Dealing with Unwanted Gifts in a Montessori Home
Immediately after Christmas I noticed a common trend in lots of the Montessori parenting groups that I frequent on Facebook. Post after post from parents frustrated by an influx of flashing plastic toys, given by well intentioned relatives to children who will not be allowed to play with them.
When your child gets a non-Montessori gift
This is a particularly sensitive subject. As parents we can feel disrespected, like our parenting choices are being dismissed or trivialised. Grandparents, and it seems like they are the main offenders here, can feel isolated as if their ability to express their love freely is being denied.
If it’s your in-laws who are doing the gifting then I suggest you ask your partner to broach the topic as they may be able to so the most sensitive way.
Remember that gifts are one of the love languages and most gifts are given from a place of love. Asking a certain type of person not give gifts of to give less extravagant gifts can be genuinely hurtful.
What to do with Non-Montessori Gifts
So what do you if a relative reuses to accept your Montessori approach and insists in showering your child with gifts that you deem inappropriate?
Model Grace and Courtesy
This is a great opportunity to show your child how to practice the Montessori concept of Grace and Courtesy. Except in already fraught relationships (and that’s a separate issue so be sure you’re not projecting other problems on to a simple present), gifts are given out of a genuine desire to make your child happy. Appreciate the love that surrounds your child and thank the giver.
If you do write thank you cards you might offer a polite but generic thanks for anything you won’t use and offer very specific thanks for any ‘appropriate’ gifts. “Thank you so much for the art supplies you gave Alfie, he’s been using them every day and our kitchen is covered in his creations! We really appreciate how much thought you put into choosing something that fits our Montessori home.” EVENTUALLY the message will sink in!
Keep them for a sick day
Last week I had two horribly sick children who needed constant care. As Alfie started to recover I found a light up merry go round…monstrosity that we’d been given about a year before.
Having rarely used a toy like that before the novelty of the flashing, spinning characters were surprising and exciting for him. It bought me the much needed time to help one sick baby while occupying Alfie when he was too exhausted and emotional to do anything else. The toy has since been put away again and no body has missed it.
Montessori Gift Suggestions for Relatives
Request no gifts
Montessori materials can be expensive, hard to find and a bit strange to the uninitiated! (Of course they could also be something simple like paint which is cheap, easy and mainstream!)
Rather than telling people how to spend their money by sending gift guides or Amazon wish lists you might request something other than material goods. Maybe you could ask the giver to give an hour of their time instead? Children really value quality time, perhaps they have a favourite park to walk in, a skill they could pass on, they could show your child around their corner of the city or do nothing more complicated than buy them a milkshake. Time is a very precious gift.
I’m uncomfortable with gift lists, they’re fine for people who genuinely want to learn but those aren’t really the kind of people we’re talking about here! For that reason I suggest asking for ‘mainstream’ items. I also suggest making these gifts consumable, at least that way if they’re still wildly inappropriate they’ll be used up soon!
You might consider;
- Art supplies
- Memberships to nature trusts, museums, sports clubs etc
- Recipe kits for family/local dishes
- Clothes for upcoming holidays or events
- Photo albums
- Financial contribution towards larger item
And as a last straw…
This situation needs to be very gently handled, your child isn’t entitled to a gift, nor are we entitled to dictate which gifts are given beyond offering gentle guidelines. In nearly every situation I think it’s best to gratefully receive an item, let it be used briefly and then find it a home where it might be cherished. However as a very last resort you might wish to have a chat with relatives. You could try the following.
“We really appreciate the time and money you spent on this gift, it shows how much you love our child and that means the world to us! In our house however we don’t use ‘whatever it is‘ because ‘specific reason‘. I know you’ll understand when I suggest keeping it at your house for visits/swapping it for ‘appropriate gift’/another alternative.”
And if they are persistent…
“I can hear how passionate you are about making sure Little One has the best, we’ve made this parenting choice because we want the same thing, we’ve researched it very carefully and are confident it will work.”
And when they really don’t get it…
“These are our choice and we won’t be discussing them further. Thanks for understanding. What about this crazy weather?!”