What appears to be a real gun, but on second glance seems to be plastic; or,
A Bratz Doll, wearing miniature fishnet stockings and lipstick; or,
Call of Duty: Black Ops.
While the actual nightmare gift varies from parent to parent, it seems inevitable that at some point, your child will come across a toy that you deem inappropriate. What should you as a parent do?
Like all parents, I constantly strive to create a safe environment for my kids. But I also know that the real world isn’t perfect. How do you reach that balance between protecting your children from harm, without inhibiting necessary decision-making skills that will enable them to handle the difficult situations that life brings? We parents may never fully reconcile this dilemma; however, it shouldn’t stop us from trying! I brought up this issue with Dr. Robi Ludwig, a Care.com expert and psychotherapist, who offered the following advice:
Make Your Values Known
First, it’s important to be strong. Although your relative likely had good intentions, if you feel strongly that he's given your child an inappropriate gift, you must address the situation. Let your relative know right away that both you and your child appreciate the gift. It just isn't consistent with your values and/or right for your child's age range.
Or, depending on how you feel, allow your child to enjoy the gift until your relative leaves. Then, sit down with your child and outline the reasons why you are going to exchange the gift for a different toy together.
Be sure to acknowledge how upset your child is about giving this gift up. The more transparent you are about this issue, the less likely you are to get caught up in a power struggle with your child.
Be a Gracious Role Model
It's also important to be gracious and grateful with the relative. Refrain from blaming or attacking him (even if you have a sneaking suspicion that it was done on purpose). Offer your thanks and let your child know that you will exchange the gift as a family.
Make the Rules
If the gift is something you’d rather your child not have, but also don’t feel like it’s really a big deal, let her play with it, but assign any restrictions you feel are necessary and in keeping with your value system.
Talk to Your Child
If your child is old enough, give an explanation for why you feel the toy is not right for her or your home. Regardless of how you decide to explain it, it’s important to honor the intentions of the gift-giver. Let your child know that the person loves her enough to think of her and to give her a gift. The relative simply has a different idea about what makes for an appropriate toy.
Have your children ever received an inappropriate toy? What was it? How did you handle the situation? Share your own experience!