Gift-Giving for Kids

by Daniel Post Senning on May 23, 2013

Q: Should children be taught to give gifts to family members during holidays such as birthdays, Christmas, etc.? I have three teens and have not received a single gift from them — not even a card. I brought this up to my oldest daughter who is 18 and does have a job, and she told me she doesn’t like spending her money, but she found it necessary to buy her boyfriend presents for Christmas. Am I expecting too much or am I raising unemotional brats? Its not the gift, its the thought I really care about.

A: We’d say your children are old enough to give a card or gift to their parents at the holidays. It need not be an expensive gift — in fact, often the most meaningful gifts are handmade ones that reflect a child’s talents or interests, or say something about the closeness of the relationship.

It may not occur to them that you’d like them to give a gift or card, or that you expect them to at this age. Perhaps it’s a good time to talk with them (or ask another parent to do this so it doesn’t appear that you are asking for gifts) about exchanging gifts and acknowledging what family members do for them throughout the year.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Nina May 23, 2013 at 10:42 am

When I was quite little, my parents started giving me a few dollars and taking me to a store to pick out gifts for whoever’s birthday it was–theirs, my brother’s, a school friend. Other times they would help me pick a craft project to make for the birthday person. The idea was that the amount of money didn’t matter (eventually I had a job and used my own money) but spending time and thinking about what the person might like did matter. My sister-in-law does the same for her kids–this past Christmas, we received a box of cat toys for our cats and a hand-drawn card from the little girls (ages 5 and 2) addressed to my husband and me and the kitties. Obvious, the children did not actually buy the gifts, but they picked them out and felt happy to think of us enjoying them. Best gift I got!

I know some families don’t put emphasis on birthdays or gifts, which is fine, but if gifts are important that’s something parents need to teach their kids. How else will they learn? The parents should definitely talk to their kids about what giving a gift means and the reasons for doing so–it sounds like that talk is long overdue!


Cyra May 23, 2013 at 11:59 am

One suggestion now would be to spend time with various groups of the family choosing a gift for whoever isn’t there. For example, “Kid1′s birthday’s coming up, what should the four of us do for him/her?” or “Kids, let’s all go shopping and buy Christmas presents for Dad!” This way you’re helping to establish a culture of gift-giving in the family that focuses on the joy of the recipient rather than “we’d better get mom a gift so she doesn’t get mad at us.”


Joanna May 29, 2013 at 10:23 am

Sorry, but 18 with a job is NOT a kid! It’s not like she’s 8, for heaven’s sake…but even if she were, as mentioned, she could make or do something homemade.

To the 18-year-old who “doesn’t like spending her money,” I have a news bulletin…does she think her parents go to work every day because they love paying bills? And, oh yes, to buy her COUNTLESS things over the past two decades?


Alicia May 29, 2013 at 11:10 pm

What I do not understand is why this is an issue at 18. Why hasn’t the kid been giving gifts all along to their parents for their moms birthday. I mean my nieces and nephew are 5,5,3 and I helped them this year to make their mom cupcakes and a birdhouse for their moms birthday. I know that each kid was given $4 at the dollar store for christmas and help to buy gifts for their parents and siblings. If this gets better every year and is a progressive thing then the 18 year old should be in the habit of giving birthday and holiday gifts for family. So habit was not instilled time to instill it before each holiday ask what are you getting for siblings what are you getting for each other member of family ect. Generosity is taught.


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