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My Kid Is a Bad Gift-Getter

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As a kid, I always envied my Christmas celebrating friends. Truth be told, they always seemed to get better gifts than us Hanukkah celebrators. It wasn’t until I came to find out that my Christmas celebrating friends were jealous of the eight (seemingly) fabulous gifts the Hanukkah celebrators got that I really appreciated Hanukkah. Even back when I was a kid we all saw the holiday season as a way to jockey for more and better gifts.

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I was reminded of this as my family reached the third night of Hanukkah. Now that my little one is 3 and my big one is 6, they can really appreciate the joy of Hanukkah, so they are each getting a gift for each night. Add to that the grandma/grandpa gifts from each side, and the gifts from thoughtful aunts and uncles. The kids stand to take in some serious loot. I figured they’d love it.

Instead, from night three on Hanukkah became a bad manners parade with my big one crying every time he didn’t get a Playmobil set (even though he has a zillion sets already). You should know that he got a new scooter, a library’s worth of books he wanted and floor seats to a Clippers game. Yes, I said floor seats to a Clippers game.

He cried opening each and every gift, disappointed the Clippers tickets weren’t a Playmobil set and on and on and on.

Night seven it occurred to me that I’d never actually taught my kid how to get a gift. How could he know that going to a basketball game was incredibly special if I’d never told him? How could he know how much time I spent picking his gifts, wrapping them and deciding which order they should be received? He couldn’t. So it was my job to teach him.

By night eight I really got it together and explained to him my expectations of gift-getting. Lo and behold, he opened up his last gift—which is not the Playmobil he’d asked for—and he was lovely, grateful and kind.

Your 5-year-old doesn’t really care that some kid he’s never met in a country he’s never been to doesn’t have a toy.

Christmas is coming, which means there’s a lot of potential bad gift-getters out there who have anticipated the Strawberry Shortcake Colorform set they may not be getting. When they open up that box to find it contains a new pair of sneakers, the tantrum is going to hit the fan.

So learn from my eight nights of mistakes. Teach your kids how to get gifts. Here’s how.

1. Do discuss expectations AHEAD of time.

Just like grown-ups, kids need to know what to expect. So before the gift-getting begins, let your kid know what’s expected of him. Chances are he just doesn't know.

2. Don’t reward bad manners.

If your 7-year-old princess had a meltdown because grandma bought her a truck set for a 3-year-old boy, don’t tell princess you’ll return the gift when grandma leaves. A gift is a gift, even when it sucks. Who knows? Maybe the princess will find she loves trucks. Or, better yet, maybe she will love your suggestion of donating that gift to a shelter or charity.

3. Don’t remind your kids there are “less fortunate kids who would be really happy with these toys.”

Didn’t you hate when your mom did that? Your 5-year-old doesn’t really care that some kid he’s never met in a country he’s never been to doesn’t have a toy. All he knows is he wants that Playmobil Pirate set and you got him a yo-yo.

4. Do explain to your kids how gifts get bought.

Sounds silly, right? Except most kids thinks toys and new stuff just magically appear. How could they know that not only did someone work really hard to pay for that toy, but they also spent time picking out something special? The only way your kid could know that is if you tell him. So tell him!

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5. Do explain how hurt your feelings get when your kid is a bad gift-getter.

It will shock most kids, but parents have feelings, too. And let’s face it, it doesn’t feel good to pick out a special gift for a kid and have him open it and act like he was given a box full of vomit. Empathy isn’t automatic for most kids. So help them by expressing your feelings. They’ll be surprised you have feelings!

6. Do save some gifts for later.

Gift-getting can be overwhelming. It’s hard to appreciate a fabulous toy when you have ten more to open. There’s nothing wrong with holding a few gifts back and let your kiddo open them a week, even a month later. Chances are they’ll be more appreciative.

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