Hidden Rules for Receiving a Gift

I was recently at a party where the birthday girl couldn’t hide her disappointment when a certain gift was unwrapped. The boy who had given the gift was visibly shaken up, and I thought about how this drama could have played out so differently.

Whether it’s a birthday, the winter holidays, or any other time gifts are exchanged, it’s a good idea to be sure your child understands the hidden rules around gifts. Here are some reminders for kids (and adults) about being a gracious recipient:

  • Say thank you with a smile. If you can think of a reason you especially like the gift, be sure to say that too.
  • If you don’t like the gift or already have one just like it, practice the “social fake.” Say thank you with a smile in this case too. Be gracious and polite rather than making the gift giver feel bad about their choice.
  • Don’t compare one gift to another or to something you already own.
  • Don’t ask how much a gift cost.


Most important of all, remind your child that the person giving a gift has made an effort to do this. Whatever time, work, and expense they’ve put into the gift is a gift in itself!

Post by Elizabeth Sautter – Communication Works Director and author of Make Social Learning Stick!

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