Parental Gift Etiquette

by Pete Wilgoren
Originally Published: 

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!

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