Spare Your Kids an Inappropriate Gift

Tips for explaining to friends and family (nicely) what NOT to get your kids this gift-giving season. By Sierra Filucci
Topics: Early Childhood
Spare Your Kids an Inappropriate Gift

Imagine your third grader opening up Grandma's holiday gift to find a fancy new iPhone or your 4-year-old ripping through the wrapping paper to find a set of PG-13-rated Iron Man DVDs. Although Grandma is probably well-intentioned, her choices might not match up with your family media rules.

We all want the holidays to be a special time, filled with fun and family, but the truth is: not everyone is super-savvy when it comes to picking out gifts for kids. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles aren't always in tune with what your kids are interested in, what's appropriate for their age, or what your family rules are around media-related toys and treats. Here are some tips for helping out well-meaning gift-givers while also keeping conflict at bay.

Be prepared: Kids start thinking about holiday gifts pretty early in the season, and so can you. Decide which of their many requests you're willing to pass along to Grandma and Grandpa and which you'll probably leave out. If you have any great ideas –- like some cool games for your Wii or an Amazon gift card for your daughter's new ereader –- write them down so you're ready when the "What do they want for Christmas?" phone call comes.

Express yourself: Sometimes you can't wait around for folks to ask what your kids want for the holidays -- you just need to speak up. You can take the subtle approach with, "We're only watching G-rated movies these days." Or you can be super proactive with, "We've got some really clear rules about media use in our house, so if you're thinking of getting the kids any gadgets, DVDs, or video games, please ask me first."

Stay positive: Instead of listing what you don't want friends and family members to give your kids, it can be helpful to describe what would work for your family. For instance, you can steer folks away from media gifts altogether with, "We'd really love something homemade this year." Or talk about what's worked well in the past: "Those Nintendo games you got for Marcus last year were perfect. I bet he'd like the latest one this year." Wish lists on sites like Amazon also can be helpful for Internet-savvy gift givers who like clear direction.

Set limits: As much as kids love getting presents, sometimes too much is just too much. Aunts and uncles sometimes like to splurge on fancy gadgets or just go overboard on the number of gifts they give. But your kids may not be ready for the latest tablet or a $50 iTunes gift card. If you want to regulate the amount of media (or anything else) coming into your home, set some limits. You can organize a gift exchange in which each family member buys for only one other person -- or ask for activities or services instead of products.

Don't panic: When your 7-year-old tears open the latest Xbox console on the last night of Hanukkah, don't freak out. If you've explained your media and gadget rules clearly to your kids, they'll be more understanding when you explain that you'll need to hold onto the present until the right time. After you've taken a few deep breathes, you can offer the gift giver some gracious feedback out of earshot of your kids and maybe find a way to turn the situation around (return the gift and use the money for a toy-shopping spree or donate the gift to a needy family). Fortunately, kids usually move on to the next gift pretty quickly.


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About Sierra Filucci

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Sierra is a journalist with a special interest in media and families. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, and she's been writing and editing professionally for more... Read more

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Comments (12)

Kid, 12 years old

Selling a console full of different games of different ratings is not a good idea. Even if the games aren't necessarily as appropriate, parents would not be sending out good messages that pertain to quality. If a smaller kid is to have a lot of cheap toys purchased to them instead, that is not sending good messages.
written by GSN Hatena

Don't even thing of getting a PG-13 for a 9 Year Old. It's too inappropriate for them to watch it. If a PG-13 has Sex in it. Don't get that film. If it has a PG-13 Level Violence in a PG-13 then go get it. For 13+ People Only. If it has Nudity in a PG-13 Film. In this case. It's not a real PG-13 Film. Even if the Nudity is covered with something. I Still say it's not a PG-13 Rated Film. A PG-13 would have to in between PG & R. A PG-13 Should have like a Rating of at least 5/10 than this is a PG-13 Film. If not than is not a PG-13 Rated Film. An R Rated Film should have a little Nudity within the story line. The sex scene should not show a lot of Nudity in it. ...and PG Films should show a little bit of sex with a hint but no Nudity at all. G Rated Film should not have any sex of any kind. Kissing should only be allowed but not really show them kissing. PG Rating then the Kissing can be shown with the Rating. PG-13 Also has kissing plus add a touch of sex. R adds a more level of sex with the kissing. NC-17 this a lot more and kids should see them in this level at all. Violence. G it has Cartoon Violence and so on.
Adult written by PapaBruno

"When your 7-year-old tears open the latest Xbox console..." Is buying a 7-year-old an XBox One really an appropriate gift idea? Get them a LeapFrog, eReader, or Nintendo 2DS, but not an Xbox One. That's not at all suited for kids under 12 IMO.
Adult written by pwpmom28

We LOVE CSM--my teens pull up your reviews BEFORE they ask me to go see a certain movie with their friends because they know I will have to check your site before I give my permission. Thanks for such a great resource!
Parent of a 13 year old written by Lisette's Mom

I wish I had seen this article 8 years ago, when my in-laws insisted that my 5-year-old needed an iPod to be able to compete with other young people in the global marketplace. Or 3 years later when tantrums over the iPad, which she didn't even want, ruined Christmas Day. Unfortunately, I cannot compete with grandparents who buy a gift, ask you if it's OK, and then give it, regardless of what you said (that's a family relations issue, not a parenting issue), but at least I would have known that everyone, from my child to my in-laws and spouse, would have been well-versed on my position on the inappropriate gift. Yes, smart, articulate young media consumer below, it is a parenting decision, and one that is unique to every family, as to what kinds of entertainment and technology are best for the minors in the home, and one that is complex and needs to be well thought out. In my family, my daughter's input is welcome, and she has raised many of the arguments that you have, but the final decision is with me and her father. When you, and she, have articulate, passionate children of your own, you will have the heavy responsibility, and great privilege, of deciding for what kinds of entertainment and technology they should be introduced to, and when.
Kid, 12 years old

Why do you consider there inappropriate gifts? I always go see the big superhero movies with friends, and my friend took his four year old brother to see Iron Man 3 (arguably the most inappropriate for children) and all the inappropriate content flew over his head. I've never had a smartphone myself as a personal choice, but most 3rd graders could use one properly. Just keep an eye on how your kids use it and monitor their usage (don't set time limits, they're unnecessary, just look at their texts and stuff), do you really want to take that away from them? The first tip might come in handy, and it doesn't seem to do any harm, but what is the point of it being in the article? You could always just ask them to let you ask them, just saying... The second tip is okay I guess, but why would you limit your child to this so much? When I was four I was watching PG-13 movies, and since 10 have been viewing R rated films. Children who's parents are this proactive about this content coming into their house could raise some seriously messed up kids, when they view a PG-13 movie for the first time at another age could be shocked by the level of violence in the film, and could be mentally scarred for the rest of their lives due to the sudden shock of showing them, and developing them on G and PG films. Tip 3 might work decently, and do applaud it's inclusion in the article. It's simply focusing on what to give instead of what not to give. However, any parent who uses this tactic could be in for a huge surprise if the store is out of this stuff and they go with giving your 9 year old son, god forbid, a PG-13 rated film. In the fourth tip of this article, I honestly have no problem with. However, this might result in them going with the option kids often go for, that's right, money. With the accumulative value of the money, they might go for something expensive, which could result in pretty long debates with your child over why they can't have this. Tip 5, however, is screwed up to serious proportions. You're going to ruin this child's big moment, the gift he had been asking for, their first electronic device, and you just take it from them. Sure, children move onto the next gift fairly quickly, but not after some severe tantrums. If your child was super focused on getting this, then the child will not move on, and will constantly pester you over this. Do you want this to happen?


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