The more experiences I accumulate (code for: "the older I get"!), the more this concept is evidenced to me. The concept? There are primarily two types of people in the world -- those who compete with others and those who compete with themselves. There are many who exhibit bits of both, however, one approach to competition usually dominates in those individuals. Nothing wrong with competition whatsoever, provided it is fair and healthy.
What I have learned is regardless of what competition camp you fall into, one side really does not understand the others' view. I happen to be part of the "competing with myself group." Time and again, in every aspect of my life -- especially in parenting -- I have been stunned and amazed by people I have met from the "competing with others camp" who just don't understand those of us in the "competing with ourselves/myself" group. What a loss.
I've observed that by and large, the individuals who relish competing with others, end up sowing the seeds for "keeping up with the Joneses" in their children.
The world we live in is already rife with competition. Most of it unhealthy and unfair. Do we really need to be feeding the beast by raising children from embryo to adult who spend more of their time concerned with what everyone else is doing rather than themselves?
Stop and think about it.
These seeds are sown in the smallest and biggest of ways. Smallish example. Your kid begs you for the latest gadget. You may ask, "why do you need it?" He or she presents a litany of arguments but one will definitely be -- "because Bobby or Katie has one." Guilt consumes your brain. Perhaps a little competitive fire fuels that guilt and the next thing you know you trot down to the gadget store to buy your nine-year-old a Blackberry. Ridiculous when you read it, however, it happens all the time.
My husband and I have been that parent. Our approach to the question 'so and so has one' has always been "we don't really care what Johnny or Katie have, you are our child and we are concerned about you." Depending on the age of the offspring, you may have to deal with a minor tantrum, the silent treatment, some kind of rebuttle, but they come back down to earth and resume normal behaviour.
If parents today spent more time worrying about what is going on under their roof and less time worrying about the Joneses' possessions and the Joneses' kids possessions -- you would likely get more parents who would be more present in their own children's lives.
If we celebrate each others' successes rather than use them as a lightning rod for competition, our kids may actually understand the idea that what you have is really not important at the end of the day. What is important is who you are and how each of us treats each other.