Monday, December 31, 2007

Motherhood Midterms

Lillian in StirOkay I really need your help with this one. Imagine--just hypothetically of course--that you and your four amazingly cute and normally well-behaved children are attending a family function. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that it's a family Christmas party.

And then, let's continue with this supposition by saying that there's a moment where the cousins get to unwrap their Christmas presents from Great Grandma. Are you with me so far?

Well if your five year-old should happen to unwrap her present and find that it's a DVD of "Enchanted Princess Stories with Magical Moments and Happiness All Around" (not a bad gift is it? Is it?) but should be less than thrilled by the gift what do you do?

Not that this happened to me or anything. It--um--happened to a friend. Yea, a friend. And we'll call her "Carinne." Because it doesn't make me look so bad.

Okay I can't completely lie and put this on my poor sister, it happened to me. Lillian opened her gift and found a DVD. I never buy the kids DVDs so I thought it would be a novelty and that she'd enjoy it but she looked at it skeptically then turned up her little nose. Bad enough, right? But no, the real meltdown--the one of Chernobyl proportions that shall live hereafter in family history--was when all the cousins ran to various places to play with their new treasures and Lillian realized that she couldn't actually do anything with her dumb old movie.

She started to pout, she started to sulk and the grand finale came when she squawked about not liking the movie and threw the present--THE ONE FROM HER GRANDMOTHER WHO WAS SITTING RIGHT THERE IN THE ROOM--on the ground and stomped off.

Honestly? I've had kids do bad things before, I've had those moments where I've had to withdraw from a playgroup because I'd apparently brought the human piranha or where I've watched in horror while my previously potty-trained child filled her swimming suit while standing in line to get into the pool at swim lessons (no names). But this? Such deliberate behavior from a five year-old (FIVE years old!) was pretty horrifying.

Now you can bring up the mitigating circumstances by saying that it was Christmas, that's it's not a holiday or birthday celebration unless someone's getting in trouble and that you have to expect the occasional tantrum because of tired little bodies but I've lived with an attorney long enough to know that mitigating circumstances are only part of the sentencing and not part of the trial itself. She's guilty and she's in trouble. My question is--what should be her punishment?

When she threw down the movie she was immediately reprimanded (though it was hard to give her the walloping she deserved while everyone was looking on). I gathered up the movie and whisked it away then stuck her on a chair in the corner--yea, I know, the whole "time-out" thing is really a joke, she didn't care at all, you can tell by the look on her face but as I said it was hard to deal with it at a party. We talked about her behavior and how she was in deep doo-doo (to quote the great Jar-Jar Binks) but I need some help. Guide me, oh Mothers of the Internet, with your wisdom and experience and help me make a lasting impression on my wayward child.

Andrew and I laid in bed that night and he said, "Well don't give her the movie back for a while" which shocked me. I figure she's lost all rights and ownership and that she'll never see that movie ever. Would you give it back to her? Would you make her donate it to the library or some charitable institution? Would you throw it away? Would you spank her with it? (Okay I'm kidding here, even I wouldn't do that--talk about your therapy-inducing trauma. Being spanked with a princess DVD? Ha!) She's asked for it back but I haven't given it to her.

Help me out. It's like a pop quiz for motherhood or something and I've frozen.

  • Do nothing--it's not that big of a deal anyway. Relax--my kid's done a lot worse.
  • Give her back the DVD after explaining why her behavior was wrong. Wrong! Do you hear me?
  • Keep the DVD and explain why she'll never have Santa visit her again.
  • Make her give the DVD to a charity. Like PETA.
  • Make her write an apology to Grandma and Grandpa.
  • Take away DVD privileges for a while--no more princesses period!
  • Give her coal in her stocking for the rest of her life.
  • A good ol' fashioned whupping. That will help her remember not to do it again.
  • Something I haven't been smart enough to think of?

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Carrie K. said...

Okay, I don't know if this well help or not, but here goes. I've found with my kids that I can lecture until I'm blue in the face about manners and being polite, etc - but if they don't understand how their behavior makes other people feel, they could care less. (One of mine seems to have little empathy at all, and this wouldn't work on him - but that's another story.)

What I did in a very, very simmilar situation is this: I thought of one of the things my daughter had done for me - it could be a picture she drew or a note she wrote, etc. - and I talked about how much work she put into it and how much she wanted it to be special. And then I had her imagine that she gave it to me and I wasn't happy. Not only was I not grateful, but I threw it on the ground and stomped away. And, given my flair for the dramatic, I probably emphasized the fact that I did it in front of a whole room full of people who were watching and could see that I didn't like the gift she had given me. And then we have the whole "How would that make you feel?" conversation. After which, I had her call her Grandmama and apologize. And I do believe she got to have the gift back after all of this was taken care of.

For what it's worth - it worked with my little girl - who is now 11 (how did that happen?) and has perfected the "Oh, thank you" and polite smile you wear when you open a gift you don't want.

Kacie said...

Eh, I'd say give her a break. A good discussion on graciousness would be in order, but she's 5.

At 5, they're really really honest. Adults can get crappy gifts, but by that time, they learn to lie about it. Touchy subject, indeed.

She responded how many 5-year-olds might. You haven't failed her!

Corrie said...

I like Carrie's idea. I think it might make it easrier for her to grasp what happened.

Kudos to you for not falling to her level. I think you handled it well. Public parenting a meltdown is rough work - time for a little chocolate, I think..

Loralee Choate said...

Wah. The poll thingy isn't working for me.

You kick my mothering heiny, so I don't even know if I qualify here.

THAT said. My son just about did the same thing because he was the only grandson that got a "Cars" sweatshirt vs. A "Transformer" one.

I could see the pout happening and I quickly whispered that he was about to hurt his grandma's feelings VERY VERY MUCH and that nothing was worth making her feel THAT BAD.

Luckily, it worked.

I don't think that it should be taken away forever. I think that she should have ALL TV privileges taken away for a bit. Since she hasn't seen the DVD, only taking that away won't matter as much.


I was going to vote for writing an apology to the grandparents AFTER she watches the DVD.

Here is why...You know that she is going to like it (Cause who doesn't like princesses?!). I think that she should not only write an apology to them about but what she ended up loving about her gift.

I think it would be good for her and for the gift givers, too.

Just my two cents.

Mrs. W said...

Well I'm no mommy so I have no business even commenting here. But I'll do it anyway.

When I was young this behavior was NOT tolerated. At all. My behind would have gotten tarred for that little demonstration.

That said, I think you should:

(a) explain to her how much she hurt grandma's feelings; I like Carrie's comment to act out her being unhappy with a gift from her child.

(b) have her watch the DVD. I'm sure she'll love it after all. And apologize to grandma. Absolutely.

(c) some other punishment--because this kind of behavior can not be overlooked. Perhaps no other favorite DVDs for a while. She might think twice before misbehaving this way next time.

Nicola Marsh said...

I just had this very same thing happen to me last weekend, when my 4 yo opened a present from a good friend of mine and said (in a very loud, annoyed voice) "I've already got this!" Her face fell and I smoothed it over by saying we'd exchange it.
I really like Carrie's solution.
BTW, this is the first time I've found your blog and it's fabulous!
I'll be returning:)
(and I love Alaska, visited all too briefly on my honeymoon. I'm in Australia!)

Bonnie said...

My favorite part about this whole story is that you took at picture of her while she was in time out. You know in fifteen years when she looks at it and you tell her the story she will be her punishment will live on by her embarassment later! Priceless. :)

Erica Douglas said...

If I was ever ungrateful my mum would give me a lecture on all the children worse off than me :(

If it were my own I'd probably confiscate the DVD (for a while) she's only five, and her reaction was honestly how she felt I'm sure she didn't mean to hurt feelings. I would try and get Erin to apologise but under her own steam :) then eventually she'd get the dvd back.

Mrs Mecomber said...

Welll....... I think there are TWO lessons to be learned here.

One is, she needs to suffer some consequences. She got a free gift from a loving person, and she threw a temper tantrum over it. Bad. She was not bad because she embarrassed the parents or grandparents.. she was just plain bad.

Second, she needs to know that she can be forgiven if she repents. Otherwise this little situation will grow, and could be a bone of contention for years to come.

Give the kid a chance to make it right. But make sure she knows what she did wrong.

She should personally apologize to those people whom she offended-- in PERSON if possible. If she is sincere (and who wouldn't be, groveling for forgiveness like that?), then redeem her and show her the very grace you are expecting from her. Return to her the free gift she got and expect her to be thankful. If she has truly repented, she will be thankful. If she has not truly repented, then harsher consequences are in action... that's another situation.

One good spanking (you did it at the time of the incident, looks like) is enough. Now is the time to make things RIGHT. Isn't that, after all, what we want to truly instill in our kids-- to know and DO what is right, even after we've done what is wrong?

And one last thing-- depending on the personality of your child-- if she truly repents and makes it right, NEVER bring up the situation again. Just treat her like you expect her to have learned from this lesson. If she transgresses again, discipline her again according to the situation involved. But don't throw past mistakes in her face.

Just a few ideas from an experienced mom and thinker. :)

Melissa Markham said...

I think Carrie's suggestion is the best, followed up with not only an apology by phone or written and comments about how she likes the movie (if she actually does, don't make her lie about it if she doesn't, just don't say anything).

Your daughter is only 5. Have you had discussions with her before about how to behave with gifts? The throwing and stomping off out of line, but her eing honest about her response was very age appropriate. And it is frustrating to receive a gift you can't play with and all the other kids got gifts they can play with right then.

Even now that my children are older, (11 and 7), I try to remind them to be grateful for whatever gift they receive. I have a friend who taught me that to try and anticipate problems that might happen in the upcoming situation and rehearse responses right before hand. Don't count on them remembering what you told them last year, month or week about how to behave in church or whatever...repeat it many times to get the lesson to sink in.

Loved the picture, btw!

P.L. Frog said...

I like Carrie's idea.

She's five. Her behavior was embarrassing for you, and hurtful for her grandparents, but it wasn't really outside the range of normal behavior for a five year old. I wouldn't make it into an international incident.

And while I think that there should be some repercussions (I voted to remove all TV privileges for a while and write an apology.) I think the bigger issue is how to prevent it from happening again.

When I was growing up, my parents always went over the rules when we were on our way somewhere, and then complimented us on our good behavior when we were on our way home.

Michaele said...

Hmmmm.... I'm voting for her earning back the dvd, and then drawing/writing an apology note to Grandma- apologizing for having hurt her feelings, etc. Some kiddos are fine doing the face-to-face verbal apology, but some aren't, and still need closure (and alternate problem solving techniques).

Then practice, practice, practice through role playing what to do if an undesired gift is received in the future. :)

Yep, the photo in time out is a keeper. It'll be great if she gets squirrely during her "but all my friends are dating" stage.

Julie Pippert said...

I think taking away the movie keeps making it about the movie, which is the problem in the first place: it's about grandma's feelings, not the movie.

As the parent (and BTDT) of a child who acts poorly and hurtfully, it sucks. I feel for you.

But. She is just 5 which isn't to full empathetic development yet (in fact I know some 35 and 45 year olds who haven't hit that development yet LOL).

It takes probably into your 20s to really be able to manage both how YOU feel (especially when its strong) and how someone else feels, too.

As long as you see shining moments of the Good, Mature person peeking through, I think you're fine.

Look at it through her eyes and think back to that age and how you felt when grown-ups went Defcon 4 about stuff you really didn't get.

I think low key...explain to her about Grandma's feelings and then using whatever her currency is, try to get her to tell you what SHE thinks about the situation and get around to how grandma feels...look for the light bulb moment.

Then ask her what she thinks she can do to make it up.

Maybe a note of apology to Grandma and invite Grandma over for movie viewing and popcorn special bond time. KWIM?

I only have this perspective, as I said, from having BTDT quite a few times with my drama queens.

GOOD LUCK and I hope to see a Part II or conclusion!

Using My Words

Marie N. said...

An apology is a must! By phone or written, I don't think that matters. With my children, thank you notes are a must. ( I ask my 5 yo what he wants to say. I take his dictation and print it on first grade paper. Then he copies it onto another piece of first grade paper.) That would be a nice place to relate to grandma that she did enjoy the movie after all. I love Carrie K's idea too.

Jeana said...

I really like Carrie's suggestion.

I have to say in some sense I totally get where Lilian is coming from. Christmas is so overwhelming and exhausting, with kids usually being kept up late and dragged from one event to another until the best of us can lose our cool.

And. I remember getting getting a beautiful coat for Christmas, one that I had asked for and was thrilled to receive. But when the other kids started playing with their toys and I realized I had nothing to play with I went into the other room and sobbed for a good while. I was about twice her age.

I know five seems too old to behave that way, and it is. But in a lot of ways it's still very young.

I know this doesn't help now, but in the future some pep talk before the event about how to graciously receive would go a long way. I know my youngest child doesn't get those as often because the older kids are past that stage so I forget to talk about it.

Also, at the first hint of disappointment with the gift, it would be a good idea to take her aside and talk to her, before she completely melts down.

(Don't you hate when you ask for advice and people say what you should have done? But I'm thinking for next time.)

Has she already apologized to the great grandmother? If not, after you talk with her like Carrie suggested, I would have her call, apologize, and thank her for the gift.

All of that being said, and knowing that I have been known to hand out some stiff penalties for rude behavior (especially if it becomes a pattern), I might lean toward letting this one go. I think your letting her know that you understand how overwhelmed she must have felt by everything and how frustrated she was, plus talking to her about how she would feel if the situation were reversed, might bring about a change of heart. And really, discipline should be more about changing the heart than just changing behavior.

If it happens again, however, the hammer comes down.

MommyTime said...

You have written the scenario that left me quaking in my boots as I lay in bed at night (nice, mixed metaphors anyone?!) for the days before Christmas. Gma and Gpa were driving up from Atlanta to MI (because they couldn't fly with so many presents in their luggage), and I was terrified that Son would mortify me in precisely the way you describe. Fortunately, I was spared, but I was on tenterhooks, I tell you. I spent inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out what I'd do when he threw his _____ on the floor in a fit.

I had two strategies. The first was incredible amounts of pre-Christmas set-up. As in: "oh...Son, look at the cool dinosaurs I just found on my computer" [showing pics of the ones my Santa connection leaked to me were on Son's gift list]. This enabled him to add to his mile-long list of things he wanted things that I actually knew he was getting, hence alleviating one potential pout, the: "I didn't want THIS; I wanted a whizzing, violent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle desctructo-toy made in China and covered in lead paint that I could use to poke my sister in the eye with" (or whatever other horror he'd chosen out of the Wal-Mart flier that I/Santa weren't about to provide). This worked with him because he's only almost-four -- but a slightly more sophisticated version of set-up might work with an older child. It did result in him exclaiming, with everything he opened (including things he's never even thought of), "It's just what I always wanted!" Then again, he's only three and does. love. presents. of. any. kind.

Part 2 of the plan was the what-if- preparation-doesn't-work part. For that, I kept handy Chair of Shame for him to sit on and an opened bottle of wine for my own solace at all times. -sigh- I had no good ideas on this one. I hope I get some better ones from the comments here -- though I do think the letter of apology is important, and I always use "toy gets a time-out" rather than kid does for serious infractions. Sitting on the steps does nothing for him. Losing the brand-new jet works wonders (yes, I take away a favorite one, not the one just rejected).

Not that this helps you, but it's nice to know I'm not the only mother struggling with this!

Liza's Eyeview said...

Oh.. this happened to us in a slightly different way but still in the theme of "not appreciating the gift as much as you think they would or should".


I voted on your survey - write an apology letter to the grandparents; and once again explain why what she did was wrong.

Summer said...

I choose the first two, here's why. A, it was Christmas. She most likely was tired, over excited, hyper on sugar, and needed some space to calm down. B, she's right. There's not much you can do with a DVD other than watch it. Now I would explain calmly and rationally that you understand why she felt that way and why she might have reacted as she did, explain why her action was rude and how it could have hurt her grandmother's feelings, and giver her suggestions of what to do next time in such a situation. She might just surprise you and come up with the letter of apology idea on her own. If not maybe just ask her if she thinks she should do or say something to her grandmother about it. Sometimes gentle prompting is all a kid needs. Especailly at only 5, clear definiteion of right/wrong, appropriate/inappropriate are still just developing and be overwhelmed by strong emotions.

Megan (FriedOkra) said...

I liked Carrie's suggestions. Definitely an apology is in order. Definitely an opportunity to incorporate EMPATHY into the lesson. And Michaela's role-playing idea? Brilliant. Give her the video back but only after she's completed her sentence.

Tough one. I feel for you. I know I'll get my chance to deal with it soon, too, so I'm glad you posted this and opened it for discussion.

Valerie said...

You've already got some fabulous advice, so I'll just pass on a little story.

We were flipping channels and came across "My Super Sweet Sixteen", where parents spend the cost of a house on their daughter's 16th birthday party. This little segment we saw featured a girl who got a Lexus for her birthday. And she threw a tantrum *because her mom gave it to her at the wrong time*. If only this girl's mama had taught her appropriate gift-receiving manners when *she* was 5!

Mercy's Maid said...

Well, how is taking away the DVD (that she didn't want to begin with) punishment?

It might be more fun to let her watch it up to a point where she's really interested in it and then turn it off and make her donate it to the library or something.

But I'm evil like that. :)

Michelle (the beartwinsmom) said...

I voted directly at the website. I chose to write a letter of apology. But, I like the idea of having her watch the movie first, then having her write the letter. Maybe she would make the connection of how her grandma made the choice of the present for her that way.

As for meltdowns... those happen all the time here since I'm a mom of twins, one with autism. You try the best you can with what you have. She definitely had her mind set on something else, and her expectations didn't match what everyone else was doing.

Great poll options! I am looking forward to reading what happens next!

Simply Stork said...

ok, so I have 4 children...3 of which are boys and have done things just as bad :o) but with this one...we(at our house a few years ago) had a similar situation and I will spare you the details...but our solution was to change the focus...Their own christmas $ was spent to buy an extra special gift for, which happened to be a grandparent, A special non/holiday visit was made with the knowledge that Christmas was not about recieving the gifts but giving them.

Now I must admit 5 is young so I would let her see how happy it made grandma just to see her and point out how happy she was to recieve the special gift (during this non holiday visit) and remind her about her response when she opened her gift from her.

it worked for us and the child is a wonderful gift giver today...almost loves the giving more than the reciving :o)

good luck :o)

Barbara H. said...

I wouldn't take the DVD away forever or make her donate it. I think that would make Grandma feel even worse. I would let her watch it -- she might learn that presents that she doesn't like at first actually do turn out nicely sometimes (though she still might not like it.)

I like Carrie's scenario -- I would do that so she would realize how Grandma felt, then have her apologize either in person, via phone, or in a note (if she can write -- maybe she could color a picture conveying what she felt. She could dictate it, but then it might look like you really write it for her.)

I do believe in spanking, but I don't think that I would have spanked for that, and definitely not this far after the fact.

And I agree with the other commenter that she needs to know she can repent and be forgiven. To me the extreme consequences seem to blur that lesson.

And I'd repeat the whole role-playing thing next year before Christmas along with an explanation that you might not get something you like, but you can appreciate that someone tried to think of something they thought you'd like. She may not understand that yet, but it's fine to start teaching it. And I think she could definitely appreciate the role-playing and understand how her actions hurt feelings.

Leslie said...

Everyone has such good advice!

I think an apology to Grandma is the most important thing that needs to happen - written or in person. I think that inviting Grandma to watch the movie (someone suggested that earlier) with her is a great idea, too.

Then, I might give her a chance to feel what it's like to give something. If this were Julia, I'd probably talk with her about someone who is less fortunate and then include her in a volunteer opportunity. Perhaps I'd go through some of her toys and clothes with her and have her choose some to donate, or have her help prepare some food for the local soup kitchen, then assist with the delivery and distribution - things we already do from time to time, but I'd make it an especially big deal. Or we'd do something as simple as making cookies for our elderly neighbor down the street who can't get out much and I'd be talking, talking, talking about giving and gratitude and other people's feelings the whole time. And when it was done, I'd praise her up and down for doing something for someone else when she didn't have to - just like her Grandma did when she gave her that DVD.

If this experience tells me anything, though, it's that even the best kids mess up. I know Julia can be a real stinker sometimes, but it does my heart good to know that she's not the only one!

pussreboots said...

Her grandmother was a mother of a five year old before. She's probably less stressed about by the tantrum than you are. I don't think you should make too big a deal over one gift.

If you are sure she'll actually like the DVD, stick it in the machine and start it up without making a big to-do over it. After she has watched it and enjoyed it, calmly explain why it is important to always say 'Thank you' for a gift.

Then have her either call or write her grandmother to thank her for the gift.

For future gift exchanges, coordinate with the adults giving gifts for the children to make sure everyone gets something similar. We do that with our kids and it works great. We had no tantrums this year!

Scribbit said...

I love all these great ideas--you all are so much better prepared for this thing than I was apparently. I can't believe I didn't see this coming better. Thanks for the tips!

And as a note, the funny thing about that picture is that while she was sitting in time out her two little cousins felt sorry for her and pulled up chairs next to her and sat down with her for support. Apparently they've mastered the whole "empathy" thing and she has not :)

Julie Q. said...

This is quite a story. I love that kids at that age are so honest, so willing to tell you exactly what they don't like about the gift. Whatever you do, I hope you can encourage her to continue to be truthful, but also keep the empathy thing going. How cute that the cousins felt sorry for her and joined her in prison.

Allison said...

Okay. I figured it would be extremely unhelpful, not to mention just plain mean, to vote for the "You should do something entirely different", but not say what. Seeing as how I have double the kids you do, I may have had more experience in this punishment/consequences/character training thing. Not that that qualifies me for anything other than frequent visits to our local psychiatric ward.
So if this happened to me, I would take away all TV/VCR/DVD privileges for a few days. I would also let the other children enjoy HER DVD that she got for Christmas. At the end of the period, I would let her watch it, and then write and tell Grandma all the things she loved about the gift, what she did that was wrong, and how she is sorry for what she did. Our society is chock-full of ungratefulness, and we need to be teaching our children that if they received a package of Hanes underwear for Christmas, they should be thankful that they were even thought of!
Just my $.02. Or maybe less than that if you think I'm waaaayyyy off base here.

Karen Olson said...

She probably doesn't want to see the DVD, since she wasn't thrilled with it, so giving it back to her or not isn't really the issue.

As someone here said, she's only 5. She hasn't yet learned how to smile and nod and be polite when getting a gift she doesn't want.

I say have her write a short thank you note, explain to her why this is the proper thing to do and then next time she's getting a boatload of presents, remind her quietly beforehand that she must be nice even if she doesn't like all the presents. I would reinforce this until she's got it down.

allysha said...

I know she's five. But really, five isn't that old. I remember being completely disappointed when my great aunt gave me mittens for Christmas. Reliable BROWN mittens. They weren't even red, for heaven's sake. Apparently my reaction was not impressive.

Of course talk to your daughter about it (which I'm sure you have). And how she should have acted and how we receive gifts. But it helps to admit that we've all received gifts that we weren't thrilled with. Give her a little empathy. A little consequence. And a little hug.

chelle said...

I voted for taking away the privilege of dvds...but I think all movies and a reminder of why there is no watching. It is a tough situation.

Jamie said...

Oooo - that's bad! Sounds like my child...
I like all the advice previously posted and have nothing profound to say of my own since I am constantly stumped as a parent to a 3 1/2-year-old with a very "big" personality. However I recently read this suggestion: (can't remember where...)
Before any holiday where presents are involved, this mom practiced "present opening" by wrapping up some seriously crappy gifts - like old socks, empty cans, etc. Then the kids had to take turns opening them and thinking up really positive things to say about the gift, and not letting their face show their disappointment. I don't know if this would work for a 5-year-old, especially in the moment, but I thought it was a neat idea.
I think the way you handled the situation was great - I might not have been so patient and kind. As for what to do next - you got me! I guess the question is, will she benefit from having the DVD taken from her? Will she remember WHY she isn't allowed to have it? Will it help her act any differently in the future? Good luck!
(BTW I just found your blog - love it!)

Jenn @ Frugal Upstate said...

OK, I only read a few of the comments because I have a houseful of guest arriving shortly (happy new years by the way).

I've been terrified of this happening with one of my kids, so we talk every once in a while about being grateful, which I define as "being happy for a gift even if it isn't exactly what you want". I used something similar to what Carrie described, trying to have them feel what it would be like to be the giver. It is just one of those things that will bear lots of repetition-5 year olds by their nature are pretty self centered still.

Good luck

Lis Garrett said...

I am definitely with carri k. and kacie on this one. While you want your children to be gracious about gifts they receive, even if they don't really like them, you (collectively) should consider their ages. While I would be totally embarrassed if my 8 year old did that, I could excuse it from a 5 year old. With that said, I voted that she should write an apology letter.

I remember a Christmas when I was 10 and my 5 year old cousin got a really cool gift that I wanted, too. I pissed and moaned about it all night long. Come to think of it, I did a lot of that in regards to gifts that my cousin received and I didn't. Trust me, spanking doesn't help. At all. At least it did nothing to curb my appalling behavior and I got A LOT of spankings. The only thing that did work was a bit of time, growing up, and relatives who understood that 1.)I was probably lonely from being flown about the country between my divorced and dysfunctional family and 2.) I was utterly exhausted from it all.

I say cut Lillian a bit of slack. She's only five.

JennP said...

As much as I think this is unacceptable, it happened. I personally think that trying to make her understand the feelings she created by reacting the way she did would be the best thing. Sometimes, if kids have not been put in a situation like this before, they don;t know how to act. This is a perfect learning experience.
With my daughter, who is also 5, every time we are put in a situation where she could potentially be receiving a gift, i remind her privately about manners. I always remind her that if she doesn't like it, or any other negative thing, she can talk to me about it privately. i remind her that she should always say thank you. It has really worked so far.

I have a book to suggest:
Family Virtues Guide
by linda kavelin popov i think.
It is an awesome book. There are 52 brief lessons for families about the virtues. It covers everything from compassion, empathy, generosity, etc.... I read it myself (you can share it with kids but i wanted to read through it first) and what I noticed about that book is that it talks in a child friendly language so it is VERY easy to understand. Also, it gives us parents ideas on how to react to things, and how to positively guide our kids. If ever you do get it or read it, let me know what you thought.

i would suggest making sure your daughter understands that it is not the fact that she didnt like the gift that caused the whole issue. it is how it was communicated :)

best of luck....!

Kris said...

I am going to play devil's advocate for a second.

If she sat and watched as all her cousins and such got all these cool toys and then unwrapped a DVD that she wouldn't be able to actually WATCH while at the party I would be PISSED too. Not that that excuses her behavior.

I have a five year old, and had one that is now 8 and one that in 4 years god help me will be a non-tantrum-y (not a word I know) five year old. Been there done that. She's five and THAT is how five year olds act. They are still learning how to act (especially in public) and unfortunately sometimes it goes terribly freaking freight train wrong! That being said I do feel badly for her.

I'd make her write that apology note BUT perhaps she might include some ideas for things...for future consideration...that she might have liked to receive, especially if she never gets DVD's.

I don't know...just ignore what I said. I have no freaking clue what to do with my own kids. Hehe.


Kasey said...

I wouldn't be too hard on her, given that she's 5. I distinctly remember throwing a similar fit at a slightly older age (6 or 7) when every birthday gift my parents gave me was clothing. I yelled, "I hate clothes!" and burst into tears.

I can't remember how my mom dealt with my behavior, but I did learn empathy and still feel guilty about that outburst to this day. I think I turned out pretty well, 30 years later. :)

I like the role playing idea to help her understand how her reactive behavior made the gifter feel.

crazy working mom said...

Quite a difficult situation. I'm interested to find out the results, if your decision matched up with the majority of the pole.

I voted to talk to her about her behavior. I have a five year old diva, I mean daughter myself. I know how they can be especially when things don't go the way they think they should. Sometimes you just have to get out of the situation and then talk about it. It's easier to rationalize with them that way.

I hope grandma wasn't too upset.

Inkling said...

What an adventure! I voted for her to write an apology letter (after she understands with her heart why a letter would be a good thing), and I also voted for her to get the DVD back after she understands. I've been in her shoes, actually, and have to admit that my teenage years were filled with near meltdowns from disappointment. (peach colored jogging suits are never cool, even if they are from Grandma)

But the one thing I've learned in the last decade of my life is that I'd give just about anything to have those childhood moments back to show my appreciation and love to both of my grandmothers. I realize now what thoughtfulness and work and even sacrifice went into their gift-giving, and now that one of them is gone and the other is recovering from a stroke, I treasure my memories even more. But the memories where I was ungrateful for a gift really hurt my heart, and if those were possible to change, I would. Even if it meant wearing a painfully bright peach sweatsuit in public.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I wouldn't take the DVD away. I would have her watch it. if she likes it explain that Grandma knew she would like it and that her feelings were hurt when it was thrown on the floor. then have her tell, or write to, her grandma that she loves it and is sorry about the way she acted.

jubilee said...

My six year old did very nearly the same thing this year. He wasn't happy about a gift he was given and very nearly threw a tantrum until he saw the "look of death" I was giving him. Of course, that only works if your child happens to look your way.

I showed him how the gift worked and he was relieved, yet less than enthusiastic. He gave an immediate apology and a thank you (also less than enthusiastic), both at my urging.

You were right to deal with it immediately. Certainly. She is only five, and probably like my son, incredibly honest. I don't think severe consequences are necessary.

Upshot: Time out to cool off, yes. Apologize, yes. Taking something she adores away for a few days, yes. I think that's enough.

This parenting thing is hard, yeah?!

The Preacher's Wife said...

Did you try the whole "there's a little girl in Africa who would love to have this movie?"

Seriously, mine has pulled this stunt before and I made her apologize on the spot after explaining how awful she made the person feel. The mortification of having to say she was sorry so far has been enough to keep it from happening again.

One other quick thing? I warn my kids ahead of time when I know they are getting gifts that they may not particularly like what they are getting, but say thanks anyway. That was particularly helpful at Christmas when mine got a duplicate gift.


luckyzmom said...

I would have made her sit down and watch the DVD over and over again. (Not really!). That was my feeble attempt at being funny for the first time this year!)

OK. She's five for crying out loud. Mothers often take things like this personally. I do not think your reaction, to your five year old, had as much to do with her as it did with you. This was an excellent opportunity to teach your daughter some of the great gift giving lessons so many have already commented about here.

Having said this, I would have (and did) lecture my daughter til I was blue in the face when she was your daughters age about how bad her behavior was. Several decades later, she still has a warped attitude towards gift giving and receiving and I take full responsibility.

And subsequently, my four year old granddaughter didn't even blink at the gifts we sent and had to be prompted by my daughter when she called to thank us. She was all about some Barbie horse someone else gave her. I was amused, not offended.

Happy New Year!!!!!

Pieces of Me said...

Wow, everyone has such good suggestions. I will just add that the empathy thing often gets overlooked and so all the suggestions about simulating a role play is an excellent idea. Five year old is a good age to start this. I think you did well under the circumstances. There is no right or wrong situation during a quick judgment call. We are all learning.

With that said, my three year son received gifts from his grandparents in Israel for Hanukah/birthday but thanks for the reminder about being grateful to grandparents about gifts. I'll probably have to deal with all this in some way or another.

SabineM said...

OH BOY! I was in that situation with my now 13 year old when she was 2 and got the WRONG Buzz Lightyear!

sandierpastures said...

I'd watch the DVD with her (it's a great movie, right?), just the two of us. I'd explain later that for whatever she receives, she should appreciate it,and say thank you to the giver.

It has not happened to me. My 4 year old has smirked on some gifts we got from relatives last Christmas but she was polite enough to say thank you (because of the eye darts she got from me maybe). I don't know though what will happen in the coming years.

Of course, I think it would be good to have her call grandma for an apology.


kailani said...

I would make her apologize and then not let her keep the DVD.

My 5 year old has been in rare form these days, too. Hopefully, it's just a stage. *crossing fingers*

Irene said...

My daughter just turned 6, and I would have made a big deal about it. I may be wrong, but I feel she is old enough to know better.

I voted that she should apologize. First and foremost, definitely the most important thing.

If my daughter did that, I also would be taking away some privilege, whether it is not being able to watch ANY DVD or TV show for a while, or not being able to play with whatever her big/favorite Christmas gift. I would want to do something that would impact her enough that she would remember to NEVER act like that again without serious consequences.

BTW, I LOVE the time out picture. That is priceless!

Happy new year!!!!

Countess said...

I'm reeling in horror at the images I'm projecting into the future. MM is more than capable of that behavior. I remember being disappointed on numereous occasions by gifts, but I was never outspoken about it. MM definitely has the force of personality that I don't. She'll be 4 next week, so Christmas 2008 has potential for just such an incident. And I have no advice that hasn't already been given, and mine would all be guesswork anyway!

the coiuntess formerly known as janet

chickadee said...

when i was a kid (older than 5 so i should have known better), my younger sister and a younger cousin and i got forks and banged the hell out of the wooden arms on my grandfather's recliner. why? i have no idea. but we knew immediately it was wrong and my mother gave me a talking to and i was humiliated and remorseful. but worse, she made me give my grandparents a verbal apology which was torture for me and i cried and of course they forgave me and hugged me and that moment has stuck with me forever. how i could have done something so ugly and yet they forgave me so quickly.

i think i also had to work to pay for the repairs, but i don't remember that part clearly.

Laura said...

My oldest is 5, and so far, we've gotten lucky and haven't had this kind of episode ... YET. My SIL told me that she gave her 4 and 7 yo boys the "smile and thank the giver profusely, no matter what" talk before going to the Christmas party this year. I thought that was a good idea.

Good luck handling this situation ...

How did the great grandma handle it?

EdibleEducation said...

First of all - I think everyone has had some similar thing happen with their kids before. Doesn't mean I'd just "forget it" - but pretty much anyone that has kids, understands how these things happen.

Before we went to our family Christmas (and I do this before birthdays etc too) I SPECIFICALLY talked to the kids about what kind of reactions were ok and not ok. We discussed what would happen if they already had the gift they were given or didn't like it.

They are instructed to think of SOMETHING they like about it and they feel they can say it while still being truthful (ie. "I like how the little bells jingle on the socks").

We talk too about how not everyone in the family might give them a gift and that it is rude to ask if someone brought them something. we also talk about how people giving us stuff, don't HAVE to do it, and that they spend time and money trying to find the right thing.

I think having this information fresh in their minds (driving in the car to the event) - prepared them. Plus it gave them time to absorb the fact that maybe they will get something they won't like.

If I was in the situation you described (yeah always easier figuring something out from the side lines). I'd have had an apology right then and there. I'm not sure what I would have done with the DVD - probably we would have donated it and not let her have it.