Dear Tom

I am a father of teenage sons, 13 & 14. I believe it is the hardest yet most important job
one can have. We live in New Tampa where competition and materialism seems to be a
constant battle, (i.e. only the best of the best play in sports, the rest may be on the team,
but rarely play). My boys are constantly pressured to have the right brand names &
labels, etc. .Being a Godly family with high values how can I continue to fight this? Not
all of New Tampa is like this, but the pressure sure is there!!

New Tampa Dad

Dear NT Dad

Having lived, worked and counseled in the New Tampa area for 17 years, I can
agree with you that the expectations do run high as to having the right clothing and/or
the right stuff. (Ipods, Xbox 360, etc…) As your boys get older, it will even be the right
kind of car, cell phone and what ever is the hot gadget for the year. I have been on both
Wharton’s and Freedom’s campus and I have been amazed at the type of cars some of
the teens drive. I have to wonder if some parents really have the type of money that is
demonstrated by the cars the teens drive.
Materialism defined is basically the doctrine that physical well-being and worldly
possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life. The Materialists believe
that power, position, pleasure, & wealth are the highest goals of life. This belief promotes
the attitude that worldly possessions will make you somebody and that worldly things are
more important than close relationships and spiritual issues. It is the temporal verses the
eternal. It is the idea that “He who finishes with the most toys wins.”
This is not to say that all material possessions are bad. It is ok to enjoy the
fruits of our labors. I am for hard work, thrift, saving money, and providing for our
families. Yet when material objects become the most important part of our lives or
when the pursuit of things takes away from the opportunity to be charitable and help
those who have needs, it develops a heavy dose of self-centerness and potentially a very
narcissist society. I like what Apostle Paul wrote in the Bible to Timothy, his student
and disciple: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many
foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of
money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
I have found that the secret in overcoming materialism is in teaching others to
give. When we give of ourselves through our resources and time we begin to discover
the true joy of helping others. We start to discover that relationships with others are more
important than the things we possess. We also find ourselves having a deeper spiritual
connection with ourselves and with God. There is a passage in the Bible from the book of
Philippians which says: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also
to the interests of others.” Of course this will start with you. You need to answer these
questions. What make of car do you drive? What kind of electronics do you possess?
How important are possessions to you? How much are you setting the example of giving
so that your boys see this as a normal part of life? If you have all kinds of things and are
not giving or doing much for others, how much can you really expect from your boys?

You will have the right to speak and teach them the art of giving and how possessions are
not that important when you are living and doing it yourself.
As for competition, there is truly nothing wrong with healthy competition. It can
help us strive to do and be our best in a certain sport or task. If it is athletic, it can benefit
the body. If it is mental in nature, it can simulate deeper thought processes. If it is in the
field of arts, it can simulate greater creativity. Healthy competition will inspire growth of
all individuals involved while unhealthy competition promotes unhealthy emotions such
as anger, rage, and dangerous living. Many proponents of competition speak fondly of
their victories and about wanting the same thing for others. Competition, they say, builds
character. If this is true, then we are not teaching our kids enough about character.
What I’ve seen that is healthy is what I’d like to call “cooperative competition.”
This may also seem like a contradiction in terms, but when competition creates just
a little anxiety, demands fair play, and emphasizes fun, a youth performance can be
enhanced and they learn to make moral decisions. Cooperative competition should
emphasize the following: 1. Praising effort, not outcomes. 2. Focusing on strengths. 3.
Having fun, but not at the expense of others. 4. Engaging children in discussions about
their own behavior. 5. Emphasizing teamwork.