WHY YOU SHOULD SAY NO TO GIFT REGISTRIES FOR KIDS’ PARTIES?
BY Nicole Carrington-Sima Do you get annoyed by super-expensive wedding gift registries? Especially when you’ve left it to the last minute, and all that’s left is a $500 cutlery set? Brace yourself, poor beleaguered parents – gift registries for Kids parties are an increasingly popular new trend both in Australia and overseas. Many upmarket small children’s toy and clothing stores and gift shops now offer the wish list service, as do big retailers like Myer, Amazon and Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us. Other top-end kids’ stores have started offering expensive “bespoke baby hampers” with just the right styling lest you – gasp – commit the cardinal sin of not purchasing the perfect baby gift. So, have kids’ and babies’ birthday parties gone too far? Or does a gift registry actually help frazzled, time-poor parents? How would you feel if you received a kids’ birthday party invitation, with a gift registry which included over-the-top, expensive gifts? Of course, this is the norm in la-la land, whereby Hollywood celebrities wouldn’t think twice about buying kids exorbitant and outrageous gifts, such as diamond-encrusted dummies (pictured) and/or a mini Ferrari worth US$25,000. I was recently shocked, when shopping for birthday gifts for my youngest toddler who’s turning two, at some of the super pricey items stocked at a local, small retailer who specialises in cool and quirky kids’ gifts. The store also proudly displayed a sign saying it offered kids’ gift registries. And then when my three-year-old toddler who had accompanied me started eyeing off a gorgeous, expensive-looking tulle tutu dress in the store, sans price tag, I knew it was time to make a hasty retreat. “How much is this pretty dress?” I asked the sales assistant, as my three-year-old made a series of small, delighted squeals and on-the-spot twirls while admiring the dress. “It’s $350,” said the snooty sales assistant, “And handmade,” she quickly added, upon seeing the frown on my face before I speedily escorted my toddler out the door. Now, I’m not immune to occasionally spending a fortune on my small people, but that’s a bit steep for a kids’ dress she’ll quickly outgrow, if you ask me. And I don’t care if it was handmade by silk worms! I promptly took my little one to Big W and got her a $30 tutu dress she was equally enamoured with. It’s a sentiment shared by Dr Karen Phillip (pictured), who’s one of Australia’s leading relationship and parenting experts. The counselling psychotherapist and clinical hypnotherapist, international author and keynote speaker, who’s based on the Central Coast of New South Wales, advises parents against setting up expensive kids’ birthday gift registries and buying super-costly children’s gifts, in general. “Instead of buying a $350 dress for a child, or putting it on a kids’ gift registry, parents should think: ‘For $350, I can improve my child’s mind,’” Dr Phillip says. “I don’t like kids’ gift registries personally due to the ramifications of the pressure parents put on themselves and their kids. “The children’s expectations of themselves become escalated and then they crash and burn in their adolescence. “I’m referring to their expectations to aspire to, not just gift giving, but expectations of behaviour and achievement – to have to be the best achiever, attain perfection and be good-looking.” And gift registries also greatly negatively impact parents,” Dr Phillip says. “I believe gift registries put unfair expectations on parents and often people can’t afford it – it just takes away from parents. “People think: ‘I’m letting my child down’. It’s awful! “And everything is measured against who bought what from the gift registry; it cheapens the process of gift giving. “A gift registry for a wedding is practical, but a kids’ birthday gift registry for anyone under 16 is rubbish! Kids’ parties can turn into an absolute shemozzle because of the expectations and expense. “Parents can’t afford it [kids’ gift registries] and some get angry and then the children get offended by the parents’ talking, because the walls have ears, and then the kids fight at school and they get ostracised and bullied. “It’s also really sad for the kids having the parties when no one shows.” Dr Phillip says it’s crucial parents instill a sense of gratitude in their children. In addition, open discussion between parents pre-parties was one way to take the stress and expense out of gift giving. “It’s a good idea for parents to advise other parents of what their child is into or likes as this aids gift purchase,” she says. “So, advising what interests the child is wise without selecting gifts for purchase [via a registry], which may be construed as arrogant.” Mum of two, Erina Natho, 35, from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, who has four-month-old and two-year-old daughters, is not a fan of expensive kids’ birthday gift registries either. “I would never do it, personally,” Mrs Natho says. “I think anything creating a big expectation in our kids is not good. “They should get excited by the small things, like a book or a toy, not a big, expensive gift registry. “I don’t want my kids to miss out on anything either, but then I think about my own childhood, growing up in the 80s, in a single-parent household. I grew up knowing where everything came from, as everything was laybyed. “These days, kids expect too much. I used to make my own fun! What’s wrong with paint and a bit of imagination?” While the busy mum concedes kids’ birthday gift registries would prevent parents from doubling up on gifts, Mrs Natho agrees with Dr Phillip that it’s preferable for parents to talk to each other about what kids actually need before buying gifts. “If I was faced with an expensive kids’ birthday gift registry, I’d probably go: ‘Wow, you know what? I’m going to go get what I want’,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s about the joy of giving and the sentiment involved.”