Parent: My child was so ungrateful when they received a gift from great aunty Joan, I was mortified.

Me: It’s okay!

Parent: It’s not okay, it’s embarrassing and rude!

Me: I can empathise that it can feel like that, of course. You don’t want your child to come across as rude or ungrateful, and you would hate to upset anyone that was kind enough to give your child a gift. It might feel very embarrassing.

But like a lot of parenting predicaments, it’s not about us, it’s about them.

Let’s look at present-opening from a child’s perspective…

  • Children cannot relate to the effort and money that has gone into present buying, because they have never brought a present for someone.
  • Children have a vivid imagination and they might have imagined it to be something else and were disappointed when it wasn’t what they expected.
  • Children are in an egocentric stage of development, meaning they are not able to think about others feelings, just their own.
  • Children have a very defined view of what they like and dislike and can be quite tunnel-visioned when they are into something in particular.
So how can we respond to them even if we’ve felt embarrassed by their response?
Rather than shaming them…
  • We can validate their feelings. ‘It looked like you were a bit disappointed when you received that gift. I’m guessing you might have been expecting something different.’ Children can actually take it quite personally if they receive something they don’t like!
  • You can model how you respond to others giving you gifts so that they can learn from you.
  • You can talk about it being okay that the gift might not be your favourite but in your house, you always say thank you if somebody has shown kindness to you. Thanks is a skill that needs to be taught and modelled by the adult. You can practice this in role-play scenarios.
  • Remember your child never asked for that gift and Christmas and birthdays can actually be very overwhelming for children, so let’s cut them some slack. If you feel like your child is getting overwhelmed with presents, it might be a good idea to hold some back and stagger them over a few days.
Do hit me up with some of your stories – kids really do come out with some classics!