How to Have a Happy Birthday, Christmas, and every Gift Exchange 2

Now that the gift-receiving taboos are out in the open, you can do something about changing attitudes and behaviors.

(read How to Have a Happy Birthday, Christmas, and every Gift Exchange 1

and watch the video)

Recall Their Giving Experiences

Have the children given presents before?  Probably. Remember the  hand-print paperweight made out of home-made play dough?  Did you also receive the  clothes -pin hot pad?  How is your gallery of drawings?  Our kids’ presents to mom and dad have spanned the gamut from horrible to adorable...often depending upon the teachers’ artistic skills (because OF COURSE all or OUR children are ultra-talented!)

Some of these gifts we have cherished and treasured.  For years we lighted our table during dinner parties with child-made votive candle holders.  We still use the painted-floor-tiles-now-transformed-into- hot pads alongside our wedding china.    Friends adorn their guest toilet with the kids’ art from over the sure makes for an enchanting pee!

Help the children recall what it felt like to give...and what it felt like to be appreciated.  Why not include some of their crafts into your holiday décor!

“Why did you bring that out?”

"Your gift made me feel special.  Do you remember when you offered it to me?  How did you feel?”

Probably proud.  Seeking signs of appreciation and approbation.  Excited.

“Darling, that’s exactly how I feel with Christmas just around the corner!”

“Mom, Dad, YOU feel that way?!!!”

Practice Receiving and Thanking

In theatre, it’s called a dress rehearsal.  At work for a presentation, it’s called a dry run.   Gift receiving in public (like at a birthday party or at a family reunion) benefits from some practice too.

Consider role playing.  Allow your child to offer you a small gift.  (For this exercise, make it easy and small like a candy or a card.)  Show different ways of accepting the gift.

- With appreciation

- With indifference

- With disgust or disdain

Once they have experienced the pleasure and the pain of giving, let them be the ones to receive.

...and Build Thank You Vocabulary

By practicing, you help your child become comfortable with the vocabulary you want them to use. 

“It’s really nice,” sounds...well non-descript.  Coach your kids to notice

- One specific characteristic of the gift that they especially appreciate.  “I love the color.”  “The car goes so quickly!”

Even the gifts kids don’t like have positive qualities.  “I’ll be able to share it.”

- One way they will enjoy the gift.  “I’m going to show my doll to all the other dolls on my bed and find a place for her.”  “I’m going to try and eat just a few chocolates a day so that the box can last all week.”

- One thought about the giver.  “Thanks for having thought of me.” “You wanted to make me feel special, and I do!” “You knew just what I wanted!”

Do you know that our attitudes often follow our actions?  Studies show that when our face muscles contact into the expression of angry people (eyebrows scowl, ends of mouth turns down) people act more negatively.  They perform less well on tests and are less likely to be able to withstand short-term temptation (a cookie) in order to gain long-term benefit (an entire box of cookies with ice cream on top!)  In the same way, when people act happy (smile, uncross the arms...), they show signs of joy (quicker to laugh at jokes, more open to new ideas, more patient...)

Practice makes perfect.  Even if your child does not feel excited about his gifts YET, rehearse saying “Thank You” a few times...and get in the mood!

P.S. Keep perspective.  Don’t be angry because they don’t thank...yet.  Teach again what you expect from them and try it again.  Step by step.


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