Reclaim Your Life: How To Redirect Excess Gifting
This year has definitely been an eye opening year for me. I discovered that most parents are overwhelmed with the amount of toys children have and receive for gifts. And many long for extended family members to understand and adjust their giving.
In our culture, there is this idea that in order to show children our love, we must give toys in abundance.
Parents are hungry for a reprieve of excess. We want to teach our children to appreciate, be gracious and thankful; but with so many giving in excess, it’s a losing battle.
It’s changed from a wonderful gift that the child is excited to receive and become “why didn’t you get me more?”
And then, after all the gifts are in the house, children are overwhelmed when told to clean their room. Excess is overwhelming to all our senses, often making children act out, or paralyzes them.
When I recommended [here on the blog] that we talk to our loved ones about curbing the excess, I was met with some pretty aggravated responses.
Is it rude to ask the giver to limit the gifts? Is it rude to request certain items for our children?
Some people feel that that is going too far.
So, what are we to do?
Gift-giving days should bring with them a sense of excitement, joy, and anticipation, but if you find yourself dreading them, something needs to be done.
Please note: each person and each relationship is unique, so please look to yourself and take everything into consideration on the best approach for your situation.
Start out the conversation with the statement: “I have some fear in telling you this…” then begin with what is in your heart. Emotionally “show up,” feel your feelings, and tell the truth. Take the time to explain your position on gifts and talk about a different way they can bless you, your children and your family. Be open-minded and not afraid to share those ideas. Your heart needs to communicate that above all, the gift giver matters to you and their blessing through whatever gift is appreciated. Give them a chance to reflect, feel what they are feeling due to your sharing and stay present with them, willing to walk through their feelings. It’s about the relationship, not the stuff.
If those family members continue to over-gift, please don’t allow it to ruin your relationship with them. It’s definitely challenging, especially with the person whose love language is gifts and whose value is firmly rooted in appearance, (as in, they don’t feel like they can show love unless they give a lot and give BIG). The best advice I have is to accept the gifts as graciously as possible and then later, give them all away.
And what if they ask where the gift is?
Many times this stems from their desire to know that they matter to you. They may feel hurt, sad, anger, fear and shame that you rejected their gift. You must remind them that you haven’t rejected them and talk about how much you appreciate them, and you appreciate the thought that they put into giving something to you.
You are allowed to do what you like, like what you like, and giveaway what you like. It may cause feelings. But that’s ok.
Be honest with them. Do not lie about where the gift went. Be as gentle and as gracious as possible, but be honest. You don’t have to get specific, such as “I threw it away ASAP”, be honest, but be kind as well.
Fall into the trap of trying to prevent hard feelings, by hanging onto and even display gifts you really don’t want or have the room for. You are not wanting to hurt them, you just don’t want the stuff. Control and manipulation (stopping or denying feelings) isn’t a healthy relationship, nor is it love.
Learning to have a healthy relationship with that person is the important thing.
I would also recommend:
Read The 5 Love Languages. Generally, the people who are bothered by the idea of “guided gift-giving” have the love language of “gifts” and in their case, it may be offensive to be told how to gift. If so, it might be the most helpful, to study the love languages and think through all your children. Make notes about what love language each child has and the most appropriate way to gift to them. See also The 5 Love Languages of Children.
Give the gift-giver a copy of The 5 Love Languages of Children and the notes on your children so they understand the best way to show love to each child.
This was so well said. My kids are older now, but I really struggled with the gift thing when they were younger. I would end up angry around the holidays. With so many little ones the amount we received was overwhelming. I felt there was no way we could teach the kids to respect and care for their belongings because there were simply too many of them. After reading this I really wish I had tried to explain it better. I think my parents , at least , might have understood.
I appreciate your wisdom on this issue…my mom is a gift-giver – it’s very much her love language. Despite the talks I’ve had, she still continues to give. We accept the gifts graciously and then decide what to do with them. She doesn’t live near, so getting rid of them quickly is not an issue. But she has asked where certain items are when she’s visited…it’s awkward, but we can honestly answer that we just can’t keep every single thing that is given to us so we hold on to the things that are most dear and pass on what might bless someone else.
Thank you. Like your first commenter, we feel like it is hard to teach our kids to care for things since they are constantly receiving things. I have talked to the family about too much, to no avail. When it’s my turn to give, I like to find out what the child needs ( maybe socks or something else) and I try to give that, then the parents can use their resources for other things. I also would love it if gifts could be sponsorships for music lessons or athletic classes (winter’s are hard here). Again allowing the parents to stretch their resources. I will probably use your suggestions and approach this again. Thanks.
Great post! I’ve been trying to become minimalist for some months and as I declutter, thoughts on unnecessary gifts usually pop up. Even though I’m grateful for the intention, many of the gifts don’t even suit my style. But like you say, people are used to giving gifts as a form of expressing their love, and that should be changed gradually. Sure, a gift is nice and everything but people often give too many things.
Thanks for this post!
Definitely can relate to this. I just returned four pairs of shoes after my mother in law gave us 10 pairs for my toddler daughter. We are thankful but that is excessive. We don’t want our daughter to think the excess gifts are the norm. “It’s changed from a wonderful gift that the child is excited to receive and become “why didn’t you get me more?” That sentence is exactly how I feel about it. Well said.
Hi! These are great ideas. One thing we started last year when asking for “activities” vs gifts, was including the gift giver. My brother and sister-in-law gave our family day passes to the zoo. We invited them and paid for their parking. The kids had a great time including their aunt and uncle. We took my in-laws with us to the local aquarium.
Also, we ask for a contribution of “talents” My brother is a great amateur photographer. So, as an “early birthday gift” for me, I asked him to take my son’s six year old pictures at a local park this past weekend. We had family fun time and got great photos. Everyone has special talents they can contribute to each other. We offer to take my nieces for sleepovers and vice versa.
these are really good ideas! Thanks.
I’m. A grandmother, newly downsized, and I’m overwhelmed. With the baby’s stuff at my house! It’s really making me stop and think more before I buy things for her.
We have a few people, particularly grandparents, who like to gift things to our children. I know it would hurt their feelings and possibly cause a rift in the relationship so I haven’t said anything to them. When it has come up in conversation, indirectly, I throw out ideas to make them think. There was one time, for example, our kids took some toys we had purchased for them to the grandparents house. The weren’t taking care of the toys and we used that as a natural opportunity to say that’s one of the reasons we are downsizing because it makes it harder for them to become good stewards when there is excess. That seemed to sink in. I also realize grandparents are often limited in the physical things they can do with/for the kids, so gift giving is easier for them. So, instead, I have changed how we gift give to our children. We do consumable gifts and events (a trip to the water park, zoo, etc) as much as possible. Then the few toys they receive can usually be kept and treasured by the kids.
this is a great suggestion too. I’ve always liked the idea of others giving kids the experiences — but if parents do this more often too, then the physical gifts that come in from elsewhere will be more likely to be appreciated.
Do all children need something from the store everything they go, clearance or not, it is tossed aside or left outside, when the next toy is bought on the next trip, then, when holidays and Christmas arrive, their is a whole truckload more toys given and if it isn’t a toy, their isn’t an interest in it, it’s tossed to the side. What is this teaching children? Yet, we just keep feeding right into the same thing, and expect the children to be appreciative of everything that they get. How could they possibly be, their sensory of appreciation for anything is on overload, they can’t possibly begin to learn to appreciate all they get, befit is replaced with something different almost weekly..As adults, we need to put ourselves in the situation of the sensory of the child, they need to be given a chance to develop their sensories, and not just shoved from thing to thing.
with my nieces (1.5 and 3) we give them money towards their education fund and then a little something to unwrap! It’s been great and simple for us to do – and we don’t really have to think about what to get them
The suggestion to read The Five Love Languages is a good one. My whole concept of giving, and what’s important, changed after reading this book. Any relationship can be enhanced by understanding that different things are critical to other people than the things that are critical to me.
My mom is a gifter. In fact she has two cupboard shelves full of things that she has bought for people and not given away yet. She also has major memory issues, so buys multiples of things, and can’t resist a bargain so buys things believing that at least some of her multiple kids and grandkids would appreciate the bargain and the gift. She is getting much better at accepting a “no thank you” as a response when a gift is offered, but it’s been a long haul and will continue to be a challenge until she is no longer able to buy things or is no longer able to remember why she wants to. I do appreciate her desire to give us things, though.
An additional option for gift giving, that I haven’t seen anywhere yet — is to encourage your kids to be generous with their special occasion “gifts” and to turn them into an opportunity for the birthday child to bless others. For example, some kids I know of have asked people to give money towards the drilling of a well through GAIN (an agency that drills wells in parts of Africa where safe drinking water is not currently available) — or to donate money towards the purchase of a library or library books through Raise A Reader. Others have planned to participate in fund-raising runs or bike rides for different agencies, and have asked for donations towards those in lieu of receiving birthday gifts. Many children (most, even) are keen to do something significant, and they love to know how to help others. Making it possible for the birthday child to buy a goat and help change the lives of a family living in poverty somewhere is a really practical, specific thing that they could get behind and enjoy doing. It’s important to let the birthday child choose the cause and the gift, though. If it’s mandated, it will not be a gift for the child, but instead seen more as a punishment. A gift still has to feel like a gift — even if the initial recipient is simply a conduit to the ultimate recipient. And the gift givers still need to know that this is an option only, and they are not forced to give money towards the chosen project if they don’t want to.
Thanks Diana, you are right- Children are very generous and love helping others. Thanks for that suggestion!
I found this on pinterest but actually wrote something on this very topic a couple days ago. We’re in a position where we’re forced to get rid of A LOT of our stuff (75%) and I was downright shocked at how much of that clutter is gifts I’ve been holding onto… Because…
Thank you for your thoughtful post. We have had progress with a lot or these strategies and it seems that our close family now knows that we prefer experiences and activities over things. However, our challenge is dealing with the small “treats” that seem to flow in around every holiday from people we do not know well…just this week we received over 50 different Halloween-related trinkets from school parties, etc. It seems so wasteful to throw it away, buy they are also not things that are easily donated because many of them are meant to be disposable ( tattoos, whistles, erasers, etc). Any suggestions for this continuous flow of clutter?
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