DEAR ABBY: I have chosen to celebrate my children's birthdays with family and one friend. I want my children to understand early on that birthdays are not about getting loads of gifts, but to celebrate life with family. We are invited to many parties for their friends and classmates, but I have always chosen to attend only those of our close friends.
I find it disheartening to watch children these days rip into a bunch of gifts and toss them aside without saying thank you or even commenting on the gift. It's all about the next package and the volume.
Because of this, I'm considering no longer giving a gift but making a donation to a charity in honor of the birthday boy or girl instead. But I'm worried about the reaction I'll get from friends. On the other hand, I feel much better about donating to a worthwhile charity instead of another toy for children who already have so much these days. Is a donation appropriate instead of a gift? -- WONDERING IN BIRMINGHAM
DEAR WONDERING: Your sentiments are noble, but your teaching method is heavy-handed and I don't recommend it. If the children are in grammar school, a donation in their name to a charity will go over like a lead balloon.
Teach your children proper manners by explaining how to practice them and setting a good example. By preventing them from interacting socially with their friends and classmates, you are slowing down their socialization and isolating them.
Because you prefer that your children not receive "loads of gifts," when you plan their birthday celebrations, explain your philosophy to your family and your one friend and also to your children. Then let your kids choose a charity and request that attendees bring an item to be donated. That way all the children can enjoy themselves and learn the satisfaction that comes from helping others at the same time.