Is it possible to teach kids to appreciate what they have when others have so much more?

I grew up not having as much as others.  However, back where I grew up, there was not as much polarization within our community.  Whereas, in today’s environment, you have more extremes where there are kids with all the expensive clothes, gadgets, electronics, new cars, etc which places extreme pressure on parents to manage children’s expectations.

So rather than going into debt and buying things you can’t afford, how do you teach your children how to appreciate what they have and to be happy with what they have—even when others may have more… much more?  As an example, we have always had an old car for the kids to drive to high school.  The oldest kid at home gets to drive it as ‘their car’ (currently a 92 Honda Accord).  We do hear, ‘why do we have to drive old klunkers’? 

So, with that in mind, I have been doing research in the family lab on how to teach my children how to appreciate what they have or receive.  The experiment happens at Easter and it’s called the ‘money’ eggs. 

I put a variety of amounts of money in various plastic colored eggs-1 for each family member.  Each year I vary a bit so it’s never the same amounts. There’s 1 with the most (has ranged from $20 to $100ish) and 1 with the least (ranging from $2-$10)  and everything in between.  I place the eggs on the table.  I then give my speech on the fact that they have no money in their hands now and anything they get will be more than what they have now.  And although I could find other things to do with the money, I want them to have it.

Who gets to choose first varies each year as we have tried a variety of ways … Oldest to youngest, youngest to oldest, pick numbers from a hat, etc…

Everyone starts with a good attitude….  And at the end of the choosing of the eggs, someone is always very happy… others are ‘ok’, but invariably, the person that picks the egg with the least amount of money gets upset.  At times, they can’t even control their emotions and get very frustrated.  One time, one of our children, handed me the money back and said they didn’t want it.  One year, I even but the same amount in every egg—everyone was disappointed.

After the choosing, yes, my wife will remind me how this routine seems to detract from the spirit of Easter (and if she was the one with the least amount, she’ll also tells me to never do it again!)

After the many experiences, it becomes clear to me as to the key to lasting happiness:  When we are able to keep our focus on ‘people’ – caring for ourselves, caring about others, seeking out opportunities to help, to compliment, to encourage, to laugh, to enjoy time together we maximize our happiness and it is long lasting.  When we shift our focus to ‘things’ (money, furniture, cars, electronics, clothes, etc) we open ourselves up to limiting our ability to be happy due to the temporary pleasure that seems to evaporate when we see someone with more than us, better than ours, or we get bored with it.

So, should I stop the ‘money egg’ activity?

Your thoughts?