Parental Gift Etiquette

The holidays have blown by, we’re in a new year, the wrapping paper and credit cards have all been stashed with care (or not)… So I’ve finally taken a breather and gotten down to thinking about gifts and giving… Not what to give, or how much to give, but what to take away and how quickly to take it. Call it Parental Gift Etiquette.

I don’t care what the event is: in the buildup to the next birthday, graduation, bar mitzvah, or any event where a gift is given, kids will always ask for that next, great, must-have, seen on TV, can’t live without it or I’ll absolutely die, gift. Almost immediately, once the gift request is formally made to mom and dad, we begin to threaten the kids they won’t get their most-wanted gift IF they misbehave. For example, I might say, “Speak to me that way one more time, and see if you get that Ipod you want.” But we all know eventually they get the gift anyway, unless you are a cold, heartless, and ruthless parent (Kris Jenner, Michael Lohan, any of the parents on Toddlers and Tiaras).

Now, fast-forward a week, a few days, or who am I kidding, even a couple of minutes after the birthday, graduation, bar mitzvah, or other gift event. Almost immediately, once the gift has been opened, we begin the process of then threatening to take away those most-wanted gifts which are now already in the kids’ possession. For example, I might say, “I warned you not to speak to me that way again, so hand over that Ipod.”

It seems to me the whole process needs streamlining. So here’s what I propose.

Why don’t we sit down with the kids… let them pick out their favorite gifts… have them acknowledge they’ll eventually misbehave… and then agree to just never get the gifts to begin with. See how it works kids? You pick a gift, acknowledge you can’t behave, and then just never get the gift to begin with. It’s a sort-of pre-punishment which saves moms and dads both time and money, and the tantrums associated with taking a gift away. Instead of regifting, I’d like to refer to this as PRE-gifting. We solve it all ahead of time. And then when it comes to birthdays or Christmas or whatever the big gift reveal is, we just pull out the pre-gifting contract where we all agreed ahead of time not to bother with toys or other gifts because the kids eventually won’t behave.

“I warned you not to speak to me that way again… Let’s just consult the pre-gifting contract.”

“We the undersigned kids agree that it’s impossible for us to behave and therefore we’ll never get to keep the coveted gift we so want. We agree in the pre-gifting arrangement where we will pick out a gift, but then never receive it, thus cutting out the middle man. We further agree that any tantrum or yelling is really pointless since we never actually got any gift to begin with and therefore nothing has actually been taken away from us.”

Now isn’t that easy!

About the writer

Pete Wilgoren is out-numbered by a wife, two little girls and a dog named Cupcake.  He doesn't stand a chance.  When he's not scraping crayons and crusty food remnants from the seats of the car, he's Managing Editor at KCBS KCAL in Los Angeles.  You can find him on Facebook at Dadmissions The Book.


Annie 7 days ago

That just seems mean. If you don’t want them to have it, just don’t blooming buy it. Don’t bait children, then snatch it away and laugh.

Team Suzanne 4 years ago

Streamlining. Indeed. And really, in this economy, none of us can really afford the middle man anymore–so it has that “good for the economy”, “patriotic”, “pro-America” angle going for it also.

Pete Wilgoren 4 years ago

Thanks to Jill for letting me blog on the Scary Mommy site and for the folks who checked out Dadmissions!

Johanna 4 years ago

Having just threatened (again) to take my son’s WII time away, I LOVE this idea 😉

Amanda 4 years ago

I knew I’d need doing something wrong all these years!!

Shirley 4 years ago

Really enjoyed this post

Tracy 4 years ago

I have a feeling my son could find a loophole or way to negotiate himself out of that contract. But if it worked, it would save gazillions of dollars a year in ‘put away’ merchandise in the US alone!

Just Jennifer 4 years ago

Genius plan! Evil genius, but genius nonetheless.

Pam @ You Are Kidding Me! 4 years ago

Excellent, well-thought out plan. Monkey Man’s birthday is in a few weeks so I am sure he will love our sit-down tonight to discuss the contract.

Not a Perfect Mom 4 years ago

pure genius…except I like to play with the kid’s stuff once I take it away…ha!

    Not Supermom 4 years ago

    So… it’s not just me? Good to know.

      Recovering Supermom 4 years ago

      That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re getting them stuff YOU like.

Arnebya 4 years ago

Absolute genius. Those middle men irk me!

Rebeccah 4 years ago

BRILLIANCE. I wholeheartedly support this movement.

Suz 4 years ago

My takeaway: My gut was correct. Kris Jenner is, in fact, a terrifying woman. Thanks for the post!

Alexis 4 years ago

Have you tried telling them that tantrums makes the fairies die? That might work well also 😉

Vinobaby 4 years ago

This would save a ton of money. But then I wouldn’t be able to enjoy watching my kid sit underneath his taken-away toy, staring at it, longing for it, and thinking maybe — just maybe — this time he will learn. It would be like taking away the dog’s biscuits.

Mother Ruckus 4 years ago

Too funny! This is a hilarious idea!

On a serious note- I used to take away privileges for misbehavior but have changed my philosophy after reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.

Headacheslayer 4 years ago


Considering we just took away my son’s mp3 player and DS, this if freakin’ BRILLIANT!!

Nice to hear from a dad :)

amory/irish twins momma 4 years ago

Brilliant!!!! When do the kids start to understand? 3? 4? 😉 Now?!

Alison@Mama Wants This 4 years ago

Well! That’s kinda genius, thank you!


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