In the Age of Entitlement: Want vs. Need

want-vs-needDo I really need a new jacket?

Probably not, but I sure do want one.  Somehow, in the recent generations, the definitions of want and need have blended.


Want v. have a desire to possess or do (something); wish.

Need v. require (something) because it is essential or very important.

I have to constantly remind myself of this distinction.  Desiring something as a wish, and needing something because it is essential or important.

-Abundant Choices

Kids, teens, and humans of all ages are surrounded by choices—abundant choices.  When you have so many choices, it is hard to distinguish between what it is you want, versus what is presented to you, versus what you need in the first place.

-Opportunities Abound

The issue is no longer, finding what you need or want.  Now, we have to decide whether we need or want it.

-Excess versus Essential

In the same argument, one can look at the internal debate that comes from what is excess versus what is essential.  The age-old problem of no being able to decide what you NEED on a week long vacation speaks to this problem.

-How It Affects Future Generations

Parents and adults need to teach children and teens the distinction between want versus need.  I do this with my clients and younger sisters all the time.  First I explain the difference in meaning, then I describe my own trouble with this idea and then I help them think of examples in their own lives.  If we do not teach this to younger generations, no one will.

This post is dedicated to Laurie Brown who knows the true definition of want versus need and taught me to appreciate everything I do have.  She showed me that I am lucky to mostly get everything I need, because not everyone is so fortunate.  Thank you for all that you do helping and inspiring youth in Los Angeles.

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  1. The Nag Factor: How to Get Kids to Stop Nagging YOU | Radical Parenting - May 31, 2010

    […] or worry.  Needs are important and should be addressed. Kids need to understand the difference between what they need versus want. A want is a non-essential activity or item.  This goes in the lower category.  I think parents […]

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