Saturday, January 3, 2015

When Children Don’t Like Their Presents

It’s difficult to handle a situation when children are "honest" about an unappreciated gift. “Ugh, socks?” while their cousin (and their parents) look on in dismay.

The immediate answer is to quickly intervene, be an example, and then defuse the social bomb by being fast.

“Oh, those are going to keep your feet so warm!” and then you turn to their cousin, “Did you pick those out especially for him? That’s very thoughtful.” And then pull a switch hitter, “Who would like more cookies?”
Later, when you are alone with your child, you may give them a hug – because they might be truly disappointed although you can never understand why a nine year old expected their cousin to provide them with the gold edition Minecraft© Legos©  - and explain that sometimes we get gifts we may not  enjoy but the giver was being thoughtful and to emphasize what’s important in your family.  “In our family, we…” and then fill in the blank with an appropriate phrase.

“…we always try to be kind.”
“…Christ asks us to remember others and to be kind to others.”

“… must be polite to others. “

It may take months, if not years, of grooming, to avoid or minimize this hurtful situation.  Children need to learn tact, and this has to be explicitly taught. This is especially crucial in an age where texting and email or online chats take precedence over in-person conversations.

This is done through countless ways. You should always express your own appreciation of their thoughtful gestures for you.
“Thank you so much for helping me with the dishes.”

You remark on how someone was so kind as to remember their grandmother. You mention how admirable it is for someone to hand-make a gift.
“That was so clever to knit a scarf. I think she must be very talented.”

Count how many times in a day that you, the adult in their life, have thanked them. Children imitate their environment and we cannot excuse ourselves from our own responsibility in raising empathetic children.

Reflect on how many times you might have bemoaned “that awful sweater” Aunt Sue gave you for your birthday.

Children do not naturally grow up tactful and polite. They are naturally honest and give little regard to thinking before they speak. This is sometimes appreciated.  However, we should not fall into the sticky trap that honesty without tact is a virtue. Honesty without kindness is potentially cruel. Courtesy is just as important as honesty.

We have an opportunity every day, with each other, with our own children as well as other children in our lives, to appreciate gifts. They are emblematic of our being remembered and loved.

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