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My child is ungrateful for gifts

by ines.wurbs@icloud.com

Especially on public holidays, it is important to us that there are particularly beautiful moments for our children. In most families, of course, this also includes gifts. Everything is planned, gifts selected and bought weeks in advance, and then…. The radiant children’s eyes stay away. The child opens the package, turns the gift once in all directions, and puts it away.

Of course, we parents are extremely disappointed. Didn’t we want to make this day special for our children?

The following reasons can be the reason why a child does not enjoy gifts as expected:

  1. Your child already has (too) many toys
  2. Our expectations of our child’s reaction were exaggerated
  3. The child is emotionally overwhelmed by the situation and reacts unusually to us

You can find out the background and what you can do here.

Why is my child ungrateful for presents?

  • Your child may have too many toys. When children already have countless toys and keep getting a “small” present, it becomes commonplace. They have gotten used to getting toys over and over again, and it’s simply nothing special anymore. 
  • The disappointment itself is often experienced by the parents and not at all by the children. Of course, we parents imagine how our children will react to the much-coveted gift. Our anticipation for this moment is usually very high. And then nothing is as we imagined. The children themselves often don’t care that much.
  • Of course, it can also be due to our children themselves. Many children in such a situation are aware of this “tense” situation. Situations with great expectations, slight nervousness, and anticipation. Quite an explosive mixture on both sides, at the parent’s and the children’s side. Some children react to this with nervous, very active behavior, others withdraw a little more. It’s just too much for our children at times like this. And it is precise because of this withdrawal that they do not (can) show their joy as they normally do.

What to do, when your child is ungrateful with gifts

As briefly mentioned at the beginning, there are also solutions to each of these three possibilities.

Cut back on gifts and possibly also on toys

If you find that your child is overwhelmed with gifts and/or toys and is frequently switching from toy to toy and not fully immersed in their play, try giving fewer gifts and fewer toys.

Try to give gifts only on special occasions. At the very least, make sure that giving your child something isn’t the norm, it’s something special.

Clear out inappropriate toys and/or put toys away for some time. You can find out more about this and why toys can also be harmful in this article.

Your child will learn that gifts and toys are special. It learns to wait for something and deals more intensively and persistently with the available toys. Of course, this also applies to other gifts. The feeling of happiness that is triggered is all the higher, the more extraordinary the event is.

It’s natural and okay to give our kids gifts and treats from time to time. Nevertheless, it should also be possible to accept a no. Saying no to a gift or a wish should be at least as frequent, maybe even more.

Avoid having too high expectations

Understandably, we look forward to fulfilling a wish for our children. We often see our children’s reaction to this as our gift. When you manage your expectations, you automatically take the pressure off everyone and probably enjoy it a lot more.

Try to look forward to the gift situation objectively. So be prepared that you might not see the sparkling eyes immediately, but that your child will take a closer look at the gift later and be happy with it. Or maybe your child just didn’t want the right thing.

Give stress-free

I’ve mentioned the pressure before. We must not forget that our children are also nervous and excited about special holidays. Often there are also visitors or other extraordinary things happen.

Of course, all this excitement puts a strain on our children. And often days before. It is quite possible that your child simply lacks the attention and energy to explore the gift more closely, and also to show joy in its usual form.

There are of course many options here. And it can also happen that your child is disappointed with a gift. Sometimes the joy in children only shows up in the next few days. Namely, if they also have the time and the peace to deal with the gift. Try to take that into account and keep that in mind in this situation. Take out your excitement and, above all, your stress. This naturally creates a more relaxed atmosphere and affects our children.

Too many gifts from grandparents

A common problem in families is the gifts of others. Grandparents in particular like to spoil their grandchildren. Of course, they can, but only if it suits you as parents. 

Set rules

It is best to make binding rules with the grandparents if they have difficulty estimating the crowd. You can certainly clarify for them that you are the legal guardian and what your limits are. So, what do you consider right for your children and what is not?

The common problem is that many parents depend on their children’s grandparents to take care of them. If the grandparents don’t want to stick to your rules and guidelines, you should take the consequences and consider how important the rules are to you and what options you still have.

It is important to take responsibility and not silently fret for years. I know this is often easier said than done. Ultimately, however, it serves the development of your children, of course, you, and the relationship with the grandparents of the children.

Look for open conversations with your children

Above all, if the grandparents are beyond your control, for example, because they are the parents of your ex-partner, you have the option of repeatedly discussing the situation with your child. However, this can only bear fruit from kindergarten age. Theoretically, open, honest discussions are always a good approach and worth a try.

You can discuss with your children why the grandparents do this, how to deal with gifts, and of course what your rules for gifts are and why. The fact that gifts and love have nothing to do with each other can also be addressed in this context.

Try to explain as objectively as possible and without judgment. That would only put your children in a fidelity conflict.

Gifts for children in between

If you give gifts frequently in between, there is a risk that your child will see gifts as ordinary. And everything ordinary does not evoke as much joy in us as something special.

Even if you don’t label and wrap it as a gift, it’s still a wish fulfillment. And that’s precisely why it makes little difference for our children.

In this way, they learn that their wishes are quickly fulfilled by mum, dad, or others. The learning of patience is not promoted and also waiting and the postponement of wishes cannot be practiced well in this way. However, these are important skills that are necessary for many areas of our lives and must be practiced and trained from early childhood.

The 3 gifts rule

The 3 gifts rule has become particularly widespread in the USA and is described with the following saying:


Something they want, something they need, and something to read, there are also gift suggestions.

I tried this rule out myself last Christmas and am happy with it. The children also had time to deal with their presents. They were already very excited and exhausted at the same time because the excitement was so great.

For many, three gifts sound pretty meager. It wasn’t for our children. They had plenty to do, and the presents easily filled the evening. The 3 gifts rule also refers to the root family anyway. Most children get presents on special occasions such as Christmas, birthdays, even Easter, and some others from other relatives such as grandparents, uncles, and aunts. This leaves enough leeway for the category of desire.

Even if a gift wasn’t expensive, that’s no reason to buy more for “compensation”. The price dimension is usually unimportant for our children, especially at elementary school age. Usually, only we adults connect price and value and then pass our ideas on to our children. This is a good starting point to become aware of your ideas and to consider what and how we want to pass them on to our children.  

Practice mindfulness

Being mindful means being aware of the moment. Everything that is happening in and around me right now. Without judging. Admittedly, that sounds more like something for adults. Children can also learn to be mindful and enjoy the moment. On the one hand, we as parents must set a good example for our children, and on the other hand, of course, it takes practice. For simple activities such as eating or drinking cocoa, ask: “What do you smell right now? Do you feel the warmth in your throat or stomach? Do you know which muscles you are using right now?” or similar. So, everything that is happening with your child or around him/her at this chosen moment can be asked. Later, your child will be able to consciously perceive this.

To practice mindfulness, I have had good experiences in practice with mindfulness exercise cards. Keeping a gratitude journal can also be helpful for older children. This is suitable from around 3 years of age, but then, of course, we need the help of parents. These gratitude journals are great for reviewing the day together before bed.


Gifts are of course great, but it is not advisable to give them in large quantities. This is how gifts just become commonplace. At the end of the day, we are not doing our children any favors, quite the opposite. 

If your child is not happy with your gifts, try to be extra vigilant in this situation and keep a close eye on your child and yourself. Maybe you notice something, and you can better classify the behavior of your child or yours.

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