“What do you really need for Christmas?”

I was trying to help children understand the difference between needing and wanting things. I asked a preschooler, “Is the toy in the picture something you want or something you need for Christmas?” He looked at it for a long time and said, “I really, really need that toy because it’s what I really, really want.”

Is there a toy you really need?

Is there a toy you really need?

Wants and needs are too abstract for preschoolers. Ironically, they are often too abstract for many adults. In America, we have cars that cost often more than food and housing in other countries. We have televisions that have 500 channels and the ability to watch anything at anytime. We have gadgets that promise to make our lives easier, yet ultimately they clutter our basements and garages. We have electronics that seem obsolete in a matter of a few years. Something we think we want today often becomes something we do not even like in a matter of a few months.

The lines of wanting and needing become blurred in our thinking. We want what we want, and we expect what we need. It gets even more complicated when those things we wanted so much eventually become burdens in our lives. The happiness we thought we would gain from getting what we want wanes, and we search for a new desire. If we could remain happy with what we have, we would not have as many wants and maybe, just maybe we could really, really need what we really, really want.

  •  What in your life right now do you think you really, really want?
  • How do you know that getting what you really, really want make will make you really, really happy?
  • Have you had a time when getting something did not keep you really, really happy?
  • Will you think about giving someone else something that may surprise him or her and bring great joy?
  • What could help you remain happy in what you have?

“Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.” Ingrid Bergman