Help! My son keeps giving away his toys to the non-needy

I do want my children to be giving (and not just be willing to give away things they don’t want), but I was a little disturbed when my son tried to give to his buddy 10 of the Lego men we had just bought for him. (It wasn’t just to borrow, it was for keeps!)

His little friend spent the night a few weeks ago, and I heard negotiating going on in the basement. My son was more than willing to give his best little buddy one-fourth of the Lego men he had just gotten. (The set cost close to $50.)

I stepped in and suggested he give his friend a few Lego men but not 10. They settled on 3.

I was talking to my girlfriend the other day and she says her second-grade daughter routinely wraps up new toys that she has just gotten and gives them away as gifts to her friends at school.

The mom said even though it kills her, she lets her do it for two reasons. A. She wants her to be a giving person and B. She figures eventually she’ll figure out “Hey, I’m giving away all my good toys.” She admits the only problem with this theory is her daughter keeps receiving so many toys from her and other family members that she never quite feels the pain of her giveaways.

She also said they make a point at Christmas and birthdays to give away to charity the same number of old toys as they get new.

I’m all for giving away to charity, and we definitely model and talk about giving a lot. However, I have an issue with my child giving away to a non-needy child the toys I just bought for him.

Does your child give his current/new toys away to friends? Do you let him? Do you think it reinforces the concepts of giving? Do you mind if it’s something expensive you just bought for him?

39 comments Add your comment


March 25th, 2009
7:39 am

This happens to us occassionaly. It makes me wonder if our kids have sooooooooooooo much, that they don’t care about giving away toys since they know more will be coming.

We’ve (mostly) been on the receiving end of this, specially with my oldest. One time he came home with TWO of the big bakugans (not the $5 smaller ones, but the $20 big ones) that he had traded for one smaller one. I made him return one.


March 25th, 2009
8:07 am

I think they are expressing their “love” for a friend.


March 25th, 2009
8:23 am

My DD tried to give a friend one pair of perscription glasses….She has 2 pair and the friend claimed she could see better. The other parent and I had a chat with both children about why DD would be keeping her glasses!

I agree with Mom to A & M I think kids have so much and we live in such a disposable world they don’t ‘get it’.


March 25th, 2009
9:15 am

If you child is giving away that much, then they have too much.

My suggestion is to stop buying them so many plastic things made in China by people who earn in one year what it cost you to buy the plastic thing they make.

I am guilty too. My son receives a lot of plastic crap too. I requested that no one give him any gifts at his birthday this year. That he has plenty and that I will give him a nice gift that will be sufficient. My brother says that makes me a bad dad. I explained that he never even plays with toys. He’d rather read or ride his bike or learn science. But my Brother says that kids should get lots of toys because they enjoy opening them.

Agree to disagree I guess.


March 25th, 2009
9:31 am

Bakugan trading rings are rampant in our schools…


March 25th, 2009
9:37 am

absolutely, NOT! for 17yrs, i’ve had a firm rule: nothing comes into my house w/o my permission, and you surely don’t give away w/o my knowledge. i try to explain to the girls that children are not mature enough to freely “give away” items that their parents or someone else gave to them in the 1st place. the lesson is easier taught when they are young, if a friend (or most likelcy, a cousin) cries for something to be returned. the child’s feelings are hurt and then it becomes a great teaching opportunity.

my biggest problem, is my middle daughter overpacking her lunch bag! she always wants to take extra “goodies” to her closest friends. i usually allow her to do so, so long as it’s just another serving or two. another thing they do is take pieces of fruit or novelity snacks to their teachers.

i think my children have a firm understanding of giving away valuables: there is a time, place, and season for everything! maybe it’s because my daughters see the fruits of my labor throughout the year. while my 17yr old helps me when volunteering w/ Habitat for Humanity, my 8 and 6yr olds simply attend the final Homebuyer Dedications or come along for Hosea Feed the Homeless, and we all give to Clark Howard’s Christmas Kids.

bottom line: giving is wonderful, but if my child was giving away w/o realizing the value (monetary or sentimental), i would strongly consider reevaluating whether we were living in unecessary excess……


March 25th, 2009
9:43 am

I haven’t had the problem of giving away as much as trading with my son. He and his friends like to trade video games. It’s become a huge problem because when I went into his room I noticed about 13 games missing. Most of them were $20 or less, but there were a couple that cost me $40. We had a long discussion about the value of the games. Plus, I noticed that he didn’t have as many of his friends games as they had of his. Now, nothing leaves the house without permission. If it does, it definitely won’t be replaced unless you save your own money to replace it.


March 25th, 2009
9:51 am

RJ, your trading story reminds me of trading baseball cards with my older brother when I was a kid. I only valued Braves cards. I didn’t care about the cash value or know anything about other teams. So my older brother would scam me all day.

He would say, “I will give you this Claudell Washington card for that Pete Rose” and I would say, “Deal”. Then I’d jump around and stare at Claudell all day like I had won something.

I imagine he has a nice collection somewhere. Anyone need a Bruce Benedict card?


March 25th, 2009
9:52 am

One thing to consider, is to make sure that your child is not giving away things because they think that it will make the other kids like them. Some kids will do this because they may have a problem making friends or want to be accepted by other kids. Just a thought…….


March 25th, 2009
10:32 am

My daughter still trades cell phones with her friends, and they are seniors in high school. She’ll come home with a new phone almost every week…..all they have to do is swap the sim card…….too funny…..

SD – My nieces are spoiled rotten when it comes to birthdays. Their mother comes from a HUGE family, and she makes a HUGE deal on their birthdays. Hundreds of dollars are spent on these two kids and a ton of relatives come to the parties. It is very disgusting to see these two kids open 25+ presents.

Then we get to my daughter’s birthday, and my sister in law hands her a $20 bill???

V for Vendetta

March 25th, 2009
10:54 am

I’m a regular over on the Get Schooled blog, but I have rarely posted over here. That having been said, here are my thoughts on the matter:

People seem to be lamenting the fact that children freely give away their belongings, but no one seems to be addressing the fundamental reason that children feel this pressure to give in the first place. It has nothing to do with how much they have—though some children are spoiled beyond measure—but rather with the nature of the society in which they are raised. This is not a cultural phenomenon; it’s not limited to a particular segment of society. It has become the dominant morality in America, and it is partly to blame for our current economic malaise. It’s the morality of altruism.

Altruism is self-sacrifice at the expense of one for the benefit of another. This code of morality is touted by liberals and conservatives, as well as every faith-based doctrine on the planet. It holds that to be moral is to give. It is irrelevant if the person you are giving something of value to is immoral or unethical. It doesn’t matter if you can afford to give to a person, or if your quality of life will be diminished by your decision to give. If you consider how many times a day, a week, a year you are assaulted by the cry of the needy who claim some sort of false definition of “generosity,” then you will finally realize why our children see this type of morality as virtuous and ethical.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” – Karl Marx

“You are your brother’s keeper.” – The Bible

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live for anyone, nor do I want anyone to live for me. I live for myself, and I want my children to do the same. There is only one rational morality for life on Earth: Egoism. Egoism is basically defined as “rational selfishness.” In political practice, this is known as laissez faire capitalism. It’s what this country was founded on. All you need to do is look around to see how far away from it we’ve strayed.

Big Juicy

March 25th, 2009
11:37 am

I think it stems more from their lack of understanding sometimes the permanent nature of when you actually give something away. My kid’s “give” things to their siblings and neighborhood kids all the time but only until they desire to play with it again; then they want it back. I have to monitor my kids because they will sometimes try to purchase the affections of other kids in this way so I have to explain to them that they shouldn’t have to do that and that their friends should like them whether they give them a gift or not. They’ve learned the hard way that the snotty little manipulators will take your stuff and STILL not like you —


March 25th, 2009
11:52 am

Wow ‘V for Vendetta’ that’s exactly what we need in the good ole US of A; more selfishness! Your rationalization means that you don’t even deign to be polite to anyone, from the cashier at the grocery store to your own grandmother. You go off and do your thing, and the rest of us will try to compensate for your absenteeism in the functionality of society – oh nevermind, we won’t miss you!


March 25th, 2009
12:09 pm

““You are your brother’s keeper.” – The Bible” To Shaak73, I don’t want to get into a big discussion about the Bible, but just to be clear, the Bible does not say anywhere “You are your brother’s keeper”. It does say that we should “Love our neighbor as ourselves” but that doesn’t specify giving to our neighbor, just loving them. The Bible tells us to give to the poor, but also says “Cast not your pearls before swine.”

In other words, the act of giving to someone who needs it more than we do is important for the purposes of making sure that those in need have the necessities of life, but it’s also important that the giver be discerning in who he gives to.

Religious teachings tell us over and over again that material possessions are not important to our overall well-being. The truly important blessings are those given by God, such as peace, protection, guidance, foregiveness, righteousness, and eternal life.

If children are giving away or trading away expensive possessions without a thought, then perhaps they have too much? Perhaps when the child does this, the best approach is to ask them why and then let them know that giving is wonderful but that they need to give for the right reasons. Perhaps if they want to give to someone who really needs it, they can sell some of their toys on craigslist or at a yard sale and give that money to poor children or maybe take those toys to a children’s home or orphanage.

Giving is a great instinct to foster in a child but not as a way of gaining friends or getting attention. Giving should be directed towards people who are in real need and should be done without drawing attention to the giver.

At our house, the only time a child receives gifts is at Christmas and on their birthday. Once a year, right before Christmas, we go through their closets and toy boxes and get rid of toys they no longer play with. We sell some and we donate some and the proceeds go into a savings account for each child. It teaches them the value of money and to give to the needy.

xavier&jaydens mom

March 25th, 2009
12:10 pm

We have had this problem in the past, but it wasn’t gifts that were being given away, it was lunch money!! Every week my oldest son would receive a notice from the cafeteria saying he had a negative balance on his lunch account, and I was just beside myself because I knew I had given him lunch money. So I asked him if someone was taking his money-thinking maybe he was being bullied or something, he said no. Well I sent an email to the teacher to see if she had any idea what was going on!! I never heard back from her. When I attended the parent teacher conference a few days later, his teacher gave me an envelope with about $30.00 in it, my son had a crush on one of the little girls in his class and was giving her his lunch money, and charging his lunch!! I asked him why was he giving her his lunch money, and he said, “Well, daddy gives you lunch money everyday, so I gave her my lunch money”. While that was sweet of him to do that, it was also expensive for him to do that. We explained to him, that we are married, it’s daddy’s job to take care of us (especially mommy)- but he was not ready to step into that role yet. I told him we could give him an extra dollar on Fridays, and maybe he could buy her an ice cream on ice cream day, but it was not acceptable for him to give her his lunch money everyday. I think he understood, I was just grateful that the little girls parents did not go balistic, and they were nice enough to return the money.

V for Vendetta

March 25th, 2009
12:37 pm

Cranberry, I’m sorry you missed the most important word in regards to selfishness—“rational.” Is it rational to be unkind to people for no reason? The answer is obvious: In a truly laissez faire society, where men must interact as free individuals seeking value for value (mutual benefit), any sort of irrational maliciousness would undermine the process. Therefore, you treat your friends and fellows with the respect they deserve—and only what they deserve. I hope I’ve made that point clear. Egoism is not a license to act however you want. Saying, “it’s moral because I choose to do it” is a hopelessly flawed premise. It completely rejects rationality.

Bikerchick, Perhaps I oversimplified in my example. The quote is implied in the Cain and Abel story after God questions Cain in regards to Abel’s disappearance. Cain replies, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The implied answer is “yes,” but God doesn’t state it in explicit terms. Sorry. I shouldn’t have put it in quotes. However, the morality of altruism is clearly demonstrated in many different examples from The Bible. I do not want to get into a religious discussion, either; I was simply using that (implied) lesson as evidence that the morality of altruism is a societal construct as well as a faith-based one.


March 25th, 2009
12:42 pm

I agree with most of what everyone has said. I also had to teach my son that he is not to give or receive anything from his friends without my permission. I think his reasons for giving might encompass everything that has been mentioned. One boy he wanted to give toys to because the little boy said his mommy couldn’t afford to buy him toys so since we have lots of money (his words), he wanted to buy toys for this little boy. This happened when he was in Pre-K and I had let him pick out a toy to give to the fireman collecting at Christmas time. Since he didn’t understand the (monetary) value of things, he saw no difference in buying a $5 race car for a stranger and a $100 handheld video game for a friend. He’s also asked permission to give on of his game cartridges to an older kid who was being mean to him at day camp last summer in hopes that the kid would like him.

There are two little boys on his cub scout troop that he is allowed to trade “like” toys with since the parents are all friends. He and one kid often trade Baukugan toys and Yugio cards. He another kid trades wrestlers from time to time. It started out that each had duplicates of wrestlers that the other didn’t have so the traded. After that, it became so out of hand that he doesn’t always remember which wrestlers he still has and which ones have been traded away. All parents involved have agreed to allow them to handle the trades amongst themselves and so far, so good.


March 25th, 2009
1:13 pm

Ooops! Sorry for all of the typos.

JJ…When I was in school we used to trade belts and purses. Of course we were carrying the $12.99 Wal-Mart purses in my circle instead of the $500 Coach bags that some teenagers have nowadays. We also used to wear each other’s clothes so much that everyone thought that we all had huge wardrobes. Sometimes we wouldn’t even know who had a particular item until someone wore it to school! On any given day, I might come to school wearing your sweater, JG’s boots and Theresa’s jeans! :D


March 25th, 2009
1:20 pm

I agree with SD — I think a lot of it has to do with wanting to “buy” friendship. Frankly, I blame “The Rainbow Fish” for a lot of this! I HATED that book — I called it “The Communist Fish” :-), because the message was “no one will like you if don’t give away all your cool stuff and become one of the pack.” That book came out when my daughter was a year old, and yes, I bought it because it was such a pretty book — but after reading it, I quietly gave it away to the thrift shop. I know there’s a lot of arguments for “oh, no, it’s a sweet book that promotes sharing”, and in a sense, I suppose it does — but the whole sense of the book seemed to be “We won’t like you if you don’t give us your stuff”. Little bullying fish!! I have to wonder how many “have nots” read that book and realized that hey, all they have to do is embarrass the “haves” and they’ll give ‘em stuff out of guilt!

I think that, at some point, you also have to talk to kids about how it makes the other person feel when you “share” with them. People are all about how “good” it makes a person feel to share – but oftentimes, there’s not a whole lot of discussion about how it feels to be treated as an object of charity. I feel it’s more important to teach respect for other people, no matter their circumstances, than to engage in some unwinnable “let’s even things up” game. It’s hard to respect someone when you are playing Lady (or Lord) Bountiful.

Sometimes, when kids share, it’s a way to get an upper hand in a relationship, to make the other person feel obligated to the child in some way — to “buy” their friendship, or, in more sinister cases, to “buy off” some feared action.

This sounds like I’m against sharing, and really, I’m not. Our children have always been aware of the importance we place on our giving to our church and the giving of our time and talents to various non-profit organizations. They’ve been encouraged to find their niches in the world, too. We’ve built Habitat for Humanity houses, we’ve served in soup kitchens, we’ve made sandwiches for the homeless, etc., etc.. BUT — nowhere in any of our activities is there a sense that “oh, we have so much we have to give it away in order for people to like us.” Frankly, I don’t CARE if they like us :-D

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

March 25th, 2009
1:44 pm

Hey — I think in this particular case with my son it wasn’t about trying to make this kid like him. They have known each other since they were 2 and have been best friends they’re whole lives. They are the cutest little things when they are together!! I think he felt like he had a whole bunch of these Lego men so why not give his buddy that he loves some of them. I think my kids probably do have too many toys so they don’t mind parting with some. We were talking just last night about doing a trip at Christmas and giving less things — letting the family time and the experience be the present. We’ve got a bunch of birthdays coming up and I think Rose has grown and will need spring/summer clothes and she’s at an age now where she will enjoy that gift. Walsh says he wants an itty bitty pet turtle for his birthday. I was thinking more of a Time for Kids subscription. We’ll have to think some more on the turtle.

On the trading – they have done that with video games and men in the past. That’s why I was surprised it was a for keeps give and not a trade. I’m pretty OK with the trading as long as it’s equal and there’s a time set to trade back. I don’t think I would be OK with trading cell phones — way to expensive and if the other kids breaks it her parents aren’t going to want to pay for it.

Our babysitter dropped her phone in water while bathing one of my kids. I felt bad and wasn’t sure if I should pay for the phone or if that was her responsibility and choice to have the phone where it could drop into the water. Her contract was up so she was getting a new phone anyways and her mom wasn’t mad but I did feel bad.


March 25th, 2009
1:50 pm

Theresa, I like the idea of a trip at Christmas……memories last a lifetime. One of my friend’s and I, instead of giving our kids “monetary” gifts, we try to give them memories…..if you all remember I was pondering what to get my daugter on her 18th birthday. I wanted to give her something special, that she would remember. Turns out, she remembers the trips we went on(and who was with us) for earlier birthdays, but she couldn’t remember the gifts. There are special gifts that stand out, but she remembers the fun we had…….and that’s what’s important.

Stacey, that’s funny, we traded clothes. I’d get up early and go to my best friend’s house with about 4 outfits. She would have 4 outfits laid out, and we’d swap and match.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

March 25th, 2009
3:29 pm

Guys — I’ve added a few new stories to our links on the right side of the page. Check those links daily for new stories and features that will interest moms! I am especially adding a lot to the health section.


March 25th, 2009
3:42 pm

Theresa, just my opinion, here, but if your babysitter dropped her cell phone into your children’s bath, it means that her cell phone was TOO CLOSE! You shouldn’t feel bad – in your place, I’d be a little irritated that she couldn’t leave the phone in her purse for the 15 minutes it takes to bathe a child, but instead was more afraid that she might miss a freakin’ text message while she was doing her job! If I were her mother, I sure wouldn’t be replacing that phone! My daughter babysits quite a bit, and I made it clear to her when she first got her cell phone: Leave it in your purse while you are babysitting, because you can’t do your job properly AND watch kids at the same time. If she had dropped it in the bathtub full of water, I’d figure it was the consequences of inappropriate multi=tasking.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

March 25th, 2009
3:44 pm

I stick it on the top of the refrigerator when she comes in!! Now she has a really pricey one.


March 25th, 2009
3:53 pm

Why would you feel bad that she dropped her phone? I doubt she would feel the same way if the situation were reversed.

It’s one of those “you are responsible for your own actions, and your actions have consequences”. The babysitter should NOT have had her cell that close to water, DUH. I swear teenagers DO NOT have a fully functional brain……..I would NOT get her a new phone. It’s not YOUR responsibility……
she may have dropped it intentionally to get her new phone sooner.

I honestly believe that any kid with a cell phone under the age of 18, should have the cheapest one possible, and put them on Metro PCS. No blackberries, not LG touch, get the bottom of the line cell. Then, when they can afford their own, they can pay for the big fancy one.

My daughter bought her own Blackberry. She also pays part of the phone bill too.


March 25th, 2009
4:03 pm

JJ, did your daughter ever find her a car?


March 25th, 2009
5:14 pm

” I swear teenagers DO NOT have a fully functional brain” JJ I know you meant that as a joke….but your technically correct.

“Only 35% develop the capacity to reason formally during adolescence or adulthood.” (Huitt, W. and Hummel, J. January 1998)[7]

The adolescent asks “Who am I? Who do I want to be?” Like toddlers, adolescents must explore, test limits, become autonomous, and commit to an identity, or sense of self. Different roles, behaviors and ideologies must be tried out to select an identity. Role confusion and inability to choose vocation can result from a failure to achieve a sense of identity.”


March 25th, 2009
8:15 pm

I completely agree that Theresa shouldn’t feel responsible for the phone, but why are people so quick to assume she was being irresponsible and that it should have been in her purse? Maybe she had it on the edge the tub or was texting and dropped it — bad decision. Then again, maybe it was in a shirt or sweater pocket (not all girls carry purses everywhere they go — I know I leave mine behind when I can) and just slipped out. Accidents happen — don’t be so quick to judge a kid as guilty of “inappropriate multitasking”.


March 26th, 2009
7:01 am

HB, in my opinion (which is worth about 1-1/2 cents, granted), if a teenager is bathing a small child or engaged in any kind of active child care, they shouldn’t be needing to text anyone. It takes their attention away from the child. Contrary to popular teenage belief, they will not die if they don’t text for a couple of hours. It’s just like any other kind of job, you don’t spend your employer’s time chit-chatting with your friends.


March 26th, 2009
8:48 am

Becky – no, we dropped the issue. We just cannot afford one right now. I think that will be a bit later on down the road. I have to get her out of high school and into college for now. That’s my focus…..


March 26th, 2009
10:05 am

DB, I agree, and if you reread my post and you’ll see I said if that was what she was doing, then that was a bad move. I’m just saying, why assume the teen was texting or was sitting ready to drop what she was doing with the kids to return a text? The phone could have been in a pocket and slipped out. Now she puts the phone on top of the fridge to avoid that — great. But that doesn’t mean she was being irresponsible when the phone fell in the tub. I just think you’re a little quick to judge her as an irresponsible teen who will just die if she can’t text her friends every two minutes.


March 26th, 2009
3:24 pm

HB, the reason I make the assumption is that, unfortunately, it’s true enough of the time to make it more than plausible. Teenagers (and many adults) have little or no sense of place or appropriateness for the use of cell phones. You see them texting in movies, at restaurants, at stop lights, and even when they’re sitting around in a group, they are texting other people. You’re right, though — I don’t know for sure. But I sure would have been asking questions if she had been my babysitter.


March 27th, 2009
2:08 pm

JJ, I understand that..


March 31st, 2009
12:27 pm

Theresa, how bout discussing it w your husband and not the “girlfriend”. Show him that you value his opinion and want the two of you to be a team and on the same page. You might be surprised how he shows how much it means to him.


April 3rd, 2009
9:46 pm

My son went into my oldest daughters room and took a pokemon card which he traded. We found out a few days ago it was rare.


June 4th, 2009
6:54 pm

my son is 3 and he is alwas giveing things he loves to his friend that is older but my boy loves his little friend and he says it makes him happy to give him toys so I let him but it helps that the boy he gives to know he is only 3 and will give it back the next week when he wonts it back but he also give me and everyone one in the fam toys cuz it makes us happy and that make’s him happy so I say let him do it if it makes him happy and there are time when we are getting something for him and he has to get something for his bubby and friend so if it is not to much money I let him 2 3 4 dollers is all it takes to make 3 kids happy I am okay with that


August 24th, 2009
10:12 am

My son is two and he gives everything away. Many of the kids who are around him are not giving and it is starting to make me upset. I want him to be a giving person, but I don’t want him to be a push over how do help him realize that he can give but not all the time.


December 4th, 2009
8:09 pm

My son and one of his friends traded a PSP for a DS. After speaking with the other mom both were returned. I explained to my son why he could not do this but it seems to be of no avail. He then gave another friend a plastic bag full of lego people which I again called the mom and got back. Now he gave away 5 of his 8 Bakugan. We have repeatedly explained to our son why he can’t do this. I have to check his pockets and backpack before he leaves for school. I guess it’s my fault for teaching him to donate his toys which he no longer plays with to the needy. So, what do we do now? How do we express the importance of giving and sharing appropriately to a 6 year old?


December 4th, 2009
8:10 pm

PS…we are not the parents who over buy for our children…