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So what if I buy my kid a present on his brother's birthday?

Jill is a sometime runner and expert wine taster from sunny San Antonio. She has a degree in social psychology, one husband and three children. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Babble and she's regular...

My kids get presents on their siblings' birthdays, but that doesn't make them brats

My two sons are close in age. Really close in age. Our family is built through adoption, and my boys are four months apart. Most people assume they’re twins. They have similar physical appearances, and they’re in the same grade. It’s a natural assumption to make. They’re not biologically related, but they’re definitely real brothers. We have the epic knock-down-drag-outs over toys and who’s touching who to prove it.

We’ve thought about having a combined birthday celebration, but it seemed weird to have one kid celebrate his birthday two months late and the other kid celebrate two months early. One kid would be all “woo-hoo, I’m 6” when he was really still 5 for several more weeks. That would get confusing. Besides, your birthday is your day, right? If Mother Nature dictates you share it with someone else in your family, then so be it, but it seemed wrong to force it.

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So birthday celebrations at our house can get a little dicey. The child whose birthday it isn't always cries. Every single time. My youngest (by four months) son had a birthday last month. My oldest (by four months) cried because it wasn’t his birthday. He cried because the icing on the cake was strawberry and not chocolate. He cried because he didn’t want his brother to be 6. Oh, the drama.

We keep the peace by giving the non-birthday child a present too.

“Oh, you’re spoiling your kids.” 

“You shouldn’t teach them to expect gifts when it’s not their birthday.” 

“Well how long are you going to continue that? Till they’re 30?” 

Yes, I’ve heard all those things, and you know what? I really give zero shits about the criticism. One expert says giving a child a gift on a sibling’s birthday may actually be harmful because it’s not teaching the child how to develop resilience against life’s challenges. I give zero shits about that too.

We’re not lavish, over-the-top gift givers in the first place. We usually get each child one major gift, such as a bike or an electronic device, for their birthday. They’ll usually get another couple of small “extras,” like an action figure or maybe some clothes. Yeah, they’re really crazy about the clothes. Not. They usually get nice presents or money from their grandparents and the usual haul of stuff that require batteries, make noise and drive me crazy at their (relatively) modest birthday parties.

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The non-birthday kid might get a duplicate or complementary action figure. If I get the birthday kid a Darth Vader action figure (my husband hates it when I say “Darth Vader doll,” but you get what I mean), then the other kid might get a Luke Skywalker doll. Action figure. Whatever. Sometimes I get them a game or something they’d enjoy together and let the kid whose birthday it isn’t open it. The birthday boy clearly enjoys the fanfare and gets the better birthday booty.

This works for us.

My children have never asked me what they’re getting on someone else’s birthday. They’ve never asked me where “their” present is. Maybe that will change as they get older, since we’ve established the pattern, but for now, we’re just trying to keep the emotional climate balanced between our two very-close-in-age kids. When one kid is the center of attention, showing the other kid “hey, your dad and I thought you might like to have this whatchamabob that matches your brother’s so you can play together” smooths things over. It’s a little thing. It keeps the peace, and peace is something that's in short supply when two 6-year-olds live at your house.

If you want to call my kids spoiled, there’s probably a speck of truth to that, but an extra play pretty that sets me back all of 10 bucks once a year probably isn’t harming them or interfering with their potential to be resilient, well-adjusted adults.

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If this doesn’t meet your definition of parenting done right, I totally understand. Don’t try this at home. We’re OK with it over here. It works for us.

It’s really pretty simple.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below:

My kids get presents on their siblings' birthdays, but that doesn't make them brats
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