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Tough Decisions: When You Don’t Let Your Kid Keep a Holiday Gift

taking away a gift

We’ve all been there. 

Someone buys your child a gift that you aren’t so thrilled about. A baby toy that plays the same song over and over again. A craft kit that includes way too much glitter. Yet another stuffed animal that won’t fit in the bed. 

You’re gracious because it’s the thought that counts and your subjective opinion isn’t really what matters.

But what happens when someone buys your child a gift that you are categorically opposed to your kid having?

This past holiday, our 6.5-year-old opened a gift from a well-intentioned relative, and I immediately knew we had a situation on our hands.

The gift in question: a smartwatch.

Unfortunately, when your children are no longer babies, you can’t just hide and then donate a gift you’re not thrilled about. She immediately read the entire packaging, figured out she could take selfies on a watch of her own and was tickled pink.

We were not.

Now, let me pause to say: I don’t judge any parent who has bought this kind of gift for his or her child. Some kids do well with electronics, and others do not. Our kids do well with television, but not so well with other kinds of electronics. We mostly don’t use them because the fall-out from taking them away isn’t worth the initial gratification.

As an additional matter, we were unsure if our 6.5-year-old was mature enough to have her very own contraption to, among other things, take selfies. And, let’s be honest, we weren’t ready for that and had decided to put off buying our kids any electronics of this type for the foreseeable future.

So what did we do?

First, we pretended it didn’t happen. We put the smartwatch on top of the refrigerator out of sight and reach, hoping that maybe she’d forget about it. That didn’t work. She kept asking for it.

Second, we punted. The smartwatch sat on top of the fridge for about a week, and each day the questions became more forward and pointed. Questions we could answer with “maybe later” were replaced with questions like “But it was my gift, and you’re keeping it from me.” 

Finally, we had to address the situation. We sat her down, told her that Mommy and Daddy had decided that our house wasn’t ready for toys like that, so we wouldn’t be able to keep it. We were also sure to explain that the relative who had bought her the gift didn’t know about our house rule, so it wasn’t her fault. And as the surprise of the holiday season, our daughter said “OK” and went on her merry way.

Parenting is full of hard decisions – some small, some big. I am still unsure if we did the “right” thing (is there even such a thing?). Were we unreasonable? Downright mean? I did feel like a bit of an ogre. However, I would never second guess myself when I ask my daughter to make her bed or clean up her plate after a meal. So why should I second guess myself here? 

All of this to stay – you’re the parent. Trust your instincts. You know what is best for your child. If a gift is not appropriate, you’re not obligated to keep it. And even if you think your child will hate you for it, she won’t. Welcome to a lifetime of hard decision-making that your kids will (hopefully) thank you for in the future.

Have you ever taken a gift away from your child? Why? 

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