Did your kids tear through opening packages, or did they open them slowly savoring each one? Did they jump up and down with joy when they receive a gift high on their wish list while tossing others aside? Did they show disappointment either verbally or visually when they received something they didn’t like?
Since my oldest son is autistic, I always am coaching him on social situations, and I’ve learned that receiving gifts is one of those situations that requires coaching. Several years ago for his birthday someone gave him a Batman dvd. When he opened it up, he started crying. Uh oh… my eyes are darting between him and the giver of the gift. How do I handle this? Why is he crying? I know he doesn’t like Batman, but crying seems a bit extreme. I don’t remember what happened next, how we moved on from the crying… perhaps it was so traumatic that I blocked it out of my memory???? But I do remember the 2 of us talking about it later, and from what I deciphered he figured the person who gave him the gift was being mean – why else would you give a Batman movie to someone who doesn’t like Batman? I explained how the giver didn’t know that he didn’t like Batman and most boys his age do so it was really a thoughtful gift. He didn’t buy it… in his mind the giver was teasing him and being mean.
Ever since then, before any gift receiving opportunity (with any of my boys) I turn on the coaching mode. “Wait until they give the gift to you, don’t grab it from them.” “Make sure to look them in the eyes and say thank you.” “Tell them something you like about the gift.” And then I start asking questions: “What do you do if you already have the present?” “What do you do if you don’t like the present?” Here’s what we’ve come up with:
If someone gives them a gift that they already have, they tell the giver, “Thank you so much. You must know that I really like ____. But, I already have it, so if you don’t mind, I’ll return it to get something else. Thank you so much.”
If someone gives them a gift that they don’t like, “Thank you so much for getting me a gift. It means a lot to me that you would get me something.” I’ve coached them that they do not have to lie and tell the person that they like the gift. But they need to remember that the person spent their time picking out a present for them and spent money on them because they care about them. But sometimes the person happens to pick something that they don’t like. They aren’t being mean. They aren’t teasing. They just didn’t know. So if you ever give my children a gift and this is how they respond, what they are really saying is, “I don’t like it.” 🙂
So of course after all my coaching, we had perfectly gracious children through the Christmas season, pouring out their gratitude over each and every gift. Well, ok maybe not… “I don’t think this is supposed to be for me” was still heard at our house when one of the boys was opening a present that was indeed for him. But at least we didn’t have any tears…