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Gift-Receiving Etiquette and Manners: A Guide for Children

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This guide will help prepare your children to practice good etiquette and good manners when they receive gifts.

This guide will help prepare your children to practice good etiquette and good manners when they receive gifts.

Teaching Children Gift Receiving Etiquette

To a child, a birthday is the most wonderful event. A birthday is not quite right without a party, friends, family and presents—lots of them. To a child, these are the simple things in life.

Do you remember as a child what you would do when you received a gift?

  • Did you tear open the birthday card and express outward disappointment when you didn’t find money inside?
  • Did you rip off the brightly colored wrapping paper, take a quick glance and toss it aside?
  • Did you graciously thank your Great Aunt Clara for the perfume that just wasn't your cup of tea or Uncle Henry for the box of Lego that you already had?
  • Or did you look at it in disbelief and not know how to react?

Whilst this is often the behaviour of children, a behaviour that is displayed without a full understanding of the consequences, it is not polite behaviour.

If you are a parent now, it might be worth taking a moment to consider some gift-receiving etiquette rules to give your child the tools to appropriately and politely deal with what will inevitably be a common event in their adolescent lives.

Gift-receiving etiquette and manners are important to know. Whether you are a child or a child at heart, this is a must-read guide.

How to Introduce This Guide to Children

It is not always easy finding the most appropriate time to sit your child down to have a conversation of this nature. Getting their full attention can often be a struggle. Have you considered introducing this as a topic for a family bonding occasion? The importance of introducing family time into your home has never been more important in today's fast-paced world. It could be a good reminder for everyone, not just the kids!

Receive All Gifts With Enthusiasm

There is no greater telltale sign of good manners than responding properly to receiving a gift. Even as adults, we often find ourselves in some situations where we just do not know how to respond or react.

It is not enough to give a lacklustre "Thanks" as we excitedly take hold of the present, then take a quick glance at what is inside the paper and move on to the next box in the pile.

Receiving a gift requires a big dose of enthusiasm even when you don’t particularly love the gift. Why? Simply because maybe up to the age of ten, you could have been forgiven for that disappointed look; however, after that point, an ungrateful look can be considered rude.

Gifts Are an Honour

Children need to realise that it is important to know that they are not entitled to gifts just because they exist. Just because it is their birthday, they are not owed gifts. This would be wonderful if it was the case; however, unfortunately, it is not.

As we get older, we realise that we are not the center of the universe anymore. It should be an honour to receive a gift, and we receive the honour because we have been kind, giving, loving and well-mannered. Have I left anything out?

Avoid Inappropriate Comments

Comments such as these are not appropriate when receiving a gift, no matter the occasion.

  • Thanks for the card. Now, where is the present?
  • I don't want a blue Barbie doll; I want a pink one!
  • I told you I wanted money.
  • I already have this game. I don't want it.
  • I don't like Mickey Mouse. I only like Donald Duck.
  • Is this all you are giving me?

What If the Gift Giver Asks Questions?

If the gift giver asks you to tell them if the particular clothing doesn't fit or whether you already have the yellow polka Babushka Doll set, it is polite to respond honestly. They would not be happy to know that the dress you received was hanging in your closet collecting dust because it is too small, or the book is on your bookshelf next to the identical title.

Politely comment that you do, in fact, already have the item, or mention that it may be a little too small. Whilst this may feel awkward, the giver will appreciate your honesty.

Don't outwardly say anything unless asked, however, as this could cause embarrassment on all accounts. There is a fine line between honesty and politeness.

How Would You Feel?

Let us turn the tables.

Ask your child how they would feel if they gave a gift to someone and that person received it ungratefully. How would you feel yourself? I know that I would feel quite upset. After all, a lot goes into giving a gift:

  • Deciding on what to buy
  • Going to the department store, wandering the aisles until you find the perfect item
  • Selecting the wrapping paper and card
  • Standing in line waiting to be served
  • Wrapping it, writing the card, putting the final touches together

This is not a 5-minute exercise, and if posting the gift is also part of the equation, then there are the extra costs of that involved, too. And yes, some people do use the internet to purchase gifts, but there is still a time factor.

So, next time you open a gift, show enthusiasm.

If this gift has come from grandma or an elderly uncle, imagine the additional effort that they would have had to go to. Sure they would have loved every moment of it, being able to select a special gift. It is always better to give than receive; however, as a receiver, we must be appreciative of all the little things that make up the gift of giving.

Gift-Giving Etiquette

What could be some rules for giving gifts?

Good Manners

  • Give a gift to make someone happy and to show we respect them.
  • Set a budget and stick to it. ‘It’s the thought that counts’.
  • Wrap the gift neatly. The unwrapping of a gift is part of the fun of receiving it.

Bad Manners

  • Don’t give a gift simply because you want something in return.
  • Don’t give a gift with strings attached. “I gave you that great helmet, now you owe me”.
  • Never tell the person what the gift cost you.
  • Don’t offer excuses when you hand over the gift. “I would have got you something better, but I didn’t have enough money”.

After Opening the Gift: Manners

After we have graciously opened our gift, whether in the presence of the giver or not, there are two ways to show our thanks:

Telephone Call

With the help of an adult if necessary, a quick phone call to the gift giver not only shows good manners but sets a child up with a good solid grounding for the future. The giver will be ever so grateful, and they will feel that their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

It is also a great 'excuse' for a child to have a lovely chat, albeit brief, with a friend or family member that was unable to attend their special day in person.

Thank You Note

An email thank you or text message is not enough unless the gift was from your immediate family, mum, dad, brother or sister. However, even then, nothing beats putting pen to paper. To really show your heartfelt appreciation, there is no substitute for the good old fashion, handwritten, stamped and snail-mailed thank you note.

If you do not send a thank you note, not only is this impolite, but the person who sent you the gift will forever be wondering if the gift arrived.

When it comes to thank you notes, you must be quick—genuine and quick. If your thank you note shows up in the mail three weeks after receiving the gift from Grandma, it would have lost some of its impact.

Thank You Note Suggestions

Here are some suggestions to consider if you are looking to write a thank you note:

  • Keep the note short.
  • If you choose a card, instead of writing paper, and it contains a printed message, still write a short note yourself.
  • If the gift is from two people, use both names in your note.
  • Use a relaxed writing style.
  • Name the gift and how it will benefit you. Make it personal.

Remember the Golden Rule

There is no doubt that there will be occasions in our lives where we receive something that is not quite right or maybe something that we would have never purchased ourselves, but we need to remember that the gift of giving is very important and the person who has chosen it would have done so with a genuine interest in your wellbeing. Not everyone knows your specific tastes, but be grateful, be gracious, be appreciative and be polite.

Just remember the old golden rule, albeit a religious one: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

Gift Etiquette

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 WorkAtHomeMums


Liz Laz on April 04, 2017:

So, WE recently cleared out and threw out a bunch of toys and stuffed animals frim my first child to make room for my second child - they will be sharing a room. My sis just asked to give me a passed along toy from her son, although i am super grateful we just dont have the room. Is it rude that i was completely honest.

Sagarika Sahana on November 25, 2014:

Truly, it’s quite an important role for parents to nurture good etiquettes in children. Something good in forms of habits, tasks and management of routine activities is always ensured with better days coming to their adult life; and further to the days ahead. Seeing our child very happy on receiving their birthday gifts will ever be our delight truly; but the other way thinking, it’s our great responsibility too that our child show their polite gratitude to a person with birthday gifts. For our child, to receive a gift should be an understanding of someone’s love towards them, yes getting joyed apart from the gifts achieved!

ksinll on July 02, 2012:

I love getting and receiving thank you notes. It is hard to think of what to write at times, but it is usually worth the effort. Such an important lesson to teach your children!

kjforce from Florida on July 01, 2012:

WorkAtHomeMums..You hit the nail on the head..I recently attended several " BD " parties, with my G-children..I couldn't believe the latest trend. The child does not open the presents ! My G-son ( age 9)personally picked out the gift and was so disappointed. He talked about it all week-end..this is not a unique situation..I am very proud of my G-children who always open the gift AND send hand written thank you cards to everyone...regardless kids are only as good as the parents that teach them.. thank you for sharing this subject...kudos on your write !!!!