Q: I have a friend who has two children ages 6 and 4. On a couple occasions I have brought them a small gift. Now every time I go to my friend’s house, they ask, “Did you bring us a present?” On several occasions they seem put off and pout when I answer ‘no’. Am I over reacting when I think this is rude behavior? Their mother says it just because you have brought them something in the past, but I disagree and feel their asking is unwarranted. How do I handle this situation diplomatically?
A: No, you’re not overreacting. Even though you’ve given them small gifts in the past, your friend’s children shouldn’t expect a gift every time you visit. Therefore, they shouldn’t ask nor should they seem put off or pout if you don’t have gifts for them. However, how to handle the situation is a delicate matter. Ideally, your friend should explain to her children why their behavior was inappropriate. It’s really not your place to correct their lapse in etiquette and your friend might be offended if you did. However, depending on how close you are to your friend, you might ask her if she would mind explaining to her children that you will not always bring gifts and it’s awkward for you when they ask. Another possibility would be the next time they ask you may say something along the lines of “I’m sure you know I don’t have to give you gifts every time I come over. If I do, I like my gifts to be a surprise. So, if you ask, it ruins the surprise.” This way you’re not criticizing them but explaining how you feel. However, these are only suggestions.