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20-40-60 Etiquette: Duplicate gift presents teaching opportunity

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QUESTION: Last year during Christmas gift opening, my youngest daughter said “I already have one of these,” offending her grandparents who were from out-of-town and had taken their time and money to purchase what they thought she might like. It is definitely hard to control other people and their gift-giving, but maybe the grandparents should have checked with me before they bought the gift. What do you think?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: This is tricky, but I think this is a wonderful teaching moment for your daughter. Help her understand that her grandparents took the time and money to purchase what she thought she would like. Since she already had one, they weren’t wrong. Maybe donate it to a little girl who might not have gotten a gift. Good luck!

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Use this opportunity to teach your children to be gracious for gifts and to the people who give them. You can’t control the people around you, but you can teach your children to say thank you and feel gratitude that they have people in their lives who care enough about them to give gifts. No one is able to give the best gifts all the time, and it’s nice to ask the recipient what they might like. But people don’t have to. Sometimes the nicest gifts come are the unexpected. You can apologize to her grandparents and smooth things over but try to teach your daughter that a “thank you” is all that’s needed. She can also tell them how she’ll enjoy the gift, even if she’s already enjoying one just like it. She can later quietly give the duplicate one away and no one will be the wiser.

HELEN’S ANSWER: Before gifts are opened at Christmas and birthdays, take the child aside and explain to her that she might receive duplicate gifts at the party or receive something she already has. Remind her that even if that happens, she should be gracious and thankful for the gift. That is also something you can discuss at other times also.

Remind her that sometimes, people buy gifts on sale, don’t think to ask what a child already has or wants, or cannot find the gift she really wanted. Life happens, and, we cannot always control others. So, hopefully, everyone receives something they really love during the holidays. Merry Christmas!

GUEST’S ANSWER: Christina Nihira, community volunteer: The situation you describe is common. The reality is that you cannot control what children say or how they respond. They live for the moment and are often unaware of how their actions impact others.

The burden, therefore, falls to the adults. In a perfect world, the grandparents would have spoken to you in advance about their gift ideas. A proactive approach is to send a list to them a few months ahead of the holidays which will hopefully alleviate any duplication.

It’s important to be mindful of these circumstances. As adults, we, too, experience disappointment and unmet expectations. Demonstrating grace and humility is a terrific lesson for children.

Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is 40-plus, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email

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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›