With birthdays, holidays, and special occasions coming up, it may be a good time to consider how your kid will handle certain situations. Is my kid selfish in these situations or are they just acting excited?
My husband tells an embarrassing story of his childhood birthday party.
He was so happy to have friends and family over and was in a LEGO phase. He opened presents, relished the opening and the oohing and the ahhing. And then he opened a big present. One that promised to be a LEGO. He was so excited!
Then he opened the present and saw that it was a LEGO he already had… and burst into tears.
The giver was embarrassed. He was humiliated but couldn’t stop crying. And his parents were, well, obviously mortified. He wasn’t trying to be rude, but his emotions got away from him.
Let’s just say… it was a cringe moment he hasn’t forgotten.
Sometimes our children will respond in odd ways
When our kids are receiving gifts, or even compliments, they may respond in odd ways. Instead of a thank you, they may stare blankly at someone’s face. Instead of answering questions clearly, they may remain mute.
These things embarrass us.
Both because we want our kids to “act right” and also because we feel like we look bad when they don’t. Instead of immediately jumping in to correct our kids when they have an unanticipated reaction to a gift or something else, let’s take a pause.
Look At Each Situation Differently
When it comes to understanding if a kid is selfish, there are so many variables to consider. What kind of day are they having? Have they been put into a situation that would cause them to act out of sorts? How are they feeling?
Each situation truly needs its own set of eyes…
For the situation with the LEGO, my husband was anticipating a new LEGO he’d been waiting for, saw one he already had, and was just sad.
Did he mean to insult the giver? No, he was just feeling what he was feeling.
Is there a more socially accepted way to act? Yes, of course.
He learned from that day and has always prepared the kiddos for situations like that.
Has something like this happened to you? Here’s two simple tips:
- Before getting aggravated and beating yourself up because your kid’s don’t know how to behave… ask yourself, what was your child’s intention? Was it to harm or offend the person giving the gift? Quite possibly, it was actually just an act of expression.
- Begin teaching acceptable behaviors based on situation. Kid’s do not always understand that there is a time to play and a time to be serious. They don’t know it’s rude to dig through gifts, throwing them out to get the next one. Explaining the occasion to them can go a long way in their behaviors.
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Teach Gratitude First, then Emotions
Oh, how I wish this just came naturally. Unfortunately, it does not…
Gratitude and HOW TO show gratitude has to be taught. Actually, it has to be learned and then taught…
And then, we wont have to ask: is my kid selfish?
It’s the first response that counts
When it comes to being excited about receiving a gift, those first few moments are golden.
Let me explain:
- Everyone is watching your child’s expression and listening to their response
- Nerves are shot (from the giver and the reciever)
- Mom is on high alert to see how their child responds
As you can see, teaching that gratitude needs to come first can prevent so many possible issues.
We can teach our kids to receive a gift, thank the giver, and then make sure they know they can share their thoughts and feelings with us later, if need be.
Being intentional with when to show gratitude can really make or break a situation.
Saying “thank you” has a perfect window of opportunity, if you will.
How can they express excitement in a way that breeds gratitude?
You may be thinking that my child will never be able to control his/her excitement about receiving a gift. And, you’re probably not wrong.
Hiding excitement is not at all the goal here. The object is to push that excitement towards gratitude first, and then towards the personal reaction to whatever the gift is.
That way, whatever reaction a kiddo has to the gift won’t be embarrassing to anyone.
Furthermore, gratitude is one of those personalities that is contagious. So, the more they practice this… the more everyone catches on.
Prepare them Mentally for their Experience
Nobody likes bring blindsided… kids included.
So, how can we expect them to behave with grace and gratitude when they are shoved into situations unwittingly.
Set boundaries and expectations before arrival.
Now, granted… there is always the chance that a situation will arrise to take you all off guard. This is where practice makes perfect comes into play.
But for most situations, kids will be able to express themselves more responsibly when given plenty of warning and training about what they are “walking into”.
This is especially true for children who have an introverted personality.
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So, here are some basic tips to help prepare your kids:
- Explain the purpose of the visit. (Example: If it’s a Christmas party and you know they will be getting gifts, tell them. Also, explain to them that saying “thank you” needs to be said often and showing appreciation is expected.)
- Talk about who is going to be there. If it’s someone “new” to them, their reaction will be better if they expect it.
- Practice some basic phrases and manners on the way to your event. There’s no shame in preparing your kiddos for whatever interaction they will face. This will boost their confidence and allow them to feel more secure in their conversations.
It’s not what I can get from them, but the relationships we’re building together.
I have been known to repeat this phrase to my children before family events, birthday parties, and other occasions where I know they will be getting gifts.
It’s important to me that my children understand the value of building the relationships with our family and friends.
In other words, I don’t want them to think that it’s all about what they can get from the people that love them.
50+ Connection Questions
Pull out these fun questions to share some laughs with your precious ones. Use them out at meal times, car rides, or any time the day is getting chaotic and you need a reset to connect.