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How to Communicate about Conflicts with Gifts

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The holidays are filled with so many wonderful things: family, friends, parties, and, of course, gifts. All of these things can bring us joy (along with the stress), but it is the gifts that often create the greatest source of concern, especially if you think they are not appropriate for your daughter. These situations are challenging since many gift givers may not realize your level of concern about them.

Author Jennifer L. Hartstein of Princess Recovery: A How-To Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters recently shared some tips with Momtrends how to handle gifts that you may feel are not an appropriate for your daughter. As she points out, these conversations are not going to be fun, but it is important that you lead by example and advocate what you feel is right.


Educate Gently: Speak your mind clearly, and with appreciation. Always say thank you, followed by how you feel. For example, you could say, "Thank you so much for the gift. I know this is the hot toy right now. Although we appreciate the gesture, we prefer not to have this type of to in our house. I'd be happy to provide you with other options, or, you can keep the toy for your daughter, if you'd like!"

This might not be easy to say, especially if your initial reaction is more emotional. Take a breath, and a minute, and be open, honest and direct about what you think.

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Be Specific: You are providing education to those around you, so it is important to be sure they really understand where you are coming from. You know what you mean when you say you would prefer "gender neutral" toys, but your mother-in-law might not. Explain what you mean, and why you are making this request. Discuss why this is important to you and the development of your daughter's healthy self-esteem. Providing this kind of guidance will increase understanding, decrease conflict and confusion and promote positive interactions. And, you never know, you might encourage someone in your life to see things a different way!

Consider the Relationship: Focus on the relationship with the gift-giver over the gift. You may not agree with the gift, but know that taking a strong stance against it will potentially create damage with the person giving it to your daughter. Keep that in mind when you consider making a fuss. It may be easier to graciously accept the gift, and then have it "magically" disappear. This is also an opportunity to talk with your daughter about why the gift may be giving the wrong message or offer alternative toys that you do approve of. Doing either of these things will dull down the message and make the experience less damaging.

Advocate For Your Daughter: Gifts are a time for you to advocate for your daughter and teach her to advocate for herself. Have open dialogues about why a gift may be inappropriate, talking with her in an age-appropriate way. Be prepared for questions, and possibly, some tantruming. Be mindful not to make promises you will not be able to keep.

You can say something like: "Your dad and I don't think this toy will teach you positive things. Let's go find some other options that might." The key here is to identify the values you want to instill in your daughter, and use these gift receiving opportunities to highlight them.

All tips provided by © 2011 Jennifer L. Hartstein, PsyD, author of Princess Recovery: A How-To Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters

For more information please visit, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

Momtrends was not paid for this post.

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