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Miss Manners: How can I tell my family not to gift toy guns to my young son?

Reader and husband want to politely tell family to not gift their young son toy guns

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Dear Miss Manners: My husband is former military, and the men in his family are avid hunters. I am comfortable with our son’s eventual exposure to real guns, including his being trained in safe gun handling when he is older: It is part of my husband’s family’s culture.

My husband and I agree, however, that toy guns are inappropriate for young children. We know that kids will play pretend however they want to, and our son will be exposed to toy guns outside of our house, but we’d really like to discourage family from giving him these toys — if not forever, then at least until he is much older.

Is there a polite way to inform family members that we do not want our 3-year-old son to receive toy guns as gifts? If not, what should our son's thank-you note say — “Thank you for the plastic Uzi machine gun that I will never see again?”

Or does he thank his relatives for the Billy the Kid replica revolver, then inform them that Mama and Daddy have put it away until he is old enough to play with it, while I hope they get the hint? I don’t want to embarrass or alienate my in-laws either way.

Family can be informed of your ground rules, but Miss Manners agrees that it is best to have a backup plan. If you do indeed intercept a toy gun given to your son, two things must happen: Someone needs to thank the givers — even though they stepped out of bounds and someone needs to tell them that the present did not reach its intended target.

That should be done not by Little Liam, but by you, who can write that you know how much he is going to look forward to playing with it when he is older. This will make your point — forcefully, as the giver will realize that Liam thinks his birthday was ignored. Please remember that, and be gentle with the givers when they remonstrate. It is good practice for any parent.

Dear Miss Manners: At gift-giving occasions, I have often been around people who inform others that the gift they purchased was expensive. For example, as a birthday gift, an adult relative received a hardcover copy of a new book. I heard the giver asking them to please not pass it on to anyone else after reading, because “it was expensive.”

And at a Christmas gathering, my husband and I received a lovely bedding set. The giver has asked, more than once, if we are using the set, because apparently “it was very expensive.” We do like and use it, although we did not have a specific wish for new bedding — nor anything else expensive. It was completely this person’s idea.

We also felt awkward because our gift to them seemed insufficient after they informed us of their expense.

Beyond a “thank you,” what is the appropriate response to being informed that a gift was expensive?

Assure the givers, with a beaming face, that such gifts are precious to you not because of the cost, but because it came from them. It will drive them crazy.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin

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