When Relatives Give Your Child a Gift You Don't Allow, Things Can Get Awkward!
When my son was about 8 years old, one of his relatives gave him an Eminem CD. Having seen how intrigued my boy had been by the rapper's music when he had heard it at his house, Uncle X thought he'd found the perfect gift for his nephew. It was a very uncle-y thing to do, and my son was thrilled. I was not.
Don't get me wrong. I love music -- every kind, flavor and genre. Truth be told, I even liked Eminem. Apart from his highly offensive lyrics, I thought he was a very talented young man.
I also felt that the words to his songs and the dark undertone of his music were completely inappropriate for an 8-year-old. As you may have guessed, this led to some problems. I took the CD away, my son was furious, and I had to decide whether or not to mention it to his uncle, and, if so, how to broach the subject without offending him.
'Tis the season. The season to shop, decorate and open presents, some of which you do not want your children to have. Chances are, the gift you don't want your youngster to open is the very one he'll be so excited to receive that you'll have to pry it out of his grubby little hands while he clutches it for dear life, possibly while kicking and screaming.
To make matters worse, because of that ear-to-ear grin on your child's face when he opens the unacceptable gift, the relative who gave it may feel obligated to wage war on your child's behalf.
And so the drama begins, with you being accused of being "the meanest mom in the world" or an uptight parent who doesn't want your darling to have a little bit of fun. Meanwhile, the goodwill of gift-giving flies out the window.
Brace yourselves, parents. Be strong. Your relatives may be well-meaning, but if you're confident that they've given your child something entirely inappropriate, you have to take a stand. You can allow your child to enjoy the gift until Aunt So-and-So leaves, and then gently tell him he'll have to exchange it for something else. Or you can let Auntie know right away that you so appreciate the gift -- your child has been longing for that very item -- but that unfortunately it's beyond his age range or inconsistent with your values.
Either way, the clearer you are, the less you'll get looped into a power struggle or battle. Acknowledge your child's upset -- and Auntie or Uncle's disbelief -- without launching a major offensive. Be gracious and grateful, and most of all, don't blame your relative for deliberately giving something they "knew" your child couldn't have (even if you suspect they were aware of your views about the gifted item.) Offer your thanks, and let your child know that he can exchange it for something else.
Finally, if the gift is something you'd rather your child not have, but isn't that big a deal, let him keep it. You may not want your son to have that Super-Duper Commando Squirt gun, or a Cutesy Girl makeup kit, but if it isn't awful, let your child keep the gift -- with whatever restrictions you feel to be necessary. (He loses the squirter if it gets taken inside, or the makeup cannot be worn outside the house.)
Have fun, make merry and enjoy the holidays!
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.