One of the greatest, if not THE greatest, obstacle to simplicity with kids is FOMO. The fear of missing out. We worry about our children missing out on toys, experiences, and opportunities that they desire. We worry our children will be negatively impacted as a result. We fear they are going to miss opportunities. We also worry they are going to be mad at us. Or that they won’t fit in if they don’t have the same things as their friends.
As the adults, we have to serve as the brain managers for our children until their brains are fully developed (so…like 25-years-old? Kidding, not kidding.) That means we have to make hard decisions based on reason, logic, and family values. Often these are decisions that our children just aren’t equipped to make.
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Our kids often want things that we don’t want to give them or allow them. Maybe your 6-year-old wants to watch TV shows with a lot of fighting. Or perhaps your tween wants makeup, but you think she’s too young. Or your 3-year-old loves the videos of other kids playing with toys on YouTube but they make your skin crawl.
What I want you to take away from this episode is that we need to tune into how comparison, envy, and FOMO impact the way we are raising our children. We can become aware of how these elements affect us, how they impact our children, and how we can be better prepared to raise kids aligned with the beliefs that matter to us.
As parents, we are constantly using comparison. Just this morning, my husband dropped our kids off at school in short sleeves. When he got home, he said, “it was kind of cold in there.”
I froze. Crap. Did I fail to dress the kids adequately for the weather? I questioned myself. I loaded the kids up in the car, so jacket selection was on me…
So I asked him, “Were the other kids wearing jackets?” No, he said. Phew, I’m doing okay.
What happens in comparison? You can take a look at the people around you and say, “I’m doing okay.” Or “Crap, I dropped the ball. I’m not measuring up.”
We all compare, all the time. It’s human nature. It’s adaptive. Even animals do it—if your small dog walks up to a big dog at the dog park, it compares itself and then rolls onto it’s back in submission.
Telling someone to “stop comparing” is like saying “stop thinking about the elephant in the room.” You can’t do it. Instead of striving to stop comparing—we can strive to notice ourselves doing it. And we choose whats we do with the comparison.
When we compare can take two paths, we can follow or we can lead. Following isn’t always bad. Sometimes it makes good sense to follow the path others have taken.
Did the other kids have jackets? No.
Okay then we are fine.
This is a helpful comparison. It saves me looking up the weather and making a trip to the school to drop off a jacket.
Do other 8 year olds have smart phones? Yes?
Okay we need to get one too.
This is not a helpful comparison–because we need to evaluate the impact of this decision. Not just go with the flow.
Sometimes in comparison, we experience envy. We decide to follow the example set before us and “just go with it.” They may or may not serve us.
The other path would be to lead. You can make comparisons and then choose to make different choices that better serve your family. It takes guts to show and go against the grain. Especially if you’ve been falling victim to envy and FOMO—it can feel hard to make change. You need deep conviction.
Do all the other kids have a lot of toys? Yes?
Does that really serve our family? What kind of impact does it have on the way my kids play and how my family lives?
Are the other kids are allowed on Snapchat? Yes?
What are the implications of social media on children? What are the pros and cons of allowing social media profiles for children?
We rely on the community around us to give both spoken and unspoken guidance around the expectations of parenthood and living. But when do we need to question it? When do we need to redefine the beliefs and values in our own families?
Comparison is the biggest obstacle when it comes to simplicity. We have to notice ourselves doing it. And choose when it serves us and when it doesn’t.
Comparison can lead to envy. It can lead to FOMO.
I’m going to talk about the Barbie Dream House. If you own a Barbie Dream House, I don’t want you to feel shame. I had a Barbie Dream House as a kid and loved it. You may have a kid who plays with yours daily. Most of my dear friends have Barbie Dream Houses for their daughters and I love that my daughter gets to go to their houses and play with different toys than she has at home. Honestly, I just don’t want it in MY house.
I’m simply sharing my own thoughts and opinions on one toy and using it as a way to illustrate how envy and FOMO profoundly infiltrate our lives and the lives of our children by way of us.
So my 4-year-old went for her first drop off playdate last week with her friend. Her friend just turned five, and she got a Barbie Dreamhouse. Her mom is a good friend of mine, and I saw the photos on Facebook, and I immediately knew this was the beginning of the end of me.
She was going to start pining after that giant pink house.
I did when I was a kid. I desperately wanted to a Barbie Dream House and all.the.things that came along with it. I got it. Just because I had a Barbie Dream House, does that mean that I want my daughter to have one?
My Barbie stuff was a disaster. The clothes, the shoes, the dresses, the accessories. The massive amounts of small parts and pieces. Most of the shoes didn’t have a match. The pants were lost. The hair was tangled. It was spread all over the bedroom that I shared with my brother.
I could not manage it. It was too much stuff.
My daughter shares my fast-moving brain that leads her to jump from one thing to the next with minimal regard for what mess is left behind. In her short four years of life, she has already shown me that minimalism will be vital for her to maintain some semblance of a chaos-free life. And let’s be honest, she eventually may struggle with clutter herself despite the way that I’m raising her. That’s unknown at this point.
Aside from the Barbie-world being overwhelming with too much stuff, I’m also not a huge fan of the context around beauty, fashion, shopping, and you know…an emphasis on life in the “Dream House” which is a massive mansion and limo with a hot tub in the back. I know that it’s gotten so much better in the past decades, but it’s still not on the top of my wish list for play scripts for her.
What is a play script, and why are they important? Pretend play is like an improv show—it involves a story and each person plays a character. They try on a role and act it out. Think about how kids play “house”. One kid is the mom; one is the dad; one is the baby. They cook and eat and go to school.
The toys, shows, books, and experiences that we expose our children to become an active part of their play scripts. These scripts become part of their inner storylines that impact the values and beliefs in their minds.
And if I’m still being honest, that Barbie Dream House I had as a child is still sitting in a landfill somewhere. Because it will live on for approximately 500 years as most plastic toys do. So there’s that.
Needless to say, I’m on team “No Dream House”.
But what if team “No Dream House” is also “Team Dreamcrusher.” Because a lot of times, that’s what it can feel like when you have a child experiencing envy. You feel like you are crushing their dreams by saying no. As adults, we know how hard it is to feel envy. We will go to great lengths to make sure that our kids don’t have to feel envy.
- We buy cell phones for 8-year-olds because their classmates have them.
- We let kids play violent video games even though we don’t like it.
- Even when we aren’t comfortable with it, we allow our young girls to wear mature costumes in dance competitions because the rest of the team is doing it.
We want our kids to fit in. We want our kids to be “cool”.
Or do we? What if we want to raise kids who go against the grain? Who question the status quo? Be prepared. This isn’t going to come naturally. As kids grow, you will see them increasingly conform to their peers and lean on developing a group identity outside of the immediate family. But which group identity will they lean toward?
Let’s talk for a moment about raising cool kids. Early in my doctorate program, I published some research on peer perception and sociometric status. This is such a fascinating area, really about understanding how children perceive one another and how they rate or “classify” one another. I’m going to go down quite a rabbit hole here, but I think it’s essential. So we are doing it.
When we think about kids being “cool” we often think about popular vs. rejected. Either you are in, or you’re out. In the research, that sort of popularity is called “perceived popularity”. It means that other kids perceive you as being popular. Think, Mean Girls. It’s often when a child has an image that others want to emulate. Like the fancy car and designer sneakers.
Emulate is a key word here.
These kids are very socially visible, but not often well liked. These kids are characterized by higher levels of dominance and aggression. Physical aggression is more common for boys, relational aggression is more common for girls. Example of relational aggression include gossip, social exclusion, and hostility. Bullying is common in both genders.
That’s perceived popular. The other type of popularity that the research defines is sociometric popularity. Sociometric popularity is based on how well other kids actually like your children. Children with high levels of sociometric popularity are trustworthy and kind. They aren’t dominant and aggressive; they are effectively the kids who are LIKED by their peers.
Now some kids are both—perceived popular and well-liked. But the research points to a distinct separation between the two, which means that more often than not, children do NOT fall into both categories.
Going back to this word, emulate. What do we want our children to emulate? How are we enabling their emulation or imitation of lifestyles that we don’t even like?
When we buy into the idea that we need to purchase and do certain things for our kids to fit in, we reinforce the sense of urgency to emulate the accumulation of stuff and the elevation of a material-focused, image-conscious world.
Now that’s not to say we will avoid these things by “just saying no”. It’s not that simple. The larger society will always impact our children in ways beyond our control. But do we want to be part of the problem or part of the solution? When we buy our children things and permit them experiences that go against our better judgment, we often end up as part of the problem.
How do we deal with comparison? What do we do in the face of envy?
Interestingly, my daughter came home from the playdate and didn’t even mention the Dream House. It was a mere blip on her radar. I quite literally made something out of nothing. I didn’t have to do any Dream Crushing.
I think this is important to mention because often we may act in anticipation of FOMO. We may buy something or do something for our kids because we are worried they will feel envy, and we actually don’t even know if they will.
It’s okay to say no and set clear boundaries. It’s not just okay; in fact, you should honor your values and beliefs. I love the quote, “If someone gets upset with you for setting a boundary, that is an affirmation that the boundary is needed in the first place.” Remember, we are the adults with fully developed brains and credit cards. We have to act as the brain managers to make crucial decisions on behalf of our children because they cannot use reason and logic in the same ways that we do as adults. They can’t consider the long term implications. They live in the moment.
What area of life do you feel like comparison hits you the hardest right now? Work? Body image? Kid’s achievements? Facebook likes? Do you find yourself comparing on behalf of your children? Perhaps even pre-emptively.
One of the greatest, if not the greatest obstacle to simplicity with kids is FOMO. The fear of missing out. We worry that our children are going to miss out by not having the same toys and experiences and opportunities that their friends might have. We worry that our children are going to be missing out and negatively impacted as a result. And we also worry that they're going to be mad at us when, and if we say no, and if we are trying to live a life with less, we may worry that our kids won't fit in with their friends. If they don't have the same things or the same quantity of things or extracurricular activities, that's what we're talking about today. Comparison and the FOMO, emulation. These are all normal human things that your kids are going to experience and that you experience both for yourself and on behalf of your kids. And that's what we're talking about today.
Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of simple families. Simple families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us. Thanks so much for tuning in today.
This is an episode that I have had in the works for, I don't know, a year or two, it's a topic that I've been wanting to tackle. But my biggest hesitation is that it comes off as kind of judgy because I'm going to be talking about my own beliefs and my own values, and those might not resonate with you. So what I say, I'm looking for in my own life with my own kids might be different from yours. Don't let that get in the way of the main takeaway from this episode. What I want you to take away from this episode is tuning into how comparison, envy and FOMO impact the way that we're raising our children. How do we become better aware of how these elements impact us and how they impact our kids? And how can we be better prepared to raise kids aligned with the beliefs that matter most to us, whatever those beliefs may be. Now, I've been wanting to tackle this for some time, because it's a topic that I hear a lot about, especially from parents as their kids are getting older. When kids are at home, their primary role models are their immediate family, the people around them.
But as soon as you send them off to school, their peers start to a huge role and a huge influence, not only on them, but also on us. We watch what other kids are doing. Just like our kids are watching their peers. We're also watching their peers or watching what their peers are wearing or watching what their peers are doing. We're watching how their peers are acting. And a lot of times we want to preemptively save our kid. It's from experiencing that envy and FOMO. After spending the last few years, working in this field with thousands of families, I have learned that, that this is probably the biggest barrier to simplicity. We're worried that it's not actually the best thing for our kids. We're worried our kids are going to be missing out by living lighter and living with less. And today I'm going to explain why that's just not true.
In fact, living later and living with less is going to allow her kids to see more clearly what matters the most this Friday, September 18th, I'm going to be launching a special offer for the simple families foundations program. If you're not familiar with the simple families foundations program, this was previously called the masterclass. It's my A to Z the comprehensive approach to simplifying your home and simplifying and your parenting. There is already so much value packed into this course, but during the seven day offer, that starts on Friday. I'm going to be offering you 40% off the regular price, along with four brand new bonuses. You're going to get all the regular bonuses with the program, like an in-depth tour of my whole home and the exclusive Facebook group. But you'll also get the new ones, which are the quick-start simple living checklist, the positive parenting audio mini course, the independent play toolkit and an extra starter group coaching session to help you get things kicked off.
We've been thinking about the program, or if you've been feeling pulled towards simplicity, go to simplefamilies.com/specialoffer. You can join the wait list. And that will open up on Friday, September 18th. So as the adults, we are the brain managers for our children. And until they're, our brains are fully developed, like when they're 25 or so kidding, not really kidding. We have to make the are decisions based on reason and logic and family values. Often we have to make decisions for our kids that they just aren't equipped to make yet. And during this time, while we're still acting as the brain managers, our kids are gonna want things that we don't want to give them or allow them. Maybe your six year old wants to watch TV shows with a lot of fighting or perhaps your tween wants makeup, but you think she's too young or are you have three year old?
Who loves videos of other kids playing with toys on YouTube, but they make your skin crawl. I want you to look within and try to become more aware of how comparison and envy and FOMO impact you and your child rearing. I'm not going ask you to stop comparing because I think that's impossible, but I think we can notice when it happens and we can take it off autopilot and start making better decisions. As parents we're constantly using comparison just this morning, my husband dropped our kids off at school and when he got home, he made a comment that it was kind of cold out there. And I froze. I'm like, Oh crap, did I dress the kids? Okay. For the weather? I questioned myself. I was the one that loaded them up in the car. So jacket selection was on me and I did not give them one.
So I asked him for the other kids wearing jackets. No, he said, okay, I'm doing okay. That's what happens in comparison. We take a look around and we decide, we either say, okay, I'm doing okay. Or, Oh crap, I dropped the ball and I'm not measuring up. We all compare all the time. It's human nature. It's adaptive. Actually. It's not just human nature. Animals do it too. I have a small dog. And if you take her to a dog park, she'll walk up to a big dog and roll over on her back and submission. She has sized up herself and her abilities and her strength and decided that she doesn't measure up. So to tell someone, stop comparing. I think it's like saying, stop thinking about the elephant in the room. You just can't do it. So instead of striving to stop comparing, we can strive to notice ourselves doing it and then choose what we do with that comparison. When we compare, we tend to take one of two paths we can follow, or we can lead.
Now we can make a comparison and follow what everybody else is doing. And following isn't always bad. Not by any means. Sometimes it makes good sense to follow the path that others have taken. Did the other kids have jackets? No. Okay. Then we're fine. That's a helpful comparison. It saves me from looking up the weather, making a trip to the school to drop off a jacket. But I'm doing is I'm using the people around me to help make decisions for my family. And that's not always a bad thing. Here's another example. Okay. Do the other eight year olds have smartphones? Yes. Then we need to get one too. That's not a helpful comparison because sometimes in comparison, we'll find envy where we decide to follow the example set before us and just go with it. And that may or may not serve us. So when we compare, sometimes we follow and we go with the flow.
When we do what other people are doing. And sometimes we lead. We make comparisons and then choose to make different choices that better serve our family. Now it takes guts to lead and go against the grain. Especially if you've been in this path of falling victim to envy and FOMO, it can feel really hard to make change. You need deep conviction. You need to really understand why you're making these decisions. That don't necessarily follow everyone else, such as do all the other kids have a lot of toys. Yes. Okay. I understand that all the other kids have a lot of toys, but does that really serve our family? What kind of impact does that have on the way my kids play and how my family lives? Is that what we really want or okay. Are the other kids on Snapchat? Yes. Hmm. I'm not sure.
That's what I want for my kids. What are the implications of social media on children? What are the pros and cons of allowing social media profiles for children? I'm going to think this one through, we rely on the community around us to give us both spoken and unspoken guidance about the expectations of Parenthood and living. But when do we need to question it? When do we need to redefine the beliefs and values for our own families? And like I said, comparison is the biggest obstacle when it comes to simplicity and we have to notice ourselves doing it and choose when it serves us. And when it doesn't, because comparison can lead to envy and it can lead to FOMO. So I'm going to talk about the Barbie dream house. Now, if you own a Barbie dream house, I do not want you to feel shame.
I had a Barbie dream house as a kid. It was in fact, my dream to have a Barbie dream house. And I loved it. You might have a kid that has one and plays with yours daily. I will tell you that most of my dear friends that have daughters have Barbie dream houses for their own kids. And I love that my daughter gets to go to their house and play with different toys. And then she has at home. I'm totally okay with that. But honestly, this is just me. I don't want it in my house. Now. I'm simply just sharing my thoughts and opinions on it, take it or leave it. But I'm going to use this one particular toy to illustrate how envy and FOMO can profoundly infiltrate our lives and the lives of our children by way of us. So my four year old went on her first drop-off play date last week with her friend and her friend just turned five and got a Barbie dream house.
Her friend's mom is a good friend of mine. And I saw the photos on Facebook. And I knew immediately that this was going to be like the beginning of the end, because as soon as she started playing with this dream house, that she was going to start pining after one also, because I know I did when I was a kid, I desperately wanted a Barbie dream house probably for years. And I wanted all the things that came along with it. And I got one, but questioning, you know, just because I had a Barbie dream house as a kid, does that mean I want my daughter to have one. I remember the way that I managed my Barbie stuff. It was a disaster, the clothes, the shoes, the dresses, the accessories, the massive amounts of small parts and pieces. Most of the shoes didn't have matches.
The pants were lost. The hair was tangled. The stuff was spread all over my bedroom that I shared with my brother. My mom was constantly nagging me to clean it up, but I couldn't manage it. It was too much stuff. Now my daughter shares my fast moving brain that leads her to jump from one thing to the next, with very little regard for what kind of message is being left behind. That's a kind way of saying she does not clean up after herself very well at all. And in her four short years of life, she has already shown me that minimalism will be important for her to maintain some kind of semblance of a chaos free life as she grows. And let's be honest. She may even struggle with clutter herself, despite the way that we're raising her. That's unknown at this point. But aside from the Barbie world, being overwhelming with too much stuff, I'm also not a huge fan of the context around beauty and fashion and shopping and the emphasis on the dream house, which is this massive mansion with a limo that has a hot tub in the back.
I know that Barbie has gotten so much better over the past decades. There is a Dr. Barbie lawyer, Barbie travel Barbie. It's not all about beauty, fashion and shopping, but still, it's not on the top of my wishlist for play scripts for her. So what is a play script and why are they important? Pretend play is kind of like an improv show. It involves a story and each person plays a character. They try on a roll and they act it out. Think about how kids play house one, kids, the mom, one kids, the dad, once the baby, they cook and they eat and they go to school. I should say that I don't interrupt or judge my kids play scripts. I view these as private displays of what's going on in their brain. And I think it's important to let them try on different hats and play in different ways.
So unless for some reason it's dangerous or harmful, I wouldn't interrupt a play script. Even if I don't love the fact that my daughter's pretending to be a princess going to get her nails done or something of the like, so the toys and the shows and the books and the experiences that we expose our kids to become an active part of their play scripts. These scripts become part of their inner storylines that impact their beliefs and values as they grow. And if I'm still being honest, that Barbie dream house that I had as a kid is still sitting in a landfill somewhere 25 years later, because it will live on for approximately 500 years as do most plastic toys. So there's that if you imagine how many dream houses that they've sold over the years, I don't know. Probably millions where those all go. We could probably dedicate an entire landfill just to the dream house.
So needless to say, I'm on team, no dream house, but what if team, no dream house is also team dream crusher because a lot of times that's what it can feel like when you have a child who is experiencing envy, you'll probably feel like you're crushing their dreams. When you say no. And as adults, we know how hard it is to experience envy, we go to great lengths to make sure that our kids don't feel envy. We buy cell phones for eight year olds because their classmates have them. We let them play violent video games, even though we don't like it, we might not be comfortable with it, but we let our young girls wear mature dance costumes because the rest of the team is doing it. We want our kids to fit in. We want our kids to be quote unquote, cool. Or do we, what if we want to raise kids who go against the grain who questioned the status quo, be prepared.
This isn't going to come naturally. As kids grow, you're going to see them increasingly conform to their peers and lean on developing a new group identity outside of the immediate family. But which group identity will they lean towards? I want to talk for a minute about raising cool kids early in my doctorate program, I published some research on peer perception and sociometric status, which is a fascinating area. It's really about understanding how children perceive one another and how they rate or classify each other. Now I'm going to go down a bit of a rabbit hole here, but I think this is important. So stay with me when we think about a kid being cool. We often think it's about popular versus rejected either you're in the, in crowd or you're out in the research. This sort of popularity is called perceived popularity. It means that there are certain kids that others perceive as being popular. Think mean girls, it's often a child who has an image that others want to emulate like a fancy car or designer sneakers emulate is the keyword here.
These kids who are perceived popular are very socially visible, but they're not often well-liked, they're characterized by higher levels of dominance and aggression. And when I say aggression, usually it's physical aggression for boys and relational aggression for girls, examples of relational aggression include gossip and social exclusion and hostility and bullying for both genders. So that's perceived popular. The kids that we perceive as being popular. Now there's another type of popularity that the research defines as sociometric popularity. Now sociometric popularity is based on how well others like your children, children with high levels of sociometric popularity are trustworthy and kind they're not dominant and aggressive. These are the kids who are actually well liked. Now of course, there are kids that are both perceived popular and actually well-liked, but the research points to a distinction between the two, which means that more often than not children don't fall into both categories.
So let's go back to this word emulate and think about group identity. What do we want our children to emulate? And how are our actions, the way that we're raising them, the way that we're buying for them, enabling their emulation or imitation of lifestyles that we don't even like when we buy into the idea that we need to buy and do certain things for our kids to fit in, we're reinforcing this sense of urgency to emulate the accumulation of stuff and the elevation of a material focused image conscious world. Now that's not to say we're going to be able to avoid these things just by saying, no, it's not that simple. The larger society is always going to impact our children in ways beyond our control, but do we, as the parents want to be part of the problem or part of the solution, when we buy our children things and permit them, experiences that go against our better judgment, we're often going to end up as part of the problem.
So how do we deal with comparison? What do we do in the face of envy? Interestingly, my daughter came home from the playdate and didn't even mention the dream house. It was a blip on her radar. I quite literally made something out of nothing. I completely overthought this, no surprise there that happens all the time. After listening to this episode, you'll be able to tell it quickly that I am a chronic over-thinker, but I didn't have to do any dream crushing, not this time, at least, but I will have to in the future. I think it's important to mention this because as parents, we may act in anticipation of FOMO. We might buy our kids something or do something for our kids because we are worried that they may feel envy and we don't actually even know if they will. So I want to tell you it's okay to say no, and it's okay to set clear boundaries.
It's not just, okay. In fact, you should honor your values and beliefs. I love the quote. If someone gets upset with you for setting a boundary, that is affirmation, that the boundary was needed in the first place, because remember we are the adults with the fully developed brains and credit cards. And we have to act as the brain managers to make important decisions on behalf of our kids, because they are young and their brains are still developing. And they're not able to use reason and logic in the same way that we do as adults. It's not possible for them to fully think through the long-term implications of decisions, the same way that we do, they very much live in the moment. So I challenge you to think about comparison. What area of life do you feel like comparison hits you the hardest right now for yourself, maybe it's work, success, body image, your kids' achievement, and then think about where do you find yourself comparing on behalf of your children?
Are you comparing the amount of toys that your kids have compared to the next door kids? Are you comparing the amount of extracurricular activities that are on your kids? Quote, unquote, resume, could some of these things actually be more important to you than they are your kids think about it. Comparison and envy and FOMO are going to always be with us. There is no way to outrun it. We can not buy our way out of envy if your children and be their friends for their X-Box and you buy them an X-Box, they're going to envy their friends for their sneakers. And then you buy him the sneakers. Then they're going to envy their friend's cell phone. And you buy in the cell phone, eliminating envy is like chasing something down that you're never going to catch. It's going to keep popping up. So how do we learn to sit with it and to deal with it and to encourage our kids to do the same?
How do we lead? By example, if living a simple life is something that you want for your family. I'd love to have you join us in the foundations program. This program is going to give you the structure and the conviction to keep moving forward, to raise values, focused kids, go to simplefamilies.com/specialoffer. You can get on the wait list for the offer that opens up on Friday, September 18th. And when you register at that time, you'll get the brand new bonuses and the 40% off the regular price. Again, that's simplefamilies.com/specialoffer. I appreciate you so much tuning in. If this episode has resonated with you and you have questions or comments screenshot at while you're listening to it and post it up to your Instagram stories, make sure you tag me. I'd love to reshare it. And I'd love to hear from you there as always thanks for tuning in and have a good one.