Wants and Needs – How to Explain the Difference with Kids

As adults, the line between wants and needs can be blurry at times. The messages we are sending our kids when we shout out “I need those shoes” can make it even more confusing for them. Before we even think about approaching the topic of distinguishing wants and needs with our children, we need to make sure we understand them ourselves.

No, you do not need that new television; yes you do need a good night’s sleep after your long day at work. Breaking it down for our kids can actually help us understand the difference better as well. Needs are things that are vital for our survival; food, water and a place to live. Wants are more of a luxury – things we can live without. And while you might feel like you can’t live without that fancy new phone, you really can.

Teaching your child the difference between needs and wants from early will help them appreciate things more, and they won’t take things for granted. This will help them overcome any feeling of entitlement and make them feel grateful for what they do have.

There are some simple, yet effective ways to explain the difference to your kids. Not only do you need to explain the difference, but you really need to help them understand what a need is and what a want is.

Go through magazines – Visual learning can be a great way to drive a point home with kids. Go through a lifestyle magazine and take a look at the different products advertised with your kids. Get them to say whether or not something is a want or need – perfume, groceries, new jeans or vitamins. By seeing the different products, they will hopefully get the idea of the difference between the two.

Practice differentiating when out shopping – Take the teaching out with you when you go shopping. As you add things into your shopping cart, ask your child if the items are needed, or if they are just a little luxury. Hopefully this will teach your kids that they definitely do not need that candy bar!

Encourage them to pay for their own wants – Blurred lines between needs and wants can cost quite a bit when paying for unnecessary luxuries. Give your child chores to do around the house or odd jobs here and there that you pay them for. Encourage them to save this money, and then tell them to use it when there is something they ‘want’. This will teach them how to identify ‘wants’ and that they aren’t things that are necessities.

Say no now and again – By saying no to some ‘wants’ now and again, you are showing your kid that there are things they can live without. They know you will never deny them of food, clothing or a place to sleep, so they will know these are needs.

Write down different wants and needs – If your kid is old enough to read and write, have them make two columns on a page – needs and wants. Have them list what they feel fits under each column and them help them check whether they are right or wrong.

There are lots of different ways to incorporate simple life lessons into everyday life. Teaching your child the difference between wants and needs is one of the most important lessons you can teach them. This will help them grow up not expecting things that they don’t really need, and it will help them appreciate gifts and treats more when they do happen to get them.

As a parent, you want to make sure that you raise your child to be aware and considerate. By making them aware that they are privileged enough to have the options of ‘wants’, you will make them more considerate and thoughtful towards those who don’t. You will be helping them understand that they are actually lucky, despite the fact that you said no to getting them another toy to add to their enormous collection.

Explaining the difference may be tough at first, but by practicing examples at home and when out and about, you will really be able to drill the idea into their minds, helping them understand what wants and needs are clearly.