“But I Asked Santa For…

My resolution for the beginning of 2002: to clean out the drawer for old submitted copy for the family pages. If I put it in print (maybe) they can hold me to it!

I’m usually interested in helpful advice for raising children. I think the following article by Thomas Phelan is timely and well-founded. – LS.

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When he was about 4-years old, our son was sitting on the floor at his grandparents house, full of excitement. It was Christmas! Brightly colored packages surrounded him, and he hardly knew where to start. Picking one that was marked from his grandmother, he tore it open, full of anticipation. Lifting the lid of the box off, he was confronted with a brand new pair of pajamas.

What he did next stunned us all. He screamed “NO!” at the top of his lungs, threw the pajamas all the way across the room, and then screamed again, “I don’t want any stupid clothes!!” He then grabbed for another box, hoping for a toy or something more interesting.

A deadly silence suddenly filled the room. My wife and I looked at each other in shock. Grandma turned away and said nothing. Quietly we mumbled something to him about those being very nice pajamas and that Christmas wasn’t a time to behave like that. But basically, we were at a loss for what to do.

What should you do if kids voice disappointment or even anger at some of the presents they get – or don’t get? Most children, of course, won’t act as rudely as our son did right in front of the actual gift giver, but what if they do?

Three simple rules may help when your kids are disappointed by the gifts they got, or by the gifts they didn’t receive:

1) First of all, up to a point it’s OK to support your child’s feelings of disappointment or frustration. (Their behavior is a different issue.) You might say, for example, “You’re upset because you wanted the bigger one.” If there was a misunderstanding and you made the mistake, correct it.

2) Second, don’t let yourself get either overly angry or overly guilty in reaction to your youngster’s responses. Don’t think, “Why you ungrateful little…!” They’re just kids and they’re all hyped up for the holidays. On the other hand, don’t over-identify with your child’s disappointment and think, “What a terrible parent I am!”

3) Third, don’t tolerate any angry, aggressive or rude behavior. Being disappointed or frustrated is one thing, taking it out on the person who gave you the gift is something else. Additionally, you should tell the kids (very briefly) that birthday and Christmas presents are not something that kids have any inherent right to; most children in the world get neither. Then your child’s aggressive or rude behavior should be consequenced – firmly, but short and sweet.

What could we have said and done with our son during the Horrible Christmas Pajama Incident? We should have said something like this “I’m sure there will be toys in your other packages, but you may not act this way in front of your grandmother. Her feelings are now hurt. She bought you a nice gift. You’re going to take a five-minute rest period, and then you can come back to open more presents.”

Do not nag, lecture or threaten. On this special day, a five-minute time-out will be plenty of punishment!

When your child returns, do not mention the incident again, but cross your fingers. Be ready to use the same three steps again, if necessary.

Happy Holidays!

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