Birthday presents (ie, spoiling your children) - Mothering Forums

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Old 07-20-2011, 11:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, this thread has two big things I wanted to ask/discuss with other parents. First, DS's second birthday is coming up, and we want him to have a party with his friends from story time and the neighborhood, etc, with a no-gifts thing (is there a nice way to say this on the invites?), some healthy snacks and a nice homemade cake for everyone to share. Either afterwards or the night before we were planning on having a small, family celebration with a yummy meal and presents afterwards. We are planning on getting him 2 things so far- one is a nice, real precious metal bracelet from a store I know nearby and the other is a tricycle. I want to get him the jewelry to be kind of like a heirloom piece, kwim? It seems like a much better way to show how valuable and loved he is than cheap plastic junk, but maybe not to him... The bike is of course for fun... But when I was telling my family about this they thought I was nuts. Why didn't I want everyone to bring him gifts (answer: they would bring annoying junk to clutter the house that he would not play with, and their presence is what matters anyways)? Why didn't we buy him more fun stuff? And why don't you two buy him more stuff anyways, the poor child has nothing to play with! Well I told them that we don't feel the need to buy him a lot of stuff he will not play with, and also explained about the commercial aspect of EVERYTHING you can buy in a place like walmart and toys-r-us and the sweat shops etc and that we DO buy him stuff, we just don't feel he needs power wheels and thomas the train and hot wheels and video games and movies and ten kinds of bubbles and etc etc etc... But they think i am being mean and not wanting to spend our money on him. I don't know, I feel like I am rambling now! basically, i do not want to spoil him I guess- you know, the kid who whines and screams because he can't have a new toy every time we are in a store? And also I feel having fewer "defined" toys like action figures and stuff means he has to be less creative that if we give him, say, a ball  and a small box, and he goes out back and kicks it around and collects rocks and leaves to make a pile in the box. I want him to appreciate what he does get, know that is a good quality, that we put effort into it and it is not an entitlement. Does this make sense or am I just being mean? 

 

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Old 07-21-2011, 01:28 AM
 
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You aren't being mean and I totally get where you are coming from. I don't think, though, that your son will become a spoiled kid who whines for toys in stores if he does get presents from everyone on his birthday. I feel like this is a topic that comes up frequently (IRL and on here).
Here is my take - people like to give gifts, I think people usually put thought and effort into a gift they give (even if it isn't what we would like) and giving gifts is usually a part of a birthday celebration (at least where I live). I know people will disagree with me, but I think it is rude to give gift giving instructions of any sort, unless directly asked by the potential gift giver. So, my approach has been to do one of two things - 1) if asked what DS wants (or when he was a baby/toddler, what we want for him) I had something in mind ahead of time that they could contribute to (like a big outdoor toy or more expensive thing) or something they could add to (for a long time DS was into Plan City - so they could add to that). Or 2) graciously accept gifts, let DS open them slowly and we ended up donating a lot of them to a daycare center at a center for homeless families. The daycare center teachers were always happy for the toy donations, I felt like they went to a good cause and they didn't clutter our house. Of course, if DS was really into something he got, even if it wasn't something I would have picked, he could keep it. A kids birthday isn't really the time to impart my beliefs about materialism, consumerism, etc., ykwim?

I think that what a child internalizes about material goods and materialism goes so far beyond getting a number of presents on their birthday. There are all the rest of the days of the year when you go into a store and don't buy something, there are lessons in giving away what you don't truly need or want, lessons in daily life about how you as a family treat material goods and what you buy and use, etc. I think that how you live your daily life will have so much more impact on how your child relates to material goods than trying to restrict presents one day a year. And, truthfully, from what I have seen/experienced, it is a loosing battle anyways!
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Old 07-21-2011, 03:27 AM
 
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i couldn't agree more, OP. 

we actually plant fruit trees on our childrens' birthdays. it's meaningful and definitely does cost something so its not like we're being cheap, and this way by the time my daughter is in her teens she'll have a veritable orchard at her disposal! The kids also really like feeling included in our landscaping and she is so proud of the tiny cherries that finally appeared this summer on her 'Birthday Tree'.  i want her to see that there's other ways to celebrate milestones and other sorts of gifts to give loved ones, as opposed to the plastic kind.

 

you are absolutely not being mean! i think its so much nicer to not habituate kids on unsustainable (for their own happiness, not just the environment) kinds of entertainment. and i think a good (polite) way to get around gifts for a party is to let your child pick a charity of their own choosing and note on the invitation that the child would like donations made to that charity in lieu of gifts. nobody can argue with charities, right? for our two older boys we are thinking of depositing a hundred dollars every year onto a kiva account for them. (kiva.org - amazing mico-loan online site) so they can pick different people and groups around the world to sponsor with microloans. It will help them understand about world economics, feel empowered to enact change, and even teach them a little about business investments. 

 

personally, for casual friends and acquaintences i don't think its inappropriate to discourage gifts. they actually might be relieved. however, i can understand grandparents and close family members and family friends genuinely wanting to give gifts to your child on their special day and i don't think its right to restrict that. anyway, we can't block the entire dysfunctional material culture out and it's good for kids to learn flexibility and moderation as opposed to puritanical intolerance. 

 

anyway, happy second birthday to your little one!

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Old 07-21-2011, 07:18 AM
 
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personally, for casual friends and acquaintences i don't think its inappropriate to discourage gifts. they actually might be relieved. however, i can understand grandparents and close family members and family friends genuinely wanting to give gifts to your child on their special day and i don't think its right to restrict that.


I agree with this. I still feel badly about DS's last (2nd) birthday party because I included the "No gifts" thing on the invitations and people really WANTED to give him gifts. We had only invited a few close friends anyway and they did end up bringing very thoughtful gifts for DS and it opened my eyes to the fact that most people WANT to give a beloved child presents. It's kind of... IDK, not fair... to say, "Don't give my kid any gifts, I'm going to do that myself & there won't be room for anyone else to contribute," you know? Next time I will just leave the option of giving up to the giver so there is no awkwardness. But like the above poster said, I don't think there's anything wrong with it if you're just inviting a lot of acquaintances (school friends or something?), some of them will be glad not to have to find a gift for a kid they don't know that well.

Now, I do understand your sentiment to have minimal clutter and materialism and maximize creativity and enjoyment of experiences over things. I feel the same way. We actually choose to minimize our own giving to DS -- he generally gets a couple of small handmade items or thrift-store books for holidays/bday/etc., or sometimes the party itself is the gift. Then if people ask what he wants for his birthday, I can give them ideas of things I would buy if we WERE shopping for him. So in your case, I might suggest people chip in on the tricycle, and just give him the sentimental jewelry yourself. But that's just my way of approaching it, I can understand if YOU really want to give him the bike... I guess I'm just pointing out that I would try not to ask something of my guests that I'm not willing to do myself.

Because his birthday party was so small, we didn't end up with unwanted gifts, but some family members did go overboard at Christmas time. We brought home piles of presents that he never even opened... I ended up peeking in the paper and returning/donating all the things I didn't feel comfortable with him having, and only let him open a few. I kind of feel mean doing that because they are HIS gifts, but he was too little to know the difference and he gets very overwhelmed by too much stuff so there was no way we could keep all that in the house anyway (hoping next year I can convince them to limit their giving just a bit... maybe 10 gifts instead of 20??? lol) So you might consider not having your kiddo open gifts at the party, which will give you the opportunity to sort through them first, plus avoid awkward feelings by anyone who chose not to bring a gift. And if people ask what they can give, you can suggest simple things like crayons, paint, books, etc. I do get annoyed when people ask for money or charitable donations, it's not something I'm comfortable with (I may not want to support that particular charity or may not have enough money to give a decent, appropriate amount of cash)...

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Old 07-21-2011, 09:44 AM
 
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You do make sense and I don't think  you are being mean. I agree with the poster who said that allowing the grandparents to buy a toy would be good. We limit my mom to one toy per occasion, but she is also allowed to buy clothes, art supplies, or savings bonds. (We had to make that rule, she was out of control)

 

As far as friends, some kids enjoy the present part of party, and if you wanted to, as he gets older and understands more, you could have people bring donations for an animal shelter (or other worthy cause that a child could get excited about )

 

 

I think there is a happy middle ground on this issue.


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Old 07-21-2011, 11:32 PM
 
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mommy212, I totally understand where you are coming from on these points... I also think that there are some good ideas from people who have responded.  I just wanted to add that in addition to the branding issues (e.g. when your child comes to believe that the only lunchbox they can have is the one with the newest movie character, because that is what it popular, valuable, mainstream, etc.) and the suppression of creative play (e.g. whatever happened to plain old tubs of Play-Doh or other modeling clay; nowadays you can buy Play-Doh that comes with all you need to make whatever's shown on the box-- no imagination required there!), the stereotyping of what boys and girls are interested in with drives me crazy, too.  And it bugs me when not only is the product something that isn't earth-friendly/sustainable, it is gift-wrapped, too.  For my family, we certainly want to have our children enjoy themselves on their special day, but, we also want our children to grow up with particular values... and we'll need to  guide them and also lead by example, right from the start.  So, yeah, I totally get you mommy212!

 


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Old 07-22-2011, 02:44 AM
 
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 the kid who whines and screams because he can't have a new toy every time we are in a store?

no matter what you do i am not sure you are able to control this. till they are 5 and even older - its all about me me me. just coz they are asking doesnt mean they are spoilt.  there are strategies to help with that. dd still does this, even though she knows she is not going to get anything. 

 

as others have pointed out for your family its a way of contributing. they have been brought up that a child is meant to have a lot of toys and junk food. you are asking them to undo years of conditioning which is not that easy to do for them. you sticking to your guns shows them there IS another way. 

 

you have to find a happy medium for your family that fits in with your philosophy. 

 

is he their first grandchild?

 

i know what you are talking about. i understand. just make sure you dont let your family walk all over you, nor do you do the same with too many rules. 

 

material philosophy has nothing really to do with bday presents. its more about how YOU guys live your life and if your actions match your words. 

 


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Old 07-22-2011, 08:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Sorry I was unclear! I am not asking family not to get him gifts, just acquaintances who are coming to the party... If family lived nearby I would have them come to the dinner where we gave him presents as well, but unfortunately we are all in different states. He is the only grandchild for my parents, and the second and only boy on dh's side (they were very excited about a grandson). Thanks for all the ideas and advice everyone :)

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Old 07-22-2011, 08:53 AM
 
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 I'm a teacher and have rarely seen young kids get locked into one type of play with a defined toy. My DS (7) got some Zhu Zhu Pets and track for his birthday the other day. He and DD (4) combined the track with tons of Magna-Tiles and created a "Habitrail" like enclosed track for the pets to roam through. Complete with magnetic doors that open and close. Hot Wheels and Thomas trains get used in much the same way and are very treasured my my kids.

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Old 07-22-2011, 09:02 AM
 
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I think that if you want to have a big party with neighborhood kids and storytime kids but want no presents, don't have that party be a birthday party.  Just have a party for summer or something.  Then people won't feel they should bring gifts.  Let them bring chips or a cut veggie or something and then everyone has fun, you get to plan a party, and you don't have all the stuff and gift policy to worry about.

 

For family, I personally feel that if you want to invite them to a party, you should let them give the kid a gift.  If they want.  I feel you can tell family "don't worry about a gift" or "if you really want to get him something, a book you really loved as a kid would be great". 

 

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Old 07-22-2011, 09:34 AM
 
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Sorry I was unclear! I am not asking family not to get him gifts, just acquaintances who are coming to the party... If family lived nearby I would have them come to the dinner where we gave him presents as well, but unfortunately we are all in different states. He is the only grandchild for my parents, and the second and only boy on dh's side (they were very excited about a grandson). Thanks for all the ideas and advice everyone :)


My neighbor just had a little get-together (just for neighbors, the family party was another day) for her son's birthday, and she did it really well but still ended up with a bunch of gifts. She just sent out a text the day before saying, "Hey, tomorrow is DS's birthday and I thought it'd be fun to surprise him by having some friends from the neighborhood over for popsicles. If you can make it, swing by around 12:30." Because of the short notice and the very casual nature of the invitation, I (correctly) interpreted it to mean that it was just a little well-wishing get-together and that presents weren't necessary, so we didn't get him anything, but almost everyone else showed up with a gift bag. I felt a little embarrassed at first, but the hostess said, "For those of you who brought gifts, that wasn't necessary but thank you very much. For anyone who didn't, please don't worry about it, we just wanted to spend some time with our friends." There's no easy way to go about it, either on the invitation or in person, but I really thought she did a great job in making everyone feel appreciated. 


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Old 07-22-2011, 04:05 PM
 
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Even when "no gifts" is specified, I think most people feel bad when they go to a party without bringing something...like it's bad manners, or like you weren't really serious about the no gifts thing.  PP's have suggested some great ideas for a middle ground like donations to charity.  And maybe there's a way to make it more personal to him?  Like ask everyone to bring a copy of their favorite children's book with an inscription to the birthday boy.  Or have a "cards only" party and ask everyone to do a homemade card/drawing/note.  Or have an art party and ask everyone to bring inexpensive art supplies...they could use them to contribute to a joint masterpiece to present to your son at the end of the party.

 


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Old 07-22-2011, 04:49 PM
 
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For the neighborhood party, what about asking people to bring a new/used board book for a book exchange?

 

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Old 07-22-2011, 10:00 PM
 
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We are running into a similar issue as we plan our DD's first birthday party. We do not want gifts,  yet our families tend to DUMP kids with tons and tons of stuff. I get stressed out just thinking how much money, materials, time, etc would be spent for a couple minutes of thrills. She's 1. She'd be happy with a box and a couple used books. But nobody would take us seriously if we told them that. And somehow, donating those gifts after the party just feels kind of... deceiving... toward my family. There is a lot of heart but toward picking stuff out, but really is just a bunch of plastic that will end up in a landfill or someone's basement. Argh.


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Old 07-24-2011, 07:34 AM
 
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Lots of great ideas here.  Along the lines of a middle ground with art supplies, my DS was way into plants (still is, grows grapes) and we had a planting party (birthday is in May so this worked).  Everyone was asked to bring a packet of seeds, there own they saved or cuttings for a plant.  For an activity we all planted sunflower seeds in newspaper pots for the kids to take home.


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Old 07-24-2011, 11:47 AM
 
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Lots of great ideas here.  Along the lines of a middle ground with art supplies, my DS was way into plants (still is, grows grapes) and we had a planting party (birthday is in May so this worked).  Everyone was asked to bring a packet of seeds, there own they saved or cuttings for a plant.  For an activity we all planted sunflower seeds in newspaper pots for the kids to take home.



I love this idea! We actually don't do birthday parties or traditional holidays, but last summer ds had "for no reason" party....we cooked out, had cupcakes decorated with stuff he normally doesn't get to eat, a few new outside toys, and he had a great time. He still talks about it. This year he is older so he understands that some kids do extravagant birthday parties with lots of stuff (which we wouldn't do even if we did birthday parties.) This is a great middle ground idea.


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Old 05-28-2012, 07:24 AM
 
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Thank goodness  . . . a parent with some sense!

 

 

I have just witnessed my 5 year old Grand-daughter get 30 birthday presents at her party! She cried throughout her party because she wanted to open them all there and then. The following she has another party for her family with lots more presents. Disney princess merchandise galore!! It is so saddening as this is robbing her of any future joy in receiving and appreciating gifts.

 

To be honest  - half of the time I think that the party and gifts is mainly to meet the needs of the mother.

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Old 05-28-2012, 09:06 AM
 
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We usually only give dd a couple of presents for her birthday. I also view the party or any other celebratory activities as a gift from us though. We do whatever dd wants. I bake her a cake and spend time decorating it. We decorate the house. We acknowledge her birthday in a lot of ways that aren't wrapped in a box with a bow on top.

I've never told other people not to give dd presents but most of our family don't even acknowledge the day with a card or a phone call much less a gift so it really isn't a concern.

I think gifts like art supplies are nice because they are things that get used up.

 

I don't think you are wrong to limit gifts. After witnessing many other kids tearing through mounds of gifts and tossing them aside I feel that less presents leads to better appreciation.


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Old 05-28-2012, 04:55 PM
 
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Thank goodness  . . . a parent with some sense!

 

 

I have just witnessed my 5 year old Grand-daughter get 30 birthday presents at her party! She cried throughout her party because she wanted to open them all there and then. The following she has another party for her family with lots more presents. Disney princess merchandise galore!! It is so saddening as this is robbing her of any future joy in receiving and appreciating gifts.

 

To be honest  - half of the time I think that the party and gifts is mainly to meet the needs of the mother.


I don't think it's fair to say that because she had a tantrum at her party she'll be forever robbed of the joys of gift giving/receiving. Your granddaughter will probably grow up to be just fine (although 30 gifts is excessive I agree).
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Old 05-28-2012, 05:15 PM
 
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Even when "no gifts" is specified, I think most people feel bad when they go to a party without bringing something...like it's bad manners, or like you weren't really serious about the no gifts thing. 

 


I've only been invited to two "no gifts" parties. At one (a boy in ds2's preschool), we were the only family that didn't show up with a gift, anyway. I felt uncomfortable, but mostly rolled with it, a gifts weren't opened at the party. DS2 was really embarrassed.

 

The other party was only three families, and only one brought a gift (a stuffed owl that the mom had made - I think she was working on it before she found out about the "no gifts" thing). It was okay, but...yeah. There is an expectation of gifts, and lots of people won't honour the "no gifts". Sometimes, they feel as though you're just playing games. Sometimes, they just don't feel comfortable with it.


We've never done a no gifts party, for a variety of reasons. But, gifts also aren't in overkill around here. At dd1's party (three weeks ago), she had two guests who didn't bring gifts (both family, and both flat broke), and her other gifts spanned a wide range of styles and "price points". She loved all but one of them, and it was a really good try at a gift she'd like - just didn't quite hit. (It was a crafty thing, but very gimmicky. DD1 likes to make up her own things, not follow instructions. She does like the bracelets it makes, though!)


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Old 05-28-2012, 06:59 PM
 
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90% of the parties we attend are fairly large of the all-kids-from-preschool invited type. All the kids...all...have more than enough and probably too much. Almost all of the parties are "no gifts please" or some variation. It is very very nice to just enjoy the party and it is very, very nice to not to deal with the pile at junk. Gifts just are not part of the equation and for this I am more than happy to overlook the etiquette of not mentioning gifts ever. For the rare party we attend that is not gift-free I only ever bring art supplies or books unless I know the child super-well and have something very special in mind. And usually I mail them from amazon and we don't physically take them. My kids don't even associate parties with gifts.

 

We do buy rather nice gifts for nephews and nieces and the kids know and participate in those. But usually it is a single, nice item and I try and buy handmade, ethically made goods whenever possible. 

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Old 05-28-2012, 08:34 PM
 
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Oh, how I love no gifts toddler parties.   We've been to a few of each, and the parties with gifts feel so....like I'm spending random money on someone I barely know for no reason.  It's odd to me to expect people you don't really know to buy you (or your kid) something.  The little ones have fun playing with each other, they may grasp the fact that the party is FOR one of their little friends, but...come on.  We had a small party with close friends for our daughter's 2nd birthday this spring, then a week later it was Easter, and we had a family gathering for her birthday with cake and gifts.  By the time it was over, I wanted to purge my house of all toys and only eat carrots for a week.  It is soooo easy for it to all just to become too much.  I think you are completely in the right to want to limit the "stuff."  Or at least chuck a bunch of it right in the give-away pile. 

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Old 05-30-2012, 05:39 AM
 
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I'm more uncomfortable when people ask for "no gifts" actually. Do they really mean it? Are other people going to bring gifts anyway? I don't know. I always bring a gift. I like getting a child a gift. My kids enjoy picking out a present for their friend. I think it's good for kids to have practice doing that too. At no gift parties I feel like about half the people bring gifts, and I think this makes everyone uncomfortable. It makes the people who didn't bring gifts uncomfortable and the people who did, and probably the host as well. 


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Old 05-30-2012, 10:37 AM
 
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On average, 1/20 people bring a giftto our no-gift parties but there are lots of handmade cards and drawings.

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Old 05-31-2012, 06:09 AM
 
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I don't have time to read the replies but I wanted to respond because I have gone through this in every way possible. 

 

First off .. no one should be telling you what YOU should buy for YOUR kid. I'd tell whoever that is, even if it's your parents to myob.

 

At first I told everyone no gifts at all. They did think I was a witch, they really wanted to buy gifts. They were offended and it's a big long story but eventually I finally realized it wasn't worth hurting people we love and want in dd's life over some plastic junk twice a year (xmas & birthday).

 

So now I try to direct close family and friends towards things we would like dd to have, especially experiences like the zoo and kids museum, etc. Some of them still buy her some junk but they've gotten much better about it. Even with dd being school age now, we talk about the gifts that may not be right for her and either regift them to friends we are sure would want them or donate them and she's okay with that. 

 

We've also tried throwing parties with donation themes. DD was really into animals so we threw an animal themed party and asked everyone to bring a gift for the shelter animals instead of dd. Most people were happy to, a few brought a donation and a gift for dd. In the end, I think it worked out really well. 

 

My point is, it's best to be honest and try and direct and redirect to things that are appropriate to your values but in the end people can spend their money on whatever they want and it is ungrateful to just flat out refuse a heartfelt gift even if it's not what you have chosen. I would still let people know how you feel about things but just like they can't change what you are buying your son with their arguments, you won't change theirs. If they are worth having in your life, and you've tried all else just accept the gift and give it to charity.


mama to three little ladies
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Old 05-31-2012, 09:17 AM
 
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How do you know your son won't play with toys?  Most kids who are 2 like toys unless there's a developmental issue.  Toddlers love bright colors and things that move.  I don't really understand why you don't want him to have those things.  

 

If you're afraid he's going to get junk toys, how about suggesting some of the LeapFrog toys, or  Plan toys?  They're stimiluating and educational.   

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Old 06-02-2012, 09:54 PM
 
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"Don't give my kid any gifts, I'm going to do that myself & there won't be room for anyone else to contribute," you know?

 

 

I agree with this. I think it is mean. Not for child, as he is only 2 and doesn't know the difference anyways, but certainly mean for the grandparents, close friends. Just think how you would feel if you were a grandma and you picked out this amazing toy that you thought your grandchild would love and it totally fit your gift appropriate values and then your child said, no way only we get to get him anything.  

 

There are always threads like this on here and I don't understand it. I really think people need to let go of some control over who gives gifts and what is given as a gift. At 2 you can still totally control what he plays with and donate the truely objectionable and say it was too big, broke, lost, saving until he is older,or other excuse to the giver. A  lot harder to do that with an older child. What will happen when a friend or relative gives your child a bey blade or other plastic/metal/non biodegradlabe toy which may or may not also have other merchandise and cartoons to go with it AND he LOVES IT! 

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