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Teach children the real meaning behind gift-giving

December 21, 2000

Teach children the real meaning behind gift-giving

By Lisa Tedrick Prejean


"Mommmmy, Amanda says she's giving me pink underwear for Christmas," my 5-year-old whined as we prepared for the day-care Christmas party.

The third-grader who had pulled his name in the gift exchange had been teasing my son and another boy whose name her sister had drawn.

"Really?" I asked, trying to conceal my grin as I loaded our van. "You don't think she'd really do that, do you?"

"Well if she does, I'm going to throw them in the trash!" he said, with a resolute stomp.

Since I had just interviewed Karen Rupprecht, author of "Miss Prudence Pennypack Perfectly Proper" and "A Month of Manners," I knew what to say to that remark: "Do you know what you're supposed to do when someone gives you a gift you don't like?"

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"What?" he asked, pout still intact.

"You simply say, 'thank you.' If you don't want it, we'll take care of that later, when we get home or after our guests leave. When a person buys you a present and wraps it, that person is saying he cares about you. You should appreciate that."

That was just one piece of advice Rupprecht shared with me about teaching children how to be gracious.

Here are some other tips from her:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Practice at home. Pretend you're giving your child a gift he doesn't like. Ask him to respond without making faces or negative comments.

"You can't expect a child at a holiday to pull out of his pocket something that hasn't been there all year long," Rupprecht says.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> If you're visiting family members and friends, prepare your children ahead of time so they won't make comments such as, "I'm bored" or "Can we go now?"

"This is the season of giving. One of the presents you can give people is your time," says Rupprecht, who also has a CD, "Musical Manners," with Pam Minor.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Tell your child that there may be times when other people receive presents and he doesn't. At these functions, he's there to enjoy the company of other people and the food.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> If you're going to a household where there are no children, take along some small toys and books to keep your child entertained.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Teach your child to respect other people's property. Tell him that it's not OK to turn on the TV or stereo if the hosts don't have them on.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> If another child receives a gift that your child wanted, that's a perfect opportunity to teach him that we don't always get what we want, but we should be thankful for what we have.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Help your child select some stationery for a brief thank-you note. If your child can't write yet, encourage him to draw a picture of the gift or of himself enjoying the gift and send it to the giver.

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