Party Etiquette: Would You Specify Which Presents Your Child Would Like?

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In February, Myleene Klass' very public disdain of an email from a parent at her daughter's school became an internet sensation. The email in question suggested a £10 donation for "class birthday gifts" of a Kindle and a desk - a request which Myleene described as "#bonkers".

The general consensus seemed to be that the suggestion was 'cheeky'- a view that could be due, in part, to the expensive nature of the requested presents. However, with parents regularly turning to forums for gift advice, doesn't it make a little bit of sense to point your guests in the direction of something you know your child would like?

We consider the etiquette of suggesting gifts for your child, and how you can navigate this tricky situation.

Pros of suggesting presents

There are arguably some pros in favour of suggesting gifts for parents to bring to your child's party. They are:

- Gives parents a helping hand - we've all been there - your child has been invited to a classmate's party who you don't know that well, and you can't for the life of you think what to get them. Pointing parents in the right direction can make the gift buying process a whole lot easier, making their life a little less stressful.

- "Class presents" mean that parents don't have to worry about spending too much/not enough - knowing how much to spend on a party gift can cause parents a lot of concern. After all, you don't want your gift to look stingy or over-generous in comparison to everyone else's. If everyone's giving the same amount (around £5 is probably a good benchmark) then this worry is removed.

- Suggesting a few reasonably priced gifts also reduces price worry - suggesting a range of inexpensive gifts communicates to parents that you aren't expecting them to spend a lot. Again, this removes the pre-party 'will I look stingy?' stress.

Cons/risks of suggesting presents

As in the case of Myleene, there is the dreaded risk that parents will think you're being cheeky by suggesting presents. Cons/risks include:

- Offending parents - some parents may not like being asked for a specific gift, as they may perceive it as too demanding.

- Asking for too much - if a requested gift or contribution is perceived as 'too expensive' it's unlikely to go down well and will make parents who can't afford it feel uncomfortable.

- Makes the gift less "special" - some parents will argue that specifying gifts isn't what present giving is all about. If no one had to think about what to buy, doesn't it make the gift and the moment of unwrapping less special?

Tips if you decide to suggest presents

If you decide to suggest gifts, there are a number of steps you can take to maximise the benefits and minimise the risks:

- Specifying vs. suggesting - it's all about the wording. There's an important difference between suggesting and specifying. Specifying that "(child's name) would like XXX) sounds demanding and is more likely to cause offence. Suggesting that (if you're stuck for present ideas (child's name) loves XXX, XXX and XXX) sounds more helpful and much less demanding.

- Don't be too specific - again, asking for a specific gift, such as a particular DVD or game, sounds demanding. Instead suggest themes such as "if you're stuck for present ideas (child's name) loves animals".

- Suggest a price limit - suggesting a reasonable price limit can be helpful rather than rude, as it lets parent know what you're expecting, preventing them from worrying about over or under-spending.

Specifying which presents your child would like is a tricky issue, with both pros and cons. However, if you do decide to suggest gifts, approaching the issue carefully should help to reduce the risk of offence.

What do you think? Would you suggest gifts for parents to buy your child?

Image by stevendepolo

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