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Jennifer, School Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 397
Experience:  Collaborative parent consultation on everything from modifying behavior to child development.
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My 12-year-old just received an iPod touch from his girlfriend

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My 12-year-old just received an iPod touch from his girlfriend of two months. My gut reaction is that he should graciously refuse such an extravagant present. I don't think it's an appropriate present, but how to explain that to the mother who must have put out the money?
Hello and thanks for using!

This is an awkward situation to say the least...

You have one of two options here:

a) Express your opinion of how extravagant this gift is (particularly given your son's age and their brief relationship) to your son without demanding that he do anything about it. He may not agree, but he'll hear your values and know that you sure won't be buying his girlfriend comparable gifts anytime soon.

b) You could call her mother and explain your concerns. However, you don't know all of the details regarding the purchase, so this route could backfire. Perhaps his girlfriend used money she had saved to make the purchase with her parents' permission. Or perhaps they were able to purchase the item at an extreme discount. Regardless of whether either of those situations are true, the decision to purchase the item was a decision for her parents to make. It may be offensive to them to have someone else question that decision.

I'm obviously leaning toward option a) on this one... I agree that it was an inappropriate gift. I also think the lesson to be learned is the one your son can learn from you. Talk about meaningful gifts that don't cost a lot of money and how successful relationships aren't "bought" through fancy gifts. I wish you the best of luck!
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Hi, thanks so much for this considered answer. I'm sorry I haven't been able to get online until now.

I wonder if you could share with me your reasons for considering this an inappropriate gift? Is it the dollar value? If so, what's the cut-off? If it's some socially accepted norm, it's such a gray area. This girl comes from an extremely wealthy family; as my husband points out, giving that is like some families giving a card. My concern is that it makes the playing field unlevel in their "relationship" (they're only 12!!!).

We could afford to give him an iPod touch, but there were other things higher on his list at Christmas time, and we don't believe in flooding him with everything he desires. Should we then let someone ELSE do that? Is he just lucky?

I have a very rational son, so his fair question is, what makes it inappropriate? He also points out that the gift was given to him, not me, and whatever my opinion of it is, it's not really my right to give it back.

As far as offending the girl's parents, I wouldn't mind paying that price if I was completely convinced I was right to return it. But I'm wondering if I'm holding onto some idea of appropriateness that has no bearing in reality. Is it a "when in Rome..." situation?

I may just write an email expressing my discomfort (and gratitude). Of course, from my perspective, they're the ones that created this uncomfortable situation. And my son has certainly learned a lot from our discussion.

In the meantime, I haven't let him open it, and he's going out of his mind!
I wish I could give you a dollar value. Your husband has a very good point -- To this family, the gift is probably no a big deal. To an average, middle class family, however, I'd say it pushes the limits for what would be considered an appropriate gift particularly given the fact that they're only 12 years old.

Your son sounds very insightful. Tell him it may not be an inappropriate gift for some, but you worry that it is early in their relationship for either of them to be giving large gifts and that typically only adults (who earn the money to purchase them) engage in exchanging gifts of great expense.

He's right that this gift is his and the decision to give it to him was rightfully made by his girlfriend and her parents. Unless it was truly offensive in some way, I would recommend letting this one go. Your son knows how you feel about it, which is the important thing. As far as expressing gratitude, it would be appropriate for your son to send a thank you card to his girlfriend / family (don't include any other feelings about it).

They've certainly created the uncomfortable situation, but probably don't realize it. If you do decide to say something to avoid having this happen again, I wouldn't recommend doing it in an e-mail. E-mails have a tendency to be perceived differently than intended and you don't want them to misunderstand what you're trying to say. Will there be any opportunity for you to talk to them in person? That may be a more appropriate time to casually mention that your son was very appreciative of the gift, but you really had trouble deciding whether to let him keep it. Of course, they will ask, "Why?" Be honest, but keep your explanation tied to your family values without judging their gift-giving decision. Something like, "Well, he's only 12 and I was worried that maybe we shouldn't accept a gift like that so early on..." Play it by ear from there. If they seem understanding of your perspective, feel free to say with a smile, "I hope (his girlfriend) doesn't feel obligated to continue to buy gifts like that." (read: I hope YOU don't buy gifts like that) and leave it at that. If your concerns are dismissed or are brushed off with laughter, I'd just let it go. They won't understand and trying to make them do so may just cause more tension. They can teach their daughter whatever they want about this (however much others might disagree). You teach your son what you want him to learn.
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