We”re throwing a birthday party for our son but he doesn’t always show gratitude when he should. Sometimes, his lack of enthusiasm for a gift is obvious and very embarrassing. How can we prepare him to be gracious and grateful at his party
Jennifer Lehr, author of PARENTSPEAK: What’s Wrong with How We Talk to Our Children—and What to Say Instead.
When our children receive a gift, whether or not they love it, we certainly want them to appreciate the thought, time, effort, and money put into it. But we need to be realistic. For a child to see gift-giving from the giver’s perspective is a skill that evolves over time. Some experts believe that children don’t develop empathy until around age six. Keeping this in mind can help us have realistic expectations.
Over time, we can help our children understand that they won’t always love a gift but that receiving one is a way others show us they care about us and that, in itself, is something to appreciate. Walk them through the process someone may have gone through to get them the gift to help them understand what went into it.
I”ve also learned to see a child not loving a gift as an opportunity to get to know them better. For instance, I gave my cousin a jean jacket for his sixth birthday and it was clear he didn’t like it. As it turns out, he prefers soft fabrics. “Ethan,” I said, “Not to worry! I can return it. Would you like to go shopping and choose something with me?” It turned out to be a fun afternoon, one I never would have had, had he been able to feign loving the gift.
- To put the process of gift giving into context, have your child help you choose (and maybe even contribute money toward) a gift for the next birthday party they attend. This may help them better understand what someone else did for them.
- For younger children, consider waiting until after the party to open gifts. There will be other times, such as during the holidays, when waiting to open gifts isn’t practical. The sooner a child learns to give a simple “Thank you,” the better.
- As much as your son or daughter is able, have him or her write thank-you notes or at least sign his or her own name on a picture they have drawn.