My oldest son is an awesome kid and SOO stinkin’ smart for his age. He already has me dizzy with the math problems he’s doing in ELEMENTARY school. He explains complex ideas (mostly related to LEGO’s, Star Wars characters or Hotwheels track configurations) that would stump even Rain Man (d-d-definitely Fruit of the Loom). But he still has a problem with a very basic definition every once in a while.
It’s my job, as his dad, to educate my son about the difference between two very similar and easily-interchangable words at this age. So when he came to me during a recent Legoland, Florida visit exclaiming, “DAAAAD, I NEED THIS LEGO!” we sat down for a little heart to heart.
Want vs. Need – What’s the Difference, Dad?
First, I Try Logic
What better way to appeal to a growing (male) mind than through logic? Naturally, I defined the difference with the age-old question all parents pose to their children in their attempt to get the child to appreciate a meal:
“Can you live without food?” I asked.
“Well, for a few weeks. We learned that in Social Studies.” he reports.
“Yes, but only for a few weeks. So is food a want or a need?” I triumphantly respond.
“Well, has it been a few weeks?” he says with a grin. Mind you, my son couldn’t “live” without Peanut Butter Cups for a weekend let alone a few weeks. He may have won this round but I still have a back-up plan – the DICTIONARY!
Next, Define It!
If it’s in black and white, there’s no arguing about it, right? So, I bust out the dictionary:
want - verb (used with object)
1. to feel a need or a desire for; wish for
2. to wish, need, crave, demand, or desire (often followed by an infinitive)
3. to be without or be deficient in
4. to fall short by (a specified amount)
5. to require or need
Thanks so much, dictionary, for defining want with need. I appreciate that.
need - noun
1. a requirement, necessary duty, or obligation
2. a lack of something wanted or deemed necessary
3. urgent want, as of something requisite
4. necessity arising from the circumstances of a situation or case
5. a situation or time of difficulty; exigency
And thank you once again for defining need with want. This is going to be more difficult than I thought!
The Last Ditch Effort
There are Children in Africa Without Underwear! Logic didn’t work out so well so I tried the good-old stand by scare tactic – children in Africa. The jury is still out if this tactic is effective. He tried to talk me into a $50 Lego. He didn’t get that one. I did, however, buy him a small one. I mean, we were surrounded by them all day! How can you go to Legoland and NOT buy one?
What discussions have you had with your children about ‘relative’ terms like want vs. need? Did they understand? Did they give you a new perspective? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Cover photo by Ted Chi via Flickr.