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These 5 Words Changed the Way My Kids Receive Gifts

A few years ago, when my son turned 5 and my daughter turned 3, their behavior drastically changed around receiving a gift. What used to be a sweet toddler "Dank-you!" turned into a fits when they didn't receive the perfect gift. I watched in horror as they tossed aside adorable pajamas and cozy fleeces stating "Aw, man. Clothes! Boring!" Or as they opened up an expensive toy, only to proclaim: "I hate horses!" or something of the like. With a master's degree in child and adolescent psychology, I knew enough to be reassured that what they were expressing was developmentally appropriate and not intended to be rude. As a gift giver, I also knew that having a kid begrudgingly say thank you at a mother's behest wasn't exactly useful either. There's nothing worse than fondly picking out something you think the child in your life will love, only to have them obviously be disappointed by it. Selfishly, I also didn't want to spend my holidays chasing my kids around or guilting them into being good gift receivers.

I racked my brain until I came up with the perfect way to explain gift giving to my kids, then I hoped like heck it would work. It went something like this: "When you receive a gift, you need to be kind and respectful and say thank you, even if you don't like the gift." My son, ever the rule breaker, quipped up as I knew he would, "Why?"