Receiving a “bad” gift

A gift list is not a grocery list!

The expectations are high during the holidays and we don’t all have the same vision of this season. Some will blame commercialisation while others will gladly spend months of savings to please their loved ones.

Who has not experienced the embarrassment of a young girl storming out of the room because she had not received her laptop or the furious boy who didn’t receive a snowboard? The older they get, the more they know what they want and because they cannot afford it themselves, they count on you to buy it!

The embarrassment is worsen by the fact that you are managing this crisis in front of your parents or friends who keep telling you that you give too much to your children, that they are spoiled. That is enough to devastate a Christmas party that promised to be calm and happy. Your turkey will have to wait; you must use this time before Christmas to teach your teen to be decent and how to “receive a gift”.

Tips for teens

That’s it! Disappointment is showing up. You will not receive the mobile phone that was mentioned on your wish list. It doesn’t matter, technology advances so quickly that by the time you receive it as a gift, it will be even better!

You seek the respect and trust of everyone around you. So there is no way you will spend most of YOUR holiday break sulking. Because the gift exchange usually takes place in front of guests, being prepared for every eventuality will avoid you the trouble of being labelled a “spoiled brat”. Great quotes like “you are old enough to understand” or “you should be shamed” should not be included in your holiday planning.

Know how to receive

Someone gave you a “broom” and because you are not the tidy one, you find it frustrating. Take it with a grain of salt and ask to see the instructions.

Show your joy, regardless of the gift. There is no need to say that you had been dreaming of it for years. A smile, air kisses and a simple thank you are enough.

You don’t know what to do with that gift? You never saw that kind of item until today? Thank the person and ask her to come with you and show you how to use it.

The person who gives usually does it to make you happy. Your list was not respected, you are disappointed, wait at least 3 or 4 days before telling your parents.


Understanding that everyone does not always receive what he wants is part of the progression towards the adult world. Controlling your emotions in front of guests is a sign of maturity. Don’t give a show and prefer private conversations. When we receive, we don’t always choose what is offered.

Tips for parents

You were expecting it, without hope, a bit like your electricity bill, the long list of gifts wanted by your child. After consulting it, you realize that it contains some items that you didn’t expect to offer already. What attitude should you adopt? Having an immediate conversation to destroy all hope? Holding on to the idea that Santa doesn’t exist and that your child already knows that?

If your child wrote down that list, it is because he thinks that you can afford everything that is in it. This is a fantastic opportunity to talk about a budget or about household chores with your child.

Do it as soon as you receive the list. Why don’t you evaluate the total amount of the list and tell your child that he will receive more or less 25% of that amount? Use this magic moment to tell him that he could “invest” a bit more of his time in your household company.

Whether it is grandma who started to knit or you who offer a gift, he should have the same respect for the person who gives and for the one who receives.

Etiquette is very clear on that matter: you should never let a situation fester.
  • Protecting your child will only make matters worse. First it is what your child expects from you. Manipulation?
  • Take matters into your own hand on the spot, but in private. Apologize to everyone present and go talk to your child. It is not impolite to ask your host to wait before opening more presents. This event will feed the conversations for at least ten minutes anyway. You don’t really want to hear the comments.
  • Give this negotiation some time. Once alone with your child, tell him that you have ten minutes to get along. Not one more minute or he will have to come back and face the guests alone.
  • Once the crisis is over, you must help your child to return to the group. Show up two minutes before your child and ask the guests to forget about this event, that you will solve this issue at home. Ask your child to apologize to the others upon his arrival in the room. But don’t make any more comments and let the good times roll.


Showing that you are in control of the situation as soon as the crisis begins will reassure the guests about your qualities as a parent and will prevent inappropriate comments. Everyone knows that it is hard to prepare a teen to his adult life. Using this to your advantage with your head held high will be quite a challenge.

Plan a visit or a phone call to your host to thank him for his patience. Ask your teen to prepare a kind note. He could offer to wash the dishes if it ever happens again.

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