With the holidays approaching, many children are scouring fliers and dreaming of things they would love to have.

How do you teach a child to receive gifts graciously, especially when they receive something they don't like, don't want, or already have?

  • 3
    Oooh - good one. Sometimes my kids have just gone "Oh, I didn't want this" in front of a well meaning grandparent - for which they are chastised for being rude and told to apologise. I don't know of any way to teach them in advance - you always tell your kids to be polite, but when they are young they just come out with whatever is in their head at the time. – Rory Alsop Nov 17 '11 at 9:29

There's an age at which you just can't teach them. Social lying vs. bad lying is a really, really tough one for kids. If you are very lucky, by the time your child is 8 or 9 years old, he/she will be socially aware enough to understand that:

  • A person gives you a gift for a desired effect (hopefully, to have done something nice, or to make the recipient happy).

  • We care about that person, so we don't want to disappoint them or hurt their feelings by pointing out a problem with the gift.

  • Gifts can usually be exchanged if they aren't something we love, or if they are duplicates.

  • We don't have to lie about the gift to avoid being rude. Saying something like "That was so nice of you!" or "Thank you for thinking of me!" acknowledges what the person was really after -- making you feel loved and special -- without pretending the gift is the one thing you were dreaming of.

  • It's okay (and encouraged!) to feel good about getting a present, and exchange it anyway. A good gift-giver gave a gift because he/she wanted you to feel loved and happy. Feel loved and happy because they took the time to do that, and then feel happy again when that sweater that is two sizes too small turns into a new reading lamp at the service desk.

I'm lucky in that the culture of my family assumes that all children are capricious and neigh-impossible to buy for, so one should consult their parents before selecting gifts. If there's any way to encourage your family to feel the same way, I highly recommend it. I find that while my 8yo is very gracious in getting an unloved gift, he feels guilty returning them because they were from someone special and he feels he should cherish them whether he likes them or not... there's something to be said for avoiding the conundrum entirely until they are older.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.