So you made the effort to buy each child a special Chanukah gift that they would hopefully enjoy. And there’s that one child in the family who is never satisfied. She wants what her brother got (a remote control car), or she wants what her sister got (the pink scooter) even though you bought two of the same so she would hopefully be less jealous (albeit in two different colors). But alas, despite that she always loves the color purple and you therefore got her the purple scooter, today she wants the pink one because that’s the one her sister got.
What do you do about a child who is always looking over her shoulder to monitor what others are doing and getting, and is never satisfied with her own lot? This is more about a child being unhappy with herself than about the gift.
Threatening her that next time you’ll get her nothing because she’s never appreciative won’t change how she feels. Neither will it help to force the sibling to switch gifts with her. That’ll only make two kids unhappy. Preaching that she should learn to be happy with what she’s given, won’t teach her to be happy, either.
So what can you do?
The following strategy takes repeated practice for it to make a real difference in the long run. But it makes a difference in the long run!
Validate the child’s feeling. Say, “It looks like you don’t really like the gift you got. You wanted the remote control car? You think that’s a cooler toy? Or, You like the pink stationery better? It’s a prettier color? Hmmmm. It’s disappointing not to get what you wanted.”
1. Once you’ve said the above validation, you can stop right there. Say nothing else.
2. If the child cries, give her a hug. If she tantrums, just say, “You’re terribly disappointed. You wanted something else.”
3. You DON’T have to switch gifts or go out and buy another one.
4. Just let the child sit with her feelings. You don’t have to fix the feeling or make it go away. It’s enough for the child to know that you “get” how she feels and you have compassion for her.
5. Don’t say, “I know exactly how you feel” or “I feel your pain” or “I understand you.” These statements are usually NOT validating.
6. Keep validating the child repeatedly when she is disappointed over the next few weeks and months.
Validating feelings improves self-esteem among other things, which enables a child to feel happier with herself, which results in the child being satisfied with the gifts she does or doesn’t get.