the family can be a wonderful gift to an adult who has a holistic view of what the family is and where it came from. The camera as a gift in this situation seemed like it was more about the grandmother and father than it was about Melissa, which isn’t the purpose of a gift. A gift should be for the benefit of the person receiving it, not the person giving it. When buying a gift for an 11-year old, think like an 11-year old.

    • PB

      I agree Matthew. The art of gifting, is really a gift in itself!

    • LJ

      I agree to a small extent. However, just because someone doesn’t pick out the perfect gift doesn’t make them a bad person, and children should be taught that any gift is an unexpected and wonderful gesture. The fact that someone thought of you enough to bring you anything is something for which you should express gratitude.

    • aokimoonchild

      I agree with Matthew, it’s the first thought that came to me as I was reading about the ‘ungrateful’ gift episode. The child cannot appreciate an old camera at age 11, especially with the new technology now available; my youngest is 11 and would have thanked the gift giver and probably just displayed the item in his room, forgotten. The real problem is that the kids in this family are not being taught proper manners, which has nothing to do with ‘comparisonitis’. There are lots of books available to help parents teach their kids good manners in a variety of situations.
      My daughter age 17 was gifted some expensive heirloom jewelry a few years ago by one of my aunts, who happened to share the same birthstone. I’m still holding on to the items for her until she is mature enough to appreciate and take care of them.

    • Alice

      When I was 8, I got this exact gift as for christmas. I loved it! It was explained that I was now in charge of taking pictures at holidays and even got some starter film to go with the camera. Depending on the camera, this could totally be age appropriate. But that’s a little off-topic. You don’t have to love every gift you receive, but you should show gratitude. Teach your children to be thankful and how to handle themselves in these situations. There is no excuse for that girl to complain the way she did.

      In fact, if that’s how my children behaved. The gift giving would cease until they learn (because they were taught) proper manners.

  • PB

    I agree and disagree with this article at the same time.
    In my own family, growing up was a challenge as my mother has been the bread winner and my father has never worked a day in his life. My sister and I are more appreciative of things that we received. My eleven years younger brother, on the other hand, takes everything for granted. He even gets hurt the same way, it has been mentioned throughout this article. That’s in India.
    In the US, recently, we went socializing with family over burgers and beers. While I was out taking a call, our younger cousins ordered the drinks specials (two pitchers full of ice and no drinks at all). The bill for the night rang $250.00! My heart was in my mouth!

    They have been raised well, I know and my OH is witness to it. However, where they picked up these splurging habits, beats us!
    So it is like a mixed bag I would say. You may teach them good growing up. However after becoming adults, the choices they make might really surprise you!