Raise your hand if you have ever been embarrassed by your child’s behavior upon receiving a gift. This was me when one of my daughters turned six. Ugh. I cringe thinking about it. My sweet, kind, little girl turned into a demanding, greedy gremlin. Okay, maybe a little too harsh, but seriously. We were surrounded by her grandma, uncle, and a couple of neighbor families who all came by to wish her a happy birthday and bring her a gift. When she was given the first gift she tore into it with vigor, but she had no more than seen what it was and she was reaching for the next one, and the next one, and the next one….without so much as a pause for a “thank you”. I was mortified.
These friends and relatives had not only been thoughtful enough to come and celebrate her birthday, but they had generously picked out a gift they thought she would enjoy. It cost them time and money. So the display of my little gremlin ripping through present after present with no sense of gratitude at all left me in a panic. I kept trying to throw out comments to assure the gift giver that she is going to love playing with, wearing, or using the gift that they brought. Right then and there I knew something had to change.
Long before the days of Pinterest, I would tear or copy ideas out of magazines and log them away in my filing system. Family Fun Magazine had put out an article by a mom (Stacey Falk) who was struggling with the same lack of gratitude I was and her solution was brilliant. It is called the Present Game. I have all of the kids sit in a circle on the living room floor and I select one kid to come “shopping” with me. We find a gift we can give one of the other siblings. The only real rules: we don’t play for keeps and the gift must fit in the bag.
So one by one, each kid takes another sibling a “present”. The recipient must say thank you and give a sincere compliment about the gift they received. Pretty much anything can be given as a gift, we have had everything from a hairbrush to a cucumber to a beloved stuffed animal. My daughter received the hairbrush from her little brother this year and she said, “Thank you, I am always looking for a hairbrush in the morning, now I will have my very own.”
I have boys, so they thought it would be hilarious to give their oldest sister a pair of underwear. In which she graciously commented how she never seems to have enough of them and how grateful she was, especially since mom hasn’t had time to do the laundry lately!! :)
This is kind of a silly game, but it is nice to remind kids how to be a gracious gift receiver. So here is what we try to emphasize when we play this game:
- Check BOTH names on the tag. Make sure it is has YOUR name on it, and you know who to THANK after you have opened it.
- Make eye contact and be energetic when saying thank you and your compliment / how you will use it.
We don’t play this game every year, but sometimes when we see the train start falling off the track, we play this to bump it back on track toward gratefulness (which we actually had to do this year). I am happy to report that my little six-year old gremlin has made vast improvements over the last five years. Last year she received the exact same craft set she had received from the same relative the year before. Instead of her whining, “I already have this,” she simply said “Thank you so much, you know how much I love to do crafts!” My heart melted as I watched this unfold in front of me. Gratitude never gets old.