What do you do if your child receives gifts you don't want him/her to have? - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-25-2012, 09:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Normally, if I receive a gift I don't want, I thank the giver and say nothing about not liking it.  My poker face is lousy, but I make every effort to seem grateful.  After all, I can put the gift on Freecycle immediately if I want to;  there is no need to hurt the giver's feelings.

What do I do, though, if my child receives something I don't want her to have?  For me, that is anything princess-oriented, but for other families, it could be a toy gun, a noisy electronic toy, or a DVD that is violent or insipid.  (Actually, add all those to my list, too.)  I am guessing that I have until around age two to just say "thank you" and quietly get rid of the item;  after that, DD will certainly say, "Hey, where's my ___ ?"

What is your approach?  Is there any polite way of saying "Thanks, but no thanks"?  My current plan is to be honest with my child about the fact that we are not keeping the present, saying that I don't approve of this type of toy, other item, etc., but she will surely be confused by the fact that I have thanked the giver and encouraged her to do the same.  Maybe she will pipe up and say, "I'm not allowed to have ___," and maybe I'll be proud of her for doing so...or maybe it will be really awkward.

Thoughts?

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Old 02-25-2012, 10:56 AM
 
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I've done this at least on one occasion. I think it was at my son's 3d birthday party, when he got a plastic (realistic looking) toy gun including plastic 'bullets' (he got it from a then 9yo neighbourhood girl)! Since my child only just turned 3 I was pretty unprepared for that, and pretty shocked! It was also too late to take it away before anyone noticed, since my child, with the help of another older kid, had opened the present and packaging while everyone was looking; it was not possible to just take it away or tell my child out loud that I found this a 'wrong'toy. I value gift-giving as a gesture of kindness and I want to confront the giver with thankfulness, not criticism or rejection. But I got hold of the plastic bullets (oh was I happy for that), or at least I thought I did... The next thing that happened was an 8yo boy aiming the 'gun' at me and hitting me in my stomach with, oh yes a plastic bullet (he must have got some out of the pack in a nanosecond before I got hold of it), .. and guess what: it hurt! There was a layer of clothing, it was a silly plastic toy, but it hurt enough for me to totally justify getting rid of the thing asap. I did warn the boy never to aim at living creatures, and that I do not want anyone to use these plastic bullets, and definitely not in my home, ı let them play with the gun. And as soon as I found the chance the toy gun disappeared on top of a cupboar. I whispered to my son ear that this one present was not something we were going to keep and why and that I would make sure to get rid of it right after the party (the bullets were already disposed of). (We are a multilingual family and in this situation it came in quite handy). 

A couple of weeks later my son remembered the toy gun and asked for it, but I explained we did not possess it anymore and that it was not a good toy since I do not like real guns, nor toy guns, definitely not in my home, that it looked like real which is dangerous in itself, and that the bullets can also harm people or animals even if not intended, that I felt the bullet the kid shot at me had hurt me and that I did not want anyone to get hurt. I added that I do not wish my kids to play with such things at other kids houses for the very same reasons, and explained that it can even be very hard to know real from , so passed on the message to just keep away from that stuff (unfortunately, this talk had to be done when the kid was so young, but wording fitting his age...). And the same for a toy 'knife' in another kid's house, but there I can't have the same kind of control over it on a next visit, but again I explained about me not liking this 'toy' and again telling my experience that it hurt me when he stabbed me with it(! knives are for cutting food or to be used as a tool !?) and that IT IS NEVER OK TO STAB SOMEONE WITH ANY OBJECT FAKE OR REAL. He got that message.

 

Ok, so this was a safety thing. but I would have done the same for a toy gun looking too real and probably similar even if it wouldn't look that real. Let them make toy guns out of duplo and shoot each other,  how much I did not like that even, but at least no-one gets hurt and there is some creativity in the play involved, or let them play with fluo-coloured water guns, or playmobil figurines or robots with 'weapons' (those have been compromises).

 

Oh and a toy I would definitely NOT want is a nintendo or similar. Little chance we would have that issue since it's pretty expensive but the best defence for some things is to inform the right people about toys/giftsyou approve of and/or like and more precisely the things that you know you (or else your child) would absolutely NOT like or want in the house.

 

For rejection of princess stuff,  have NO idea, no daughter, but I sure know that I would also cringe on anything (or at least on an overdose of) pink and feathery-flowery-glittery-ness. I think I could learn to live with getting those for presents, but would not buy them myself, and where possible inform people close to us about not liking these things and hinting alternatives.

 

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Old 02-25-2012, 05:56 PM
 
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Unless there was a safety issue involved, I'd let them have it. If it was an electronic toy, I'd accept it, but there would be some pretty strict rules applied (time limits, no taking it to grandma's to play the whole time we're visiting on Christmas, etc.). Other than that, I let them have it. My dd1 has had Monster High and Bratz gifts given to her by extended family. They're given in good faith, and meant well. DD1 likes them. So, I let it go. We talk about it, and she knows that I don't really like Bratz dolls (I don't mind the Monster High thing, because it's art-related and I think she'll get a lot out of it). But, it's hers, and it's not going to kill her to play with it. I also have to admit to getting a kick out of watching her tuck her Bratz doll into the nice doll bed in the nice wooden dollhouse. It reminds me that the things I see in a Bratz doll and the things my dd sees in Bratz doll aren't the same things.


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Old 02-25-2012, 06:16 PM
 
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I do like Lisa - unless it's a safety issue I let them keep it.  If someone gives my kid something then it belongs to my kid.  I don't feel ok taking it away unless it's for a v. serious reason.  My dd has been given Barbies, Disney princess crap, and all that stuff, and no, I'd never buy it for her in a million years, and yes I'd prefer she'd never been given it, but really I don't think it's going to do any serious harm.  We (her family) are her major influence.  We believe certain things pretty strongly and our kids get that message.  I feel pretty good about what kind of people my kids are (and who they're growing up to be).  I just don't feel like a smattering of princess crap, etc is going to be any problematic influence.

 

So, yup, I smile politely and say thank you and teach my kids to do the same.


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Old 02-25-2012, 06:35 PM
 
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We made it very clear when our DS was born and sent family and close friends a letter spelling it out and it has worked really well for us.

 

Most clearly knew our views prior anyway and we included things that were needed as well (because most asked and wanted lists of items) and it just made it all easy. We listed companies that we deal with and felt good about items from them. My DH was very clear about certain things that he knew would be issues with his family and writing it down was just easy for him and it dealt with unwanted items. He was adamant about certain things and flat out said no (this mostly was directed at his immediate family) and it worked for us.

 

We had several people when our DS was born that gave books (and inscribe inside of them) and we ended up getting many of the same titles - once others saw this they became really aware and only give things after asking first- it's really a practical issue at this point for us.

 

We are super strict on certain things and there are things that just simply are not allowed in our home.

 

Mostly we have people that share our views in our lives and feel the same in regards to certain toys. We really don't have random people (who would not know) giving our DS things.

 

Most things that our DS gets are things that are wanted and needed and really everyone asks first prior to giving.


 

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Old 02-25-2012, 07:40 PM
 
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I usually let it go at the time.  My thanks focus on the thoughtfulness and caring anyway, and I don't mind my children learning than we sometimes "pretend" for social reasons of courtesy.  My value of being kind to the giver is more important than my preferences in gift when speaking to the giver.  And I am genuinely grateful, just not so much for the material object as the giving spirit.  I try to teach to my children to appreciate love and loving acts even if we don't get to control the form of those acts for our comfort.  I expect that too.  Like if one of my kids is grumpy about what's for dinner I ask them to express thankfulness to the preparer anyway and to hold their tongues about criticizing the food.  That seems like the same principle.

 

So, later, what I do with the unwanted gift depends.  My children, first of all, are allowed to own things I don't like.  I do not have to approve of all of their toys.  If I have a problem with a gift, I will consider it a temporary possession and how long it stays will be a function of how much the child loves it and how much I hate it LOL.  I like to let them enjoy it a while and then we pass it along for someone else via a Goodwill.  If I hate it and s/he likes it I might wait a while and then push to pass along during a room-cleaning.  If it's something my child isn't attached to then I will get rid of it without consulting just in normal clean/sort efforts.  I do that with everything in our home.  And generally the bags are left to sit in our front room long enough that a dismayed child has ample chance to initiate a rescue.  I do, however, really talk up the benefits of having fewer toys to take care of to lessen their chores cleaning them up and also how nice it is to able to shop for something new if we get rid of some of the older things to make space.  They do know there are some benefits and this subject does not really cause conflicts. 

 

Now, if a toy is violent or violently used then it would go very, very soon since it couldn't be played with without breaking rules for how to treat one another.  And if I find it too disturbing I will get rid of it quickly.  Otherwise, I will wait a little while before donating.  My child gets most of the pleasure while it is new and then I get it out of my face in a reasonable amount of time.  That way I can always say to the giver as well that my child enjoyed it for a while and after a while we donated it for someone else.  So it was a shorter while than I make it sound but oh well.  Moving possessions along is a pretty normal process, and I've never had a giver who followed up with needing and appreciation accounting beyond the child having some fun.  I've never had anyone give us toy guns... and we allow squirt guns the only kind we have.  Usually I am just bothered by the plastic clutter or commercialized imagery and having to make a home for and take care of things that don't bring much benefit and nourishment for the space they take up.  Sometimes we've received things that are not age-appropriate or that I do not have space for in our house...

 

It's my home and my kids get lots of say-so, but I am super-sensitive to the visual qualities of my space and how things are organized and so I get a lot of say-so too if I end up looking at the stuff all of the time and having to organize it.  I can really only handle a modest amount of ugly stuff in my face or I HAVE to get some of it away at least where I can't see it.  Lame of me, but true.  When I feel like something brings disharmony I will feel ready quickly to get it out of my space and although I will leave it be for a while I will eventually, gently, move it along.  


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Old 02-26-2012, 12:56 PM
 
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I agree that it's important to be grateful and to teach your child to be grateful and to express gratitude. 

 

The way that we've handled this situation has changed as DC has moved through different ages and stages.  As an infant, there were no real issues, except occasional character clothes, which I just donated quietly.  When she became a toddler, we disappeared things after a day or two, which generally went over fine because it was out of sight, out of mind.  In preschool, it was that again in conjunction with some vagueries when DC asked where those toys were.  Around 4-5yo, the idea that different families have different rules was becoming a routine observation - on the playground, at playdates, at cousins' houses, etc.  We began to transition at that point to explaining that we don't play with some things in our house that other people do and why - not in a broad general conversation, but in reaction to specific instances.  At the same time, we spent considerable time coaching gratitude, adn explaining that the thought that goes into a gift is more important than the gift itself, and that it would not be appropriate to indicate to the givers that you didn't intend to keep their gift.

 

Beyond that age, it became routine.  Also, the older DC became, the more flexible I became on some types of things.  No guns became okay with water guns.  Barbies = bad for self image became barbies = fun for role playing.  No character clothes became no character clothes in public.  No electric toys became minimal electronic toys.  Parenting is all about flexibility.  Do what feels natural at the time, and allow yourself to grow as your child is growing.  Remember that growing your child's character is the most important part of parenting, so what she plays with is far less important than that she knows how to be grateful for what she has and what people do for her.

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Old 02-26-2012, 01:45 PM
 
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I've really only had to take away one gift that just wasn't going to work at all.  It was fake nails that needed to be glued on.  I allow them to paint their nails but the nails with glue... NOPE!  And while they were really excited about getting them I did let them know that I would allow them to use them.  I did take them to get their nails painted instead and had the technician put designs on their nails.  It was a good compromise.

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Old 02-27-2012, 11:52 AM
 
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I like your current approach and agree that being honest with your child is best. I have the same expectations for my children that I have for myself. I tell my kids it's important to be gracious and thank the gift giver, regardless of the gift, but, that we won't be using this gift because our family doesn't support gun usage, or, whatever. I want my kids to demonstrate graciousness and also to understand why we don't use specific items.

While I certainly understand having beliefs that preclude your family from using certain toys, I also agree with some of the pps that dictating "acceptable" gifts is not something I'm comfortable with. And, some of the gifts we've received, Barbies, for example, have opened up wonderful discussions about body image, true body size, and self image.

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Old 02-27-2012, 05:54 PM
 
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"Thank you very much" and then straight to the goodwill pile, or CL, or trash, or the fire pits of hell or played with for a week and then "dissappeared" or put away for a later date.  Depends on what it is and how much I hate it.

 

The parents at our preschool generally have gift-free parties and that cuts down on the buckets of junk.

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Old 02-27-2012, 08:03 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Storm Bride View Post

Unless there was a safety issue involved, I'd let them have it. If it was an electronic toy, I'd accept it, but there would be some pretty strict rules applied (time limits, no taking it to grandma's to play the whole time we're visiting on Christmas, etc.). Other than that, I let them have it. My dd1 has had Monster High and Bratz gifts given to her by extended family. They're given in good faith, and meant well. DD1 likes them. So, I let it go. We talk about it, and she knows that I don't really like Bratz dolls (I don't mind the Monster High thing, because it's art-related and I think she'll get a lot out of it). But, it's hers, and it's not going to kill her to play with it. I also have to admit to getting a kick out of watching her tuck her Bratz doll into the nice doll bed in the nice wooden dollhouse. It reminds me that the things I see in a Bratz doll and the things my dd sees in Bratz doll aren't the same things.


I really think this is an excellent point.

 

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Old 02-27-2012, 08:10 PM
 
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Say thanks, grin and bear it for awhile and when it gets home, it pretty much goes right in the yardsale box.  If we can get away with not opening it, we will try and return it to the store. 

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