Toy Envy

Dear Parentworks, 

We are friends with a family who has four wonderful children. Our only child, 5 years old, is the same age as their oldest. We recently invited the mom and kids to our new house. We all seemed to have a nice time. The mom repeatedly pointed out to her kids how pretty my daughter's room was plus how fun and how many toys she had. I tried to down play this repeated praise because it seemed excessive and I was a little concerned about her making too much about "things". After they left my daughter was putting away the toys they had played with and she told me some of her favorite things were missing. We searched all over for them but definitely couldn't find them anywhere. Reluctantly, I decided to call the mom to ask if she could check the kids things to see if anything got caught in their coats. At first she said she hadn't seen anything but later called back because the kids admitted they had taken my daughter's things on purpose because they wished they could be like her - have her things and be an only child. They returned the items and apologized to my child. How do I explain this so she can understand and still feel friends with these children?

- Puzzled by Pilfering

Dear Puzzled,

Alas your problem is a timeless one. Children have natural tendencies toward comparison - whether it be height, clothes, friends, parents jobs or of course toys. From what you describe though, it sounds as though in this instance, the mother may have inadvertently given these kids a huge push out of the comfort zone of who has what. I applaud the way you adults did handle the situation once it came to your awareness. As far as explaining to your child, the first place to start is to validate that people do compare but also that it's not really a useful way to go through life. At some point in life, everyone will meet people who have more than they do and people who have less - it doesn't make anyone a better or worse person. Especially with the holidays coming up, these kinds of issues are important to discuss with children. The important thing is what kind of a person you are inside. It's possible to be a good person and have things.