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Giving and Receiving Gifts - Teenagers, It's Not a Negotiation

By Maria Fuentes - 4th November 2010

Across an ocean and many house moves ago, I was given a pencil sharpener. I still keep the remnants of that gift. It was a pencil sharpener given to me when I wasn’t expecting anything. I still remember the moment I got it, and how it taught me that that person had me in mind, even when I wasn’t in the room.

Gifts and their meaning have changed over the years. I’ve not done an anthropological study on the matter, but it appears to me that, to many people, they have become somewhat of an entitlement. And especially for teens, gifts are sometimes a point of negotiation, or even more alarming, of reward.
 
Kids grow up expecting gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and some are even evolving (as soon as they realise that Santa shops at Kmart) into requesting certain items and brand-specific equipment, thus not only removing the excitement of the opening of the gift, but also effectively taking the meaning away.
 
There’s an attractive quality to this, akin to that of the voucher - you know that they’ll like what they get, and this is good because adolescents in particular can be very good at making you feel out of touch if you get the wrong thing. You feel that you want to get the gift right because they are slipping away so fast…
 
However, I think the downsides outweigh the positives.

     There’s learning in being a good gift-receiver, and there’s a whole level of experience that we are avoiding by negotiating on gifts and turning special occasions and festivals into opportunities for acquisition.
 
When you receive a real gift, you are receiving so much more than the present; you are receiving an impression of how that person thinks about you, you are receiving the time and effort that it took to come up with the idea, and most importantly, you are receiving that person’s attention.
 
When you get a gift that was requested or agreed on, you are completing a transaction, and although the excitement might be great, it is often excitement about the thing rather than the thought.
 
So, how then do you deal with your adolescents’ ‘need’ for a laptop or smart phone for their birthday?

Tips for Giving Gifts to Your Teenagers

  • Your adolescent doesn’t need these items; if you still want to provide them, go ahead, provide them, you may even do so for his or her birthday, just don’t let them have control and be involved in a negotiation over that process.
  • Consider providing your teenagers with those so-called ‘needs’ or specific requests for gifts at other times, and encourage them to save or work for them.
  • Don't negotiate on gifts or use them for bargaining. Love is not for sale, yours or your children’s.
  • Take a risk - next time a birthday or festival comes around, get your teenager something special. Start now, and you’ll see rewards in a few (2-20) years.


Be a good gift receiver yourself, and get in the habit of thanking the intention more than the item. After all, that is the real gift.

image freedigitalphotos.net Michelle Meiklejohn

Comments (3)

YvetteVignando's picture

Here's a Great Gift Idea

There's a new post on this website with a fabulous idea for one Christmas gift for your teenager - it's a gift that lasts a whole year - see what you think http://bit.ly/eogWFL

MariaFuentes's picture

Thanks

Thanks for your lovely feedback Lisa.

Maria Paula

Hi Maria, Great post - I love

Hi Maria,

Great post - I love the paragraph:

When you receive a real gift, you are receiving so much more than the present; you are receiving an impression of how that person thinks about you, you are receiving the time and effort that it took to come up with the idea, and most importantly, you are receiving that person’s attention.

Thats exactly how I think about gift giving. I love thinking up the PERFECT gift idea!

Thanks,
Lisa

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