Before your kids open their presents and gifts this Christmas, have this conversation with them about gratitude and how to say thanks.
Ralphie: I want a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle.
Mother: No, you’ll shoot your eye out.
All around the world on Christmas day kids open their presents with gusto… and sometimes their responses are shocking and humiliating for their parents.
They don’t like the color.
They throw it aside without a word of thanks.
They say they’d rather have what brother got.
All this, right in front of everyone and you. Sometimes, let’s face it… Christmas ain’t so magical. The other morning I had a disturbing thought… what if all my children open their gifts, don’t say thank you?
What if they all act ungrateful? Entitled? Unappreciative?
As I was pondering calling the whole holiday off I realized… I haven’t ever told them exactly how I expect them to respond when opening presents.
They’re still young and it’s not like Christmas happens every other Thursday.
They are used to getting normal things they like so what if their Christmas presents don’t inspire a natural response of thankfulness?
Kids Must Be Taught How to Respond
When children are little they primarily respond to situations with the limbic part of their brain – the part that controls emotional processing. Their responses bypass the cerebral cortex (the reasoning part of the brain) and jump straight into emotional response.
This is why kids feel something and then go with it.
NOT THE RED PLATE!
I DON’T WANT TO EAT BROCCOLI!
SHE HIT ME SO I BIT HER!
This is the reason a lot of early childhood is spent teaching our children how to manage their emotions… so we can give their reasoning a fighting chance. We need to teach our kids the polite way (and the impolite way) to respond to gifts so they are able to draw on that when emotions are high.
Who can blame a child for being sad when got a sweater but wanted a truck?
No one expects a child to be perfect, but we can expect them to respond in a polite manner.
In fact, we should expect them to do this. Children have a way of rising to expectations.
You might say something like, “You might open a present you don’t really like. And that’s okay. You can tell mommy or daddy what you think about the present later, when it’s just us. We don’t say ‘I don’t like that’ to someone who gave us a present.“
You can’t force your child to like something they don’t like, but you can teach them how you expect them to respond in any circumstance.
The Crucial Conversation = How You Expect Them to Respond When Opening Gifts
Gratitude is a nebulous concept to small child.
They know to say thank you and have manners, but learning to appreciate and be content… these are life lessons.
Lessons they learn bit by bit as they age. We teach our children to say thank you for gifts before they understand the meaning of appreciation. We teach them to use their manners before they understand the concept of being polite.
Children must understand what you need them to do before they understand why you need them to do it.
Our kids don’t need to pretend they’re over the moon for something if they aren’t, we aren’t teaching our children to lie, but simply giving them acceptable ways to respond to generosity from others.
- A thank you.
- A smile and eye contact.
- Respectfully handling the present.
- Not throwing one present aside in hopes the next one is better.
- A hug or high five to the giver.
By showing our children appropriate responses to gift giving, we give them a toolbox. If they open a present they aren’t wild about, they will remember what we’ve taught them.
This enables them to respond politely in the moment, even if their emotions are firing disappointment or dislike.
By teaching our children positive responses we are giving them the gift of grace.
And, if you are like me, you might say, “Mommy keeps all presents that get complained about!”
??This also gets the message across. ??
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