Balancing giving and getting
Ep. 37 – Saanvi, Age 12: What’s the right gift for a friend?
Think About It Questions
- What is the best gift you ever received from a friend? What makes you think it’s the best?
- Why do you think Saanvi’s parents don’t want her to give her friend and expensive gift? What are some reasons why giving a friend an expensive gift might not be a good idea?
- What is something you gave to a friend that didn’t cost any money, but the friend really liked it?
- Dr. Friendtastic listed a bunch of ideas of possible gifts for a friend that cost little or no money: teaching the friend something, helping a friend with chores, makin a drawing or a craft, yummy food, a photo collage, a slide show, or a video about the two of you, writing a letter or a card telling the friend how much they mean to you. Which of those would you most like to receive? Which of these–or another idea–would you most like to give to a friend?
Welcome! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.
Today’s question is from Saanvi, who is 12 years old.
Hello, Dr. Friendtastic. I and my best friend have maintained a friendship from kind of babies’ time, and I want.., I’ve never given her a gift, but she has given me a lot of gifts, even the expensive ones. And I don't I don't want to give expensive things to her, like my parents don't accept it, but I want to give her a gift. But I can't find any, so would you help me with it? Would you help me find a gift for her?
Hi, Saanvi, thanks for sending in your question. How wonderful that you have a friend you’ve known since you were babies!
I can understand why you’d want to give your friend a gift, especially after she’s given you many gifts. There’s an idea called the reciprocity norm which means that when someone does something kind for us, we tend to think we ought to do something kind for them, too.
On the other hand, I think your parents are wise to forbid you to give your friend an expensive gift. There are a lot of ways that could go wrong. What if you get her something expensive and she loses it or breaks it or doesn’t like it? You could end up feeling resentful.
Also, if you give her something expensive, she might think she has to give you something even more expensive, and then you might think you have to give her something even more expensive, and the whole gift-giving thing could become very stressful for both of you!
The way out of this tangle is to understand that real friendships don’t involve keeping score. In other words, you don’t want to get stuck keeping track of and comparing who gave what to whom and who has done more. Maybe her family situation means it’s easier for her to give an expensive gift than it would be for you. If she choses to do a certain thing for you, such as giving you and expensive gift, that doesn’t mean you have to do the exact same thing for her.
In friendship, a gift is not an obligation. In other words, it’s not something we have to do, whether we want to or not. A gift between friends is an expression of caring. I’m sure your friend gave you those gifts because she likes you, and she wanted to do something for you that would make you smile. She wanted you to feel delighted and appreciated, not like you owe her something. So when she gives you something, say thank you and tell her how much you like it and that you appreciate her.
Instead of calculating the price of her gifts and worrying about whether you can match it, why not think about what you could do to express your caring for her? This doesn’t have to cost money!
You could show her that she matters to you by spending time with her and inviting her to do fun things with you. Maybe you could help her learn something or do an act of kindness for her by helping her with some task she has to do like cleaning up her room or watching a younger sibling.
If you want to give her something, you could make a drawing or a craft or some yummy food for her. Maybe you could create a photo collage, a slide show, or a video about the two of you and your friendship. You could also write her a letter or a card describing how important she is to you and all the things you like best about her. That would be a very precious gift.
This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.
And be sure to check out my funny and practical books for kids about friendship: Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends, and my new book, Growing Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Dealing with Emotions About Friends and Other Kids. They’re available through your library or wherever you buy books.
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