Question: My wife and I disagree strongly about the role of materialism in out children’s lives. She feels we should give them toys and games that we never had as kids. At Christmas time, we stack gifts knee deep around the tree. I feel this is a mistake, even if we could afford what we are doing. What is your view on materialism in the life of a child?

Dr. Dobson: I also have concerns about giving kids too many things, which often reflects on out inability to say “no” to them.

The child’s lust for toys is carefully generated though millions of dollars spend on TV advertising by toy manufacturers. Their commercials are skilfully made so that toys look like full-sized copies of their real counterparts. The little buyer sits open-mouthed in utter fascination. Five minutes later, he begins a campaign that will eventually cost his dad $14.95 plus batteries and tax.

Suppose the parents are courageous enough to resist the child’s urging. He is not blocked. Grandparents are notoriously easy to “con.”

Some would ask, “Why not? Why shouldn’t we let our children enjoy the fruits of our good times?” I would not deny a child a reasonable quantity of things he craves. But many North American children are inundated with excesses that work toward their detriment.

It has been said that prosperity offers a greater test of character than does adversity, and I’m inclined to agree. There are few conditions that inhibit a sense of appreciation more than for a child to feel he is entitled to whatever he wants, whenever he wants it.

It is enlightening to watch as a child tears open stacks of presents at his birthday party or perhaps at Christmas time. One after another, the expensive contents are tossed aside with little more than a glance.

The child’s mother is made uneasy by this lack of enthusiasm and appreciation, so she says “Oh, Marvin! Look what it is! A little tap recorder! What do you say to Grandmother? Give Grandmother a big hug. Did you hear me, Marvin? Go give Grams a big hug and kiss.”

Although it sounds paradoxical, you actually cheat a child out of pleasure when you give him too much. Pleasure occurs when an intense need is satisfied. If there is no need, there is no pleasure. A glass of water is worth more gold to a man dying of thirst. The analogy to children should be obvious. If you never allow a child to want something, he never enjoys the pleasure of receiving it.

If you buy him a tricycle before he can walk, and a bicycle before he can ride it, a car before he can drive and a diamond ring before he knows the value of money, he accepts these gifts with little pleasure and less appreciation.
How unfortunate that such a child never had the chance to long for something, dreaming about it at night and plotting for it by day. He might have gotten desperate enough to work for it. The same possession that brought a yawn could have been a trophy and a treasure.

I suggest that you and your wife allow you child the thrill of temporary deprivation. It’s more fun and much less expensive.

Question: What is the source of self esteem?

Dr. Dobson:
Feelings of self-worth and acceptance, which provide the cornerstone of a healthy personality, can be obtained from only once source. It cannot be bought or manufactured.

Self-esteem is only generated by what we see reflected about ourselves in the eyes of other people or in the eyes of God. In other words, evidence of out worthiness must be generated outside of ourselves. It is only when others find us pleasant and desirable and worthy that we come to terms with our own egos.
The vast majority of us are dependant on our associates for emotional sustenance each day. What does this say, then, about those who exist in a state of perpetual isolation year after year? Such people are virtually certain to experience feelings or worthlessness, accompanied by deep depression and despair.