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.