Posts tagged " gifts "

The Gift of Deprivation

January 6th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 5 comments

One of our darling daughters (henceforth DD) recently told me the following story.

DD had taken four of her daughters, ages 5-11, clothing shopping. When she was checking out, the store proprietor pointed to a bowl of chocolate coins and told her that each chocolate had a discount coupon inside the wrapper. Picking one, our daughter received a percentage off her purchases and was left with a circle of chocolate about one inch in diameter.

DD proceeded to give each of her girls a ¼ of the chocolate coin, and they responded by thanking her. She was rather astonished to find the store owner gaping at her. “I’ve never seen that,” the owner said. DD actually didn’t know what she was talking about, so the woman explained that mothers shopping with children tended to fall into two categories. One group pocketed the chocolate making sure that their children didn’t see it, while the other group was besieged by children complaining about how small the chocolate was, or each particular child whining about why she should get the whole coin. Tears, rudeness and whining were not unknown. Frequently, the mother ended up promising more chocolate to everyone. In the best scenario, the children simply gulped down the chocolate.

This story brought to mind a friend, now married for many decades, who had a rather rough adjustment in his newlywed phase. Brought up in an upper-middle-class home, he and his siblings had separate bedrooms. He never went to sleep-away camp nor did he dorm at college. After he married, he was shocked to discover that his wife (and new roommate) expected to have a say in what the bedroom looked like and even had clothing and other items that demanded closet and dresser space.

Loving parents want to give their children everything. Doing so, however, means that they are not giving them the gift of deprivation. In general, my husband prefers teaching adults to children. He once made an exception and agreed to learn with an American boy approaching the bar-mitzvah age of thirteen. At their first meeting, in an attempt to break the ice, my husband shared an exciting story from one of his safaris in Africa. The response he got was heartbreaking. At twelve, this boy was completely jaded. The son of very wealthy parents, he had been everywhere and done everything. The proceeds of a garage sale of his possessions probably would have yielded enough money to support the average American family for a month.

Some of us who grew up wearing hand-me-downs may get a thrill in buying our children new clothing. If a highlight of our childhood was seeing a performance on ice, we may want to make that an annual outing for our own children. Maybe we only read library books and can think of nothing greater to give our kids than crisp, new books.

If they fit in our budget, here is absolutely nothing wrong with new clothing or books or expensive family outings. Certainly, much that I take for granted, my grandparents would have seen as luxuries. Yet, in one way or another, each of us should make sure to never give so much to our children that a small gift or pleasure cannot be appreciated.

Gifts Galore

December 9th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting No Comment yet

A lot of presents will be given over the next month, many of them to children. While some of the presents will come from aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends, parents will also spend a great deal of time and money choosing just the right items for their children. After all that work, they might expect to sit back and relax.

Not so quickly. Shopping for and distributing presents and watching your children receive gifts from others brings with it a number of parenting opportunities. Preparing in advance will make the entire episode not only more positive but also more pleasant. Let’s divide them into before, during and after.

Before: Discussing in advance how to react to a disappointing or duplicate gift, practicing saying thank you out loud and with a smile (and maybe a hug), and making clear house rules such as, “No using a present until the thank-you card is written” is so much better than waiting until those discussions are needed.  Here’s where role-playing really shines. Have fun with little ones (and not so little ones) by pretending to give gifts that are not on the “most desired” list. You play Aunt Matilda giving Ashley math flash cards and when Ashley actually gets a box of handkerchiefs (do they still make handkerchiefs?), hopefully she will muster a big smile.

During: One of the frustrating things about holidays is that the reality often doesn’t match the anticipation. Some kids (and adults) have a really hard time when schedules, menus and sleep are off kilter, as they often are during special occasions. Preparing easy-to-access healthy snacks, monitoring sugar consumption, and scheduling in quiet time can make all the difference.

After: Even in our virtual world, physical thank-you notes matter. Learning to express  detailed gratitude in writing is one of those old-fashioned lessons that will yield unexpected benefits down the road. Of course, role modeling this idea is more valuable than lecturing about it.   

I’m sure you have many more practical life lessons for this time of year. I’d love to hear them.

Too Many Gifts?

August 2nd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 19 comments

A small coffee shop recently opened in my town and I visit them every day for coffee and sometimes a pastry. Because I enjoy the food and I appreciate being able to have a friendly conversation with the owner, and occasionally get a free refill on coffee, I like to leave a tip in the jar. Sometimes I’m even given free pastries, which are wonderful fresh-baked creations by the owner’s wife, typically sold for a few dollars. I’ve even been given whole loaves of bread for free. 

Here is where my dilemma comes in. I don’t like to go around looking for hand-outs or expecting gifts; I prefer to pay for whatever I receive. However, I understand and respect that people like to give gifts without expecting anything in return. I’m the same way.

I understand that the coffee shop owner and his wife are likely allowing me their extra goods because it creates customer loyalty and it is also a sign of their appreciation for my patronage. I tend to feel guilty for receiving as much as I do from them because I feel like I’m not doing anything to really deserve it. I’m not sure how to adequately express my genuine thanks in return. 

I want to give them more tips, but is that not being respectful of their act of giving a gift? What might be the best way to show my thanks, in addition to continuing to purchase my usual coffee and treats? 

Thank you very much for your time and consideration!

Elsa S.

Dear Elsa,

While you may very well live downtown in a major metropolis, in our minds we’re conjuring up a rural small-town atmosphere. Either way, your dilemma is a wonderful one to have.

We want to be clear that had you told us that a friend of yours worked for a cafe and kept on giving you freebies, that would be a completely different question. However, in your case, the owners are the ones giving you gifts. We think you are right to recognize their appreciation of your patronage as well as their desire to foster customer loyalty.

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