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Thoughts on gift giving and saying no

Categories: feminism, raising baby


As a vocal feminist mom, I often get questions about what books or toys to buy for children, especially girls. Many moms are leery of all the stuff that’s available and want help navigating the pitfalls. Last year I put together a list of online gifts & non-gifts for budding feminists. But we all know that the smallest of our children are expecting Santa, Hanukkah Harry or Solstice Sabrina (yeah, I just made her up) to bring some actual toys.

While moms are hailing the possibility that this is our last holiday season with Bratz dollz, it doesn’t mean that we are free from dolls that wear stripper wear. Obviously some parents are buying these dolls for their daughters. Why don’t I like them? Well, their attire is my #1 reason. There’s a vicious cycle that I want to see us break that might mean a return to allowing our girls to reclaim their childhood. Clothing in the stores for young girls (pre-school to tween) are sometimes inappropriate. I don’t want my 5-year-old wearing the same clothes my 16-year-old niece wears. That just pushes the 16-year-old to think, “I don’t want to wear baby clothes” and she shops in the college girl section…On and on. If you want to buy a doll, a traditional Barbie is fine. Yes, this feminist says buy the Barbie, as long as she’s dressed appropriately.

While Barbie is still haunted by her tiny waistline, feet that don’t allow her to stand on her own and her anti-math slogan from years ago she looks totally innocent next to Bratz and Barbie Bratz dolls. While I don’t advocate for $100 dolls, American Dolls at least are still keeping in tune with CHILDhood.

I see far too many moms and dads strolling the toy aisles and overhearing their kids ask for this and that. The parents roll their eyes and you can see that they don’t want to buy it for them, but in the basket it goes! Parents it’s ok to just say no! Whether you can’t afford that toy, their room is already overstuffed with toys as my daughter’s is, or you object to a doll that’s wearing what we wore in high school…Just say no.

Use the economy to draw a line in the sand. Whether it is no Bratz doll or setting a budget for each kid, let’s return to some common sense and who is the parent. I know, I know, it’s hard to say no when you’re in the store and you really need to get through the check out lane. There’s no time for a meltdown. My mom had a great way to handle this during some part of the year. She firmly said that no one could buy anything for themselves after Halloween because Santa was coming. No toys, no games and certainly not a new gaming system.

Santa did deliver, not always every one of my wishes, but enough. And he never left me a toy that made me feel like I had to dress a certain way or wish I was 10 years old.

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8 comments so far...

  • My daughter’s relatives all know that any Bratz dolls will go straight to charity to corrupt someone else’s little girl. LOL.

    Even though she’s only two, lately I’ve been singing to my daughter: “You can’t always get what you want…”

    Robyn  |  December 8th, 2008 at 11:49 am

  • Hmm, I am pretty good at saying no. It’s pretty much all I heard as a kid, and I’m doing OK. The aunties, that’s a different story, but my kids sure don’t tell me what to buy, nor will they. If I agree with their request, they will get it; otherwise I can always say “that’s for bigger girls” or whatever. (The Santa myth should prove helpful in this regard for the upcoming years.) I managed to get through my whole life without owning a single Barbie or similar doll; it can be done.

    I get most of the dolls I buy at, which offers a wide variety of multicultural toys and gifts for all ages. I choose dolls that have infinite possibilities. My daughters can decide what their dolls should wear and do.

    SKL  |  December 8th, 2008 at 4:45 pm

  • Of course I agree with you! (Not that anyone would be surprised!).

    To date we haven’t had any meltdowns of consequence in toy stores for the following reasons:

    1. We do not buy our kids everything they want/point to/etc. although they have plenty of toys/etc. that they love/asked for.

    2. We tell the kids that anything they see that they want can go on either their Hannukah list or birthday list. This does not guarantee they will get it - but it takes the pressure off if they know they MIGHT receive the gift.

    3. With our oldest (5 1/2) if there is something he really wants, we look at the price and he saves for it. We give 5 quarters per week as allowance. We calculate the number of quarters it will take to purchase said item. He then decides if it is worth it to save for it or not. Usually it will take about 2-3 months to save quarters/etc. If he still wants it, he brings his OWN money to the store to buy it. A great lesson in saving and in delayed gratification.

    Oh - and on the whole doll thing/clothing thing - AMEN SISTER!

    Dani Lazar  |  December 8th, 2008 at 5:08 pm

  • Saying no is tough at first, but it gets easier. I see first hand the results of kids who can’t take no for an answer. I’m an elementary teacher, and the spoiled kiddos are the toughest to teach because they think they’re the center of the universe.

    Daisy  |  December 8th, 2008 at 9:08 pm

  • I’m the owner of a tween boutique (we carry boy’s and girl’s clothes in sizes 7-14), and I’ve always wondered where the sleazy kids’ clothes start: is it customer demand or designer craziness? And if it is customer demand, is it from the kids or from their parents? But I had never even considered how influential the Bratz dolls could be. I think you’re right on the money with your analysis.

    Kristen  |  December 9th, 2008 at 11:17 am

  • I spent decades teaching my kids that Christmas is about “giving” not “getting.” We concentrated on what we can afford to do for others and yeah, my kids got gifts too but that was not the focus of the holiday season. Seems to have worked for us…

    MB  |  December 9th, 2008 at 7:13 pm

  • I have only boys, so I can’t comment on the the sleazy doll thing. Most of the girls we know like the same things my boys do…legos, video games, etc.
    I’ve found a very good way to say “no.” I say something like “that is a very cool toy, maybe next time we come to Target you can remember to bring your money with you to buy it.” They get a decent allowance and can determine whether they really want to spend it on that toy or save up for something bigger.
    Also, my kids learned at an early age that meltdowns just don’t work with me…I don’t care who is staring at my whining child (or me). I’m not going to spend money on needless toys to keep him from whining.

    Karla E.  |  December 29th, 2008 at 4:57 pm

  • Boys must also be monitered for appropriate toys. Many video games have cursing and very bloody content. Could you imagine buying Grand Theft Auto complete with “cop killers” and prostitutes for your child just because its a popular game. No way. Believe it or not, my kids have never made a Christmas list. Since they’ve been babies, Santa is about surprises. We’ve had a few misses over the years, but Santa usually nails their likes just fine. Odd as it may sound, I’ve also always been anti Beanie Baby. Why teach our children quanity not quality? Something to think about.

    Lissa  |  January 3rd, 2009 at 5:33 pm

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