Notes: Receiving a Gift

giftflowersWhat is a gift? It may be something you have been longing for or it may be something you never thought you would see in your life. In truth, it is evidence that someone thought about you. The manner in which you receive a gift is important and learning to be grateful for even the seemingly most miss guided gift is an invaluable life skill.

Following is an excerpt from Teaching Children Gift Etiquette by Marie Hartwell-Walker, ED.D. It is written as a guide to teaching children about accepting gifts. We found it a good recap for everyone.

  • Be sure the adults model gratitude and courtesy. It’s impossible to teach children to be gracious if they are watching their parents and other role models behave badly. Raising children well often means cleaning up our own acts. When we remember to regularly say please and thank you and demonstrate our gratitude both for the gifts we receive and the givers who enrich our lives by their very presence, we provide our children with powerful lessons in both politeness and love. When we thank our children for presents they give us — whether it is a drawing they made or something they purchased — we show them how good it makes people feel to be appreciated.
  • Talk to your child about what giving is all about. Ideally, it is an act of love and caring. It’s a way people say, “You’re special to me. I want to make you happy.” Even when a gift is a disappointment, the intention was to please.
  • Kids as young as 5 can learn to figure out something positive to say about a disappointing gift. Finding a reason to be grateful when it would be so much easier to get upset is an invaluable life skill. At age 8, Jocey’s son could have said, “I’ll like playing with this fire truck with my little brother.” (At only 3, my son was too young to be that sophisticated when confronted with the robot though he surprised us all by finding a way to make it less scary.) Give your kids some practice by imagining together some outrageous “gifts” and thinking about what positive things they could say to compliment the gift or the giver.
  • Teach them that if they can’t find something to like about the gift, they can always focus on the love. Someone loved them enough to think about what to get, to go to the store to buy it, and to wrap it up and deliver it. They can always tell the person that it makes them feel good and special that someone went to all that trouble.
  • Emphasize that it’s never, ever, okay to hurt the giver’s feelings. They mustn’t poke fun at the gift or embarrass the giver — even if the giver isn’t there to hear it. Laughing at another’s expense isn’t being funny. It’s just unkind. If those unkind comments get back to the person, it can damage the relationship.
  • Reassure your children that if they really, honestly don’t like a gift, they can quietly come to you later to talk about it.Often gifts can be exchanged or a parent can tactfully help the giver better understand what would be a better choice at another time. And sometimes at least, what at first seemed like the most inappropriate, useless gift ever can become a dear reminder of the person who gave it.

As with all social situations, a bit of thought and practice are always useful. Even if you are not certain where you will store the three foot tall statue of a lama, it will be an unusual reminder of your time with your distant cousin Louis and may be the best gift at your next “white elephant” party.

Source: Hartwell-Walker, M. (2014). Teaching Children Gift Etiquette. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 9, 2014, from