Catherine W. Idzerda" />

Teach your children how they should react to holiday gift disappointments

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Catherine W. Idzerda
December 20, 2007

You asked Aunt Judy for a Barbie.

Instead, dumb ol' Judy gives you a generic doll.

Yes, we've all experienced gift letdown.

The large box you thought was a dollhouse? Sorry, no, it's a giant, ugly stuffed animal.

The worst is getting a gift that's only half right—like asking for a video game and getting "Pong" instead of "Halo."

As adults, we can hide our disappointment under a glib smile and a few white lies.

But what about kids? It seems wrong to teach them to fib, but what's the alternative?

Theresa Mleczko, a therapist who works with children, said being a gracious gift recipient is a skill.

"Parents need to teach kids that there are no rotten gifts," said Mleczko, who works at the Counseling Care Center at Beloit Memorial Hospital. "Anytime somebody thinks enough of them to give them a gift, that makes it special."

Mleczko offered these tips for dealing with holiday let downs.

-- First step, set a good example.

"I think parents have to model good behavior," Mleczko said.

If you get something you don't like from a friend, co-worker or relative, don't mock the gift in front of your kids.

And, when presented with a clearly awful gift, smile and ooze gratitude.

-- Next, decrease the child's sense of entitlement.

Talk to your kids before the holidays about their expectations.

"You can say something like ‘We know you want that fire truck; or we know you want that PlayStation or the American Girl doll, but you might not get it,'" Mleczko said.

Depending on the child, you might have to repeat the message several times—and practice good "thank yous" in advance of the holidays.

It doesn't hurt, either, to use the old fashioned reminder that your parents probably used: A lot of kids won't get anything for Christmas so be grateful for what you have.

-- Teach your child the joy of giving.

Take your children shopping for the special people in their lives. Let them pick out gifts—or at least give their input into the decisions, Mleczko said.

Let them wrap the gift, too. No, it won't be pretty, but their special someone will appreciate it.

Encourage them to create their own Christmas cards.

"Not one on the computer, but one by hand," Mleczko said.

The goal is to show kids how pleasurable giving can be.

-- Repair the damage in a tangible way.

If your child has a breakdown of manners on the big day, deal with it immediately.

"Parents can say ‘that's not very polite, you need to apologize to Grandma,'" Mleczko suggested. "Then the child needs to make amends later—not just by saying ‘I'm sorry,' but doing something proactive."

What can you do with unwated holiday gifts?

Reason for return?

It's the wrong size.

It's the wrong color.

It makes me sick to my stomach.

Adults—well, most adults—smile graciously and say "thank you" when given something they don't want.

Beneath that smile, they're thinking, "What am I going to do with this?"

Here are some ideas for handling the unwanted gift.

First, consider taking the high road. You were given the gift as an act of kindness.

Therapist Theresa Mleczko of the Counseling Care Center in Beloit Memorial Hospital suggested embracing the unpleasant.

"Those gifts are a reminder that somebody thought about me," Mleczko said. "They thought wrong about what I like, but they thought about me."

Find a spot in a guest bedroom or another unfrequented part of the house for a "kitsch" shelf. When you see the items, it will remind you, again, of the giver's generosity.

If Grandpa gives you an unpleasant sweater, wearing it once or twice in his company—and telling him how much you like it—can create an enormous amount of good will.

If you must get rid of the gift, use tact and common sense.

In an ideal situation, you have a gift receipt. Even without a receipt, many stores can scan the bar code and give you cash back or store credit, depending on how the item was bought.

If you don't know where the item was bought, try a line such as, "Aunt Mary, this is wonderful, where did you get it?"

Tread carefully. If the giver is on a fixed income, that present might have come from a second-hand store that carries newer castoffs. Feelings are more important than an ugly sweater.

You also could take the item to a consignment shop where you'll get some money back.

Finally, consider giving clothing to a church that does free clothing giveaways, such as the Rock Assembly of God, 2232 Hermitage Lane, Janeville. For information about how to donate, call (608) 756-2232.

Return tips

The National Retail Federation estimates that more than one in three consumers—37.6 percent—will return a gift.

The Federation and other consumer specialists offered these tips for store returns:

-- Know the return policy before you buy and save all receipts. Many retailers will allow consumers to exchange merchandise without a receipt. However, without a receipt, a retailer might provide only merchandise credit for the lowest price at which the item was sold in the past 30 days. That could mean you'll get 40 or 50 cents on the dollar.

-- If it all possible, get a gift receipt and tape it to the package so it doesn't get lost in the frenzy of unwrapping.

-- Provide all original packaging and all parts, including tags, if possible. If you plan to take back a gift when it is unwrapped, resist the urge to open it.

-- Know what the time limit is for returns. It could be as little as two weeks. The NRF recommends making "returns as soon as possible after the holidays to take advantage of extended hours and extra help, and to get the best selection of merchandise for an alternate gift."

However, the NRF also notes, "the week after Christmas is one of the busiest weeks of the retail year. With people's frustration high and tolerance low, be patient when returning merchandise."

So maybe it makes more sense to wait.

-- Remember those restocking fees. They used to apply to large ticket items or electronics. Now, more and more stores are instituting restocking fees.

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