Gift Giving – Why do we do it?
Someone once said to me “Do we give gifts for love, to make ourselves feel better or because it is something that person needs?” Thats a question for you dear reader! Why do we do it?
Culture of giving gifts.
There is a culture around gift giving that has been around for years. Its Easter, give a gift. Christmas, give a gift. Birthday, give a gift. The culture of gift giving goes back to the Egyptians who can stake a claim to being one of the first civilisations to practise this tradition. Gifts were passed out after the building of the pyramids, used for their afterlife. Gifts were also given to royalty. These gifts were termed “dowry” and could include grains, crops, jewellery and at times money.
From then on, gift giving has continued. Reader, I am unable to find and please correct me if I am wrong, any tradition involving gift giving to children. Of course this does not mean you wave this in front of your own kids as your get out clause. If you do, I want commission on the money you are saving!!
How do we manage the gifts without going overboard?
Believe it or not, there are documented etiquette rules for giving presents. Yes, my dear follower, actual rules. So here goes:
- Don’t add small gifts to big ones. In other words, a nice bottle of wine with some plastic cups just will not do. The original gift is devalued in an instant as will be the thoughts of the gift receiver.
- Give experiences: Make the gift a memory as opposed to something that in years to come will have been thrown out or in a box somewhere. A friend of mine gets her son a little present but makes his main one an experience so he won’t ever forget.
- Gift Cards: They can be a godsend. Rather than buy for buying sake, get a gift card for somewhere they like. My Nan used to always get cinema vouchers for myself and my late husband. We loved the movies and sometimes could go a couple of times a week dependant on what was on.
- Think as if you are the one receiving the gift: How would you feel to unwrap what you were giving?
- Always spend more than you would on yourself: Its a known fact that spending on others promotes happiness and can release endorphins. Enjoy that when you give something that you know is wanted.
When is it “too much?”
On the other end of this gift giving debacle is the “when is it too much” question. I have seen photos of members of my family where a child has been overwhelmed with gifts, so much so that they don’t know where to even begin. Some of the time they have left the gifts and played with the boxes instead! I’ve seen children with parents in the shopping centre performing the stereotypical tantrum accompanied by the “I want…..” routine. Something which never did and never would wash with me!
In an article published in 2015, Psychology Today, looked at the problems behind multiple gifts being given to children. The following conclusions were drawn:
- It brings on a potential for destructive behaviour. You may be lucky in that you have an incredibly grateful child who sees what you have done for what it is, but your child will have an insatiable greed for more. Remember Dudley in Harry Potter with his parents. He kicked up a major tantrum because he had one less present than the year before!
- It can lower self esteem: those children that feel they may have been “bought” by the gifts feel that they are not worthy of the love of their parents and so esteem drops. Those children with little possessions realise that positive relationships score higher than materialistic items.
- Robbing your child of a lasting happiness: A child that continually receives will have no expectations or knowledge of the pleasure of giving. I can remember as a child, I went to a shop and bought my grandparents a picture. I was about ten at the time. The picture was something I would now say, quite tacky, and it just screamed “cheap present from a kid”. But the moral of the story is that they loved it. The dog in the picture reminded them of a dog they had when they were younger. They asked me to put the dogs name on the picture on a label. The label was crooked and I recall spelling it wrong but it didn’t matter to them because I did it! Thats happiness.
Working round the gift giving fiasco
There are many ways to work round this so here are some ideas.
- Set a limit: Put a monetary value out there.
- Emotional: Encourage your child to put an emotional value on a gift.
- Don’t deviate from what limits you set.
- Encourage gifts that help the giver build esteem: Is your child gifted at taking pictures, drawing pictures, writing stories, playing a musical instrument? Use those gifts to not only build their esteem but also to help them learn the emotional value of a gift.
- Ask your child why we give? If their answer is because it is Christmas, my dear reader, you have some work to do. No one is owed anything due to the time of year. Help your child to learn. Gifts do not have to be given at the highly commercialised time of year. They can be anytime and unexpected.
From my point of view
Here is what I can offer you. In my family I do Mothers Day and Fathers Day on a day of my choosing. I do not do commercial. I don’t need someone to say when I can tell my parents I love and respect them. My way means they never know when or what to expect.
Christmas is always a bit different in our house as I have a birthday on Christmas Day so life there can get jumbled!
Anniversaries are a special day and that cannot be done anytime. There are of course, special anniversaries to buy for but generally my late husband and I used to much prefer to go for a meal or a “date night” out together, maybe booking a hotel and making it special.
Unique gifts are something I like to do. Something that the receiver would not get elsewhere. For example for my Dads 70th, I rewrote the lyrics to a song we both liked and a friend of mine recorded it. He wouldn’t have got that anywhere else!
To conclude, I would say this…….. try not to overdo it. You can’t buy someones love with copious gifts, they will always expect more. Do something unexpected. Enjoy an experience as a gift.