When Kids Expect Presents

by Daniel Post Senning on May 29, 2013

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.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mariette's Back to Basics May 29, 2013 at 9:05 am

Great discussion and also some very tactful answers were given.
Being immigrants from the Old World we know about this dilemma first hand. We also spontaneously did bring over some gifts for nieces and nephews in our suitcases. This was at the time before 9/11 when we could take still two suitcases each with 32 kg maximum weight. We missed birthdays and other events so we just packed one suitcase full of gifts to hand out. But we had to stop this routine because of the very reason discussed above. It hurts when they show up and ASK for things. It sure is a lapse in etiquette and this never got corrected by their mother…
This time and age, children are being gifted way too much anyway and that is not making them ready for any of life’s disappointments. With our downward economy they better did learn about tough times…
Thanks for your efforts!
Mariette’s Back to Basics

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Ms. Behave! May 29, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Never show up without the best gifts of all…hugs and kisses!

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Nina May 30, 2013 at 10:48 am

This issue just came up in my life! My friend pointed out that I brought her daughter a gift almost every time I saw her, and that perhaps I ought to make the gifts less frequent so that she would appreciate them more and not expect them. I thought she made a good point, though it’s hard to resist when I’m out shopping and see cute things…

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