Dec. 7, 2020

Ask Margaret - My Kid Shows Zero Enthusiasm for Opening Gifts

Margaret answers a question from a listener whose "bonus daughter" shows zero enthusiasm when opening gifts.

This week Kylee asks:

"I have a 12-year-old 'bonus daughter' who shows zero enthusiasm when unwrapping gifts for birthdays or holidays. Even if it’s something she desperately wanted, she doesn’t show gratitude. We’ve talked to her about saying 'thank you' and trying to show appreciation but it doesn't change. I always feel awful for my parents and in-laws because they end up thinking she doesn’t like the gifts. Any ideas how to manage this?"

Kids reacting poorly to gifts is a problem most of us have faced, but here Margaret asks Amy's favorite question: "Is this kid giving you a hard time or are they having a hard time?"

Special days can be complicated for all families, and perhaps especially for blended families. While it is important to set expectations about how we treat others sometimes it is more important to get to the root of the problem.

Margaret suggests that Kylee try to approach this problem from her daughter's point of view. Is enjoying gifts from her bonus mom's in-laws making her feel guilty or disloyal to another parent? Could it be that her daughter feels too pressured to have the "right" reaction and therefore shuts down?

Often we say that we can only address behavior and that we should set expectations no matter what the circumstances, but in a situation like this getting to the cause of the behavior can be helpful for everybody.

Margaret suggests addressing the situation head on and putting this child's concerns at the center. It may also help to make a plan before gifts are exchanged and talk about ways to make the experience more comfortable. Finally, Margaret suggests turning some focus to gift-giving, which may be a more rewarding experience with less emotional baggage.

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