If we are concerned that our children and teens are becoming infected with the virus of “entitlement”, one way to vaccinate them against this is to help foster an attitude of gratitude. When receiving gifts, our children should genuinely feel grateful instead of entitled. The same level of thoughtfulness should go into giving gifts, also. In fact, giving will be more pleasurable to our children as they grow than receiving. As the saying goes, “It’s better to give than to receive”. This becomes a real litmus test of their maturity.

When giving a gift:

  1. Encourage your child to make an effort to find out what the other person would like to receive. This means making the effort of doing a bit of research. Asking close family or friends for ideas can be helpful.
  2. Should your child regift or not? It may be perfectly fine to regift for a “Secret Santa” gift exchange among acquaintances provided the item would be universally appealing and still in its wrapping. Otherwise, no…don’t do it.
  3. The monetary amount of the gift should be within one’s means. Going into credit card debt isn’t wise especially for teens. Also, watch that the gift isn’t too extravagant or too cheap, for that matter. Your child may really love his/her teacher but wanting you to buy cologne worth $50 would be over the top. A better gift would be a book that the teacher has requested for his/her classroom library.
  4. The gift should be wrapped to look pretty. If your child’s wrapping skills aren’t the best, ask a friend to help or use a gift bag with colorful tissue paper, instead.

When receiving a gift:

  1. Read the card first, if there’s one attached to the gift. Teach your child to unwrap it with finesse…not like they’re trying to imitate a cyclone.
  2. Even if the gift isn’t to your child’s liking, he/she should smile and give eye contact to the person. Say something kind like, “Thank you for knitting that sweater for me”.
  3. Your children should be mindful of the effort the person made in providing a gift. They went to a mall, looked around the stores, stood in line, and paid for it. Then went home, wrapped the gift and brought it to the party. Or maybe they used their creative skills…either way, an effort was made and should be respected by your child.
  4. Are there times when a gift should be returned to the person? Beyond the usual wrong color or size, there are times when a gift may have crossed a line. Watch for very expensive gifts that a young person may give to one of your children or teens. Strongly urge them to return the item. The item be stolen from home or perhaps this person is trying too hard to win the affection of your teen?
  5. Within 24 hours, a hand-written, snailmail delivered Thank You card should be sent to the gift giver. Teach your child to be tactful if the gift wasn’t everything in his/her wildest dreams. Acknowledge that the person was kind to give a gift and show appreciation for that fact.

Gratitude is important for children and teens. Life doesn’t owe them…it’s what they give back that creates the kind of happy existence they long for. Help your children not to become just consumers. During the Christmas season, encourage your children and teens to become aware that many of the world’s young people their age don’t have the same opportunities for education, good hygiene, and housing that they may take for granted. Some websites to explore include www.lincco.org, www.canadianharambee.ca and closer to home, www.thedi.ca (Calgary Drop-In Centre), www.theseed.ca (The Mustard Seed). Think of ways that you as a family can contribute to make other needy families happy this year.


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