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Am I being a bad parent... by limiting birthday presents for my toddler?

One reader is wondering if she can tell her relatives what (and what not) to buy the birthday girl.

BIRTHDAYS AND CHRISTMASES mean gifts, wrapping paper and lots of celebration, but for a young child all that attention can be a little overwhelming.

Not to mention the fact that a birthday party can mean piles of over-generous presents to add to an already growing collection of “stuff”. This week, one parent is wondering if it’s kosher to tell her sister to limit her gift-buying plans ahead of her toddler’s upcoming birthday.

Each week in our series, Am I Being A Bad Parent?, we hear from a reader who can’t figure out if they’re on the right track with a parenting decision, or if they’ve gotten something 100% wrong. To get a balanced view of the situation, we put the dilemma to a group of Irish parents, keeping things anonymous to encourage honest answers.

This week’s dilemma

My daughter’s birthday is coming up soon, she’ll be three. My sister has always been really good to her. This year she’s mentioned to me that she wants to buy my daughter a gift that I just think is too extravagant. It’s a very expensive (and very large) playset. I know it’d be met with massive excitement from the birthday girl – and I understand my sister is just trying to show her love – but in the end it’s just going to be another addition to the endless “stuff” my daughter already has all over the house. Am I being unreasonable to tell my sister not to buy it?

Our anonymous readers’ responses

No, you’re not being unreasonable. Explain to her that it’s such a lovely thought but that you don’t have the room for it. Is there any way that it’s a play set that could be broken up and spread across her birthday and Christmas? So this part right now and then at Christmas, it will make sense to have this ‘add-on’, which has the added bonus of extending the joy for your daughter.

You’re being a bit unreasonable. There’s a way to approach it that’s a compromise rather than a ‘no’ from you. I think just being really appreciative of the gesture but saying, ‘Look, you would be really helping me out if we could modify the plan a bit’, might be the way.

You’re definitely not being unreasonable. For kids that age I think any substantial present should be run past the parents first anyway. Presents for kids are a weird one in that I think sometimes they are bought more for the pleasure they bring the giver than anything else. But it’s the parents who have to live with the toy that yells the alphabet once every 15 seconds for the rest of their waking lives. 

You’re not being unreasonable, but use this as the start of a new conversation. Talk to the sister about what gifts from family mean to kids overall. At three her niece will not remember this generous toy which will end up in the bin in the very near future. I have a very thoughtful and generous sister who every year for her godson’s birthday present has brought him to a show/concert/event of his choice. She’s definitely his favourite aunt.

So what’s the final tally? Is our reader being unreasonable?

No – 3

Yes – 1

Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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