I Hope I Can Help My Kids Learn What’s Truly Important in Life

All the girls in my daughter’s class are wearing furry jackets and she wants one. My youngest son will only wear a certain brand of sweatshirt. My oldest has to have a certain car— he wasn’t even open to other suggestions and would turn his nose up when I suggested he get something practical like a nice Ford.

I realize appearances are important. I know what it’s like to want what you want because you feel it will elevate your cool-status. The importance of fitting in when you’re a teen feels so heavy, it can make or break you. I certainly don’t deny my kids some of these pleasures but I don’t give into every single one either.

teen girls friends
As a teen, it is easy to get caught up in material wants. (TWenty20 @alexandrahraskova)


The comparison game starts early.

The comparison game starts early for a lot of people. It’s natural to covet a pair of shoes, a house, or a lifestyle that doesn’t look like yours. It seems like an easy solution: If I just had more money, or more friends, or a nicer car, then I’d be happy.

I did it when I was young and I catch myself doing it still even though I know where real happiness lives.

Real happiness is found in true, lasting friendships. It’s found in taking a quiet afternoon doing something you love. It’s hidden in the little things you do each day that aren’t manufactured.

These days, thanks to social media, many of us are throwing everything out there for the world to see— our vacations, our new cars, the over-loaded cart at Target— it’s not all for show. Many people are happy, have worked hard and want to share those moments. And they should.

But, it’s shockingly easy to get caught up in it all of these material wants and lose yourself in labels, titles, and things. We’ve all felt the lightness of being inspired. And we all know the darkness of thinking if we just had a certain thing or status, we’d be happy.

It’s important for me to remind my teens what is really important in life.

As I watch my teens and observe how they react to the world unfolding around them, it’s important for me to remind them about what really matters in life, to tell them to invest in the things that will stick. Things like, choosing a career they love even if it doesn’t afford them a luxurious lifestyle or investing in true friendships. I also need to remind them never to tie their self-worth to their bank account.

It’s easy to believe happiness is found in the aisles of your favorite store, or being accepted into a certain clique.

I know adults who are so exhausted trying to keep up with the neighbors that they are downright angry. They are so caught up in what they drive, what their child drives, where their child is going to school that they’ve sucked the joy right out their life.

I don’t want my kids thinking like this. I know how easy it is to fall into the trap— I’m human with feelings of wanting and jealousy too. But I have learned that pretentiousness doesn’t bring happiness and the best things in life cannot be purchased.

It’s just too easy to get hung up on these ideas. I can’t help but think that if I had had someone to remind me when I was younger what really mattered in life, it would have helped me during those dark times when I felt that I wasn’t enough. Right now, my teenagers ignore me when I talk to them about such things, but like all the other “lessons I shoved down their throat” I’m sure they’ll come day when they tell me I was so right about this.

My hope is that they discover this truth much earlier in life than I did.

You Might Also Enjoy:

Why Thanksgiving in the 80s Was the Best 

9 Things I Wish I Could Go Back And Tell My Teenage Self

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

Read more posts by Katie

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.