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Raising Kids In A Material World

Over the past 13 years, the number of people earning a million dollars a year has quadrupled, and 12 million households now have incomes of $100,000, according to a recent article in Child Magazine.

So if you feel like you aren't just trying to keep up with the Joneses, but are trying to keep up with Bill Gates, you aren't alone. How do you raise kids in a highly materialistic culture? Family and adolescence counselor Mike Riera brings some suggestions to The Saturday Early Show.

Is it bad for your child to have less money than his friends?

In the short run, it hurts their self-image. If everyone else has the latest Game Boy, they feel embarrassed and shy while this is going on. In the short term, it's not good for them.

But that doesn't mean it can't be good in the long run.

It will teach them they have to know they are valued by people for more than the objects they own. It may make them stronger; it's OK for them to suffer some pain. The key is your treatment of them. Give them attention, stay curious about your children, and the deleterious effects will be short lived.

Some parents give their kids everything. They have dirt bikes, snow boards, and cell phones. If you can afford to buy them everything, is there anything wrong with that?

Start thinking in terms of immediate and delayed gratification. One of the markers of success is the ability to delay gratification. Children need to learn to be patient for the things they want, or nothing will have value. Because you have the money doesn't mean you buy them things any more than you let them stay out all night because you go to bed at 9 p.m. Be clear: "I want" does not mean "I get."

If your kids say everyone else has a dirt bike and you can't afford it, how do you explain this to your kids?

Simple: We can't afford those things.

When this kind of thing comes up, write a family mission statement. Never have I heard a family mission statement that talked about buying things. It's more about love and support.

Don't feel bad if you don't provide the material goods. But you should feel bad if you don't provide the opportunities, making the home a good learning environment, because education is the key to getting into a position to afford what you need.

Read more responses to viewer questions from The Saturday Early Show's Mike Riera, go to the Ask Mike Archive.

If you have a question for Mike Riera about dealing with your teen, send an email to with "Ask Mike" in the subject line. Or write to "Ask Mike" The Saturday Early Show, 514 West 57th St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10019. Your question may be featured on future shows.

To what extent do children's demands of "I want some go-go boots" really mean they are craving their parent's attention?

It means they've been missing your attention. If we miss the subtle cues hanging around us (lots of questions, kids being pests), then they escalate to the larger cues: "I want the go-go boots, I have to have a cell phone." And if we miss the larger cues, they escalate to the "can't miss" cues: "Mom, I got arrested for drinking and driving. Can you come pick me up?"

How do you make kids realize that the amount of money you have doesn't determine how good you are as a person?

By the way you value your kids. Show up at a game, rather than missing the game and buying your child a present instead.

Make them a part of your life. Bring them to work. Bring them on errands. Sit and listen to their stories (uninterrupted).

In short, give them your attention. Have clear separation between home and work lives. Make family time, family time, even when you're hanging out, doing nothing, in different rooms.

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