I have always been vocal about “give to get” policy when it comes to gift season. I also am not big on getting gifts, I often ask people who intend to honor me to give it to someone who has need, and that acn be a better gift to me. Most of my friends know this and most abide. So, imagine my embarrassment when my son, at his birthday was tearing through gifts; ripping off the paper and throwing the gift aside for the next gift to be opened. When we asked him to slow down to take pictures (we take pictures so out of town family can see the child with the gift and we enclose it in the thank you card) he was on the verge of a tantrum and just wanted to rip and rip. No appreciation, no gratitude. What a poor job this kid’s dad must have done on teaching values…hey wait, I’m this kid’s dad! Since then, we have had many talks with our kids about appreciation of other people’s generosity and about not expecting gifts for every little thing like, birthdays, holidays, family visit’s, and even trips to the dentist. You don’t always have to get something.
We have instilled a few rules for our kids and I would like to share them with you parents.
The first rule is to limit the glut of gifts for those activities mentioned above. Have a party where there are no gifts, or where the gifts are collected to be given to a children’s hospital. Not everything has to have a tangible payoff to make it fun. Birthday parties (especially gymnastics parties at Gymfinity) are fun just to be a part of, and so gifts are overshadowed by the activity and thus we can’t really expect the kids to display the correct enthusiasm when they are opened. After a fun activity the gifts are anti-climatic and isn’t that what we would like to have anyway? More fun, less junk?
For holidays we take turns around the family circle opening gifts. This way, one person and their gift gets the spotlight at a time. The kids can open and look but not start playing until all gifts are done. 1. This allows them time to appreciate other people’s gifts, and 2. It slows the pace down to make it a event rather than something to speed through to get the “stuff”. Also, as a bonus, when opening socks and underwear type gifts they get to feign excitement because it’s all they got until their next turn. (Ok that last part was a joke…but not really).
We try to put more emphasis on the celebrations, like being with family, making cookies, wrapping gifts for others, etc. As I said above, it’s the experience of the holidays or event that should be cherished. As an adult I remember the birthday parties I had when we played games, set up obstacle courses in the basement or went swimming, but I cannot for the life of me remember any gifts I got on a particular year. So for me it worked, the valuable part is remembered and unimportant part is, well…not.
We take the kids shopping and remind them, sometimes aisle by aisle that we are shopping for Aunt Amanda or your friend Riley and not for you. After all the giving of gifts is just as much fun or at least it should be.
Lastly, I want to try this year to have the children give gifts to other adults that they made. Drawings, crafts, projects or other things made by hand are appreciated by adults. Gifts to kids almost have to be toys (thanks television focused culture) because kids have different values on gifts. Adults will appreciate the time and effort that went into a gift. It’s like giving a bit of you to a friend. I think that’s cool.