Helping parents understand teenagers and their world

A resource from CPYU

Christmas Needs and Wants

“Let Your Kids know that Christmas meets the most basic of all wants and needs. Ultimately, we all yearn to be in a relationship with our Creator.”

I was probably about 15 years-old when I finally got to the point where I knew not to use the word incorrectly in front of my dad. Slip-ups always seemed to result in a repeat performance of his well-rehearsed lecture on the difference between requirements and desires. The word I’m referring to is need.

If your growing-up experience was like mine, you often-times expressed your wants as needs. . . saying things like, “Hey Dad. I need these sneakers!” Or, “Hey Dad. I need this motorcycle.” (Yep, I said that). And, if you’re parenting experience is anything like mine, you’re raising kids who have a difficult time knowing the difference between needs and wants. . . and like me and my dad, you find yourself repeating that well-rehearsed corrective lecture over and over again!

Since Christmas is prime-time for our kids to express wants as needs through their Christmas lists, it’s also an excellent time to gently teach them how to discern between that which we require, and that which we desire. Paul Tripp reminds us that need is “one of the most frequently used words in human culture and one of the words used most sloppily.” We need to help our kids understand that a need is, as the dictionary says, something that “is essential or very important.” Most of what we erroneously classify as a need is actually a desire that has “become so precious and important to us that we have come to the point that we cannot conceive of being happy without them.”1 If we dig down deep enough to see what lies beneath our confusing wants with needs, we can actually see what is ruling our hearts. In effect, we uncover the unique 21st century idols that capture our thoughts and allegiances.

As Christmas approaches, keep your eyes and ears open for teachable moments you can seize to help equip your kids to understand the difference between wants and needs both now, and for the rest of their lives. Here are some ways to make this happen over the coming weeks:

Listen carefully to the language they use. Help them to understand that wants are not necessarily bad things. God has given us so much in His world that He allows us to enjoy. But let them know that when wants turn into needs then we have allowed good things to become ultimate things. . . which is another way of describing idolatry.

Pay attention to and talk about commercials and ads that are designed to turn wants into needs. In our family, we will play a little game during commercials that’s called “spot the lie.” Watch commercials carefully and then talk about them. Work to identify the strategies, words, pictures, and ploys marketers use to morph wants into needs. In effect, you are teaching discernment!

Let them know that Christmas meets the most basic of all wants and needs. Ultimately, we all yearn to be in a relationship with our Creator. God sent Jesus into the world to restore that relationship and to put us on the trajectory of living every moment of our lives to the glory of God. And, as Augustine so correctly stated, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

So. . . go ahead and do what I’ve done. Become your dad and your mom. Give the lecture. It’s desperately needed!

1 Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies, p. November 22

Walt Mueller

CPYU President

We live in a world where people are so quick to speak and to comment. Silence is almost uncomfortable… Growing up being [labeled] ‘the quiet one’ puts you in a box and, even worse, makes you stand out when all you want is to blend in. But now I try to embrace and own it.

Naomi Osaka

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, talking about her decision to step away from tournament press events, athletes, and mental health.

Women’s Health
August 23, 2021


As baseball’s World Series was unfolding, the folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced a campaign to change the long-standing name of baseball’s bullpen to the

Their reasoning? The name bullpen is insensitive to the bovine population as it refers to the holding pens where cows are kept before slaughter. In baseball, a team’s relief pitchers stay in the bullpen as they wait to be called into a game. Now you might shake your head in disbelief at PETA’s campaign, but for many in today’s world this is serious business. This could include your kids as they are influenced by a cultural narrative that dehumanizes human beings, while humanizing the animal world. Take some time to address this story with your kids. Go back and read Genesis chapters one and two to gain perspective on God’s good creation of animals, along with the creation of his image-bearers who are to exercise responsible dominion over God’s creatures.


How Kids Spend Their Money

It’s been said: “You tell me who or what you daydream about, and I’ll tell you who or what your god is.” Another way to put it is how we spend our money reveals both our priorities and who we are. Consider as well what Jesus says in Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Looking at the way our kids spend their money reveals not only who they are, but who their gods are as well. The folks at Piper Sandler marketing tell us in their latest research that teen spending is up six percent since the spring of this year. Our boys spend the most on food, clothing, and video game systems, in that order. For our girls its clothing, food, and personal care. We need to push back on the cultural narrative and teach our kids that our money and possessions belong to God. Our role is to steward those resources to His glory. How would our spending habits change if we believed that to be true?

High school students who participate in a universal screening program for depression are twice as likely to begin treatment for the disorder as those who do not.

(JAMA Network Open)

59% of teens listed “political divisions” as a major threat to their generation.

(Washington Post-Ipsos)

Twitch Streamers

as of November 22, 2021
Source: TwitchMetrics,
according to # of followers

1. Ninja
2. Auronplay
3. Tfue
4. Rubius
5. Shroud
6. xQcOW
7. TheGrefg
8. ibai
9. pokimane
10. Heelmike

Needs, Wants, Kids and Marketing Manipulation


Did you know that it is estimated that the average person sees between 6,000 and 10,000 ads every single day?!? Does all this marketing work? How many products or brands can you identify just by seeing their logos or hearing their jingles? Take for example the now famous Nike “swoosh.” All people have to do is see the swoosh, and they know whose product is being peddled. How many men can identify the Monday Night Football brand just by hearing the first four notes of the theme song? Marketing is so effective that research now shows kids can recognize logos by eighteen months, and before reaching their second birthday they’re asking for products for brand name.

No doubt – advertising works, and our kids are especially vulnerable to marketers’ efforts to not only sell products, but to sell a worldview. One component of that worldview is the manipulation of kids into creating needs and wants that really shouldn’t be needs and wants.

Why not make commercial viewing a discipleship experience for you and your kids? Use commercial viewing as an opportunity to teach kids how to apply their faith to the glut of marketing messages they face each and every day. You will be teaching them to think critically and Christianly about the commercials they encounter. You will help them see how marketing manipulates them into creating dangerous desires while feeding materialism. We’ve put together a free teaching tool for you to use to this end, The Simple Seven Ad Filtering Questions, which you can download by clicking here.

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation. . .”

Luke 2:29 & 30

Sometime during the coming weeks, why not sit down with your family to read Luke’s Gospel account of the birth of Jesus Christ? Spend some time pondering what Luke recounts happening eight days after Christ’s birth. According to Jewish custom, Mary and Joseph brought their baby son to Jerusalem to be circumcised. While there, they took Jesus into the temple where an upright man by the name of Simeon took the infant in his arms. God had promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah with his own eyes. As he looks upon Jesus, Simeon says, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Imagine the joy that Simeon felt!

We live in a day and age where everyone around us is on an eager quest for meaning and purpose in life. That’s certainly true for our children and teens. As you celebrate the coming of the God-Man Jesus Christ into the world, pray that your children and teens would see and experience His salvation and the great joy that comes with knowing Jesus Christ.

Youth Culture Today with Walt Mueller is a one-minute daily radio show and podcast from CPYU.

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Since Christmas is prime-time for our kids to express wants as needs through their Christmas lists, it’s also an excellent time to gently teach them how to discern between that which we require, and that which we desire.

Walt Mueller

Start with the gospel each and every day with Truth for Life: 365 Daily Devotions by renowned Bible teacher Alistair Begg.

Each daily devotion includes:

• Reflections from renowned Bible teacher Alistair Begg
• Prompts for real life application
• Relevant Scripture passages
• A yearly Bible reading plan

We all need to be reminded of the truth that anchors our life and excites and equips us to live for Christ. Reflecting on a short passage each day, Alistair spans the Scriptures to show us the greatness and grace of God, and to thrill our hearts to live as His children. His clear, faithful exposition and thoughtful application mean that this resource will both engage your mind and stir your heart.

If you’d like to read and discuss with others in community, search for the Facebook Group “CPYU Together in the Word.”

© 2021 All rights reserved. The CPYU Parent Page is published monthly by the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, a nonprofit organization committed to building strong families by serving to bridge the cultural-generational gap between parents and teenagers.