I love to see the pure joy on my children’s faces when they open their gifts on Christmas day.
When I’ve lovingly wrapped the perfect thing for them and they just can’t contain their excitement that it is now theirs to enjoy!
Gift-giving is a major part of Christmas, right? It’s simple. Pick a gift for someone, wrap gift, give gift to said person.
Then how are so many people getting it so wrong?
What is a gift?
Google tells me a gift is, “a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.”
The key part here is ‘without payment’. But this is not often the case. At least when it comes to children. They are often required to pay for their gifts, whether it’s with their affection, behaviour, or compliance with certain conditions.
If you give someone a gift, it is theirs to do with as they wish. You have given it to them, it is now their possession. You relinquish any ownership of the present. This is true for adults and should be for children as well. People have the right to own property, and children are people.
Before you give a gift to a child this Christmas, before you give a gift to anyone, it’s worth remembering what a gift really is…
Gifts don’t come with rules
If there are rules about how you can and cannot use it, is it really a gift? If you are placing conditions on the use of the gift then it can’t really be classed as the child’s possession can it?
What if they want to cut their dolls hair?
What if they want to spend their money on something you consider a ‘waste’?
What if they want to draw on their clothes?
Instead of preventing them, challenge your own views. Does it matter? Is it any of your business? If they are the owner of the object then surely it is theirs to do with as they like?
Sure, if you have concerns about the permanency of their decisions and your inability/unwillingness to replace the item if they regret their choices, then talk to them about it in a non-corcive way! And then, let them make the choice.
Gifts don’t require something in return
A gift is without expectation. It doesn’t require affection or excessive appreciation or a gift in return.
Sure, it is nice to be appreciated! It is lovely to hear a ‘thank you’. It is delightful to receive a hug from a grateful child. But if the reason you are giving the gift is to get these things in return, then is the gift for you or them?
Give a gift without expectation. With just the spirit and joy of giving.
Gifts can’t be taken away
You cannot take a gift back, and you have no right to. Gifts cannot be taken away at the whim of an adult. Taking someone’s possessions against their will is called stealing. Age doesn’t change that.
Gifts aren’t used for controlling people
It is not a gift if it is used as a tool for behaviour modification. Restricting when they can and cannot use it means it’s your possession, not theirs.
Gifts don’t have to be shared
Well, unless they are a shared gift, I guess. But gifts, like all possessions, do not have rules attached. You don’t HAVE to share them. You don’t HAVE to show someone.
You get to make the decisions about your own possessions.
Children who are not forced to share are probably more likely to be generous with their things as they know that they are truly the ones making the decisions about them.
Gifts don’t have to be enjoyed
You hope that the receiver will love your gift, but sometimes that is not the case. We all know children are honest, and still learning about social expectations and regulating their emotions. That, combined with all the excitement and anticipation of the holidays, can be overwhelming. Cut them some slack, and try not to take it personally. It’s really not about you.
Empathise instead… “this isn’t what you were expecting”. Shaming them about their feelings is unhelpful. You can always talk to them about how other people might feel and what is ‘polite’ later on. But trying to stifle their feelings is probably going to have the opposite effect you’re after anyway. Empathy is the fastest route to moving on from this awkward situation!
Consider the gifts you give this Christmas. Are they really gifts?
When you give a gift, remember that the gift is no longer yours and you have no say over how it is used. The gift now belongs to the receiver. It is their personal property. You have no more influence over what they do with it than any of their other possessions. They are free to use it how they like as long as they are not hurting someone or damaging another person’s property.
Recognise the insidious childism in our culture and challenge it. Protect a child’s right to own their things.
A gift is something that comes without rules, control, or manipulation.
Give gifts this Christmas, not expectations.