New Issue!

Spring 2017 Issue ADDitude magazine Read the 'ADHD Therapies That Work' issue now!

The New ADDitude Forums Are Live!

Reach our full community by posting to ADDitude's discussion forums here

Parents of ADHD Children

Correct Discipline for Opening Xmas Presents Early

I came home from work yesterday and noticed that my 8 yr old ADHD son had opened the ends of all his presents and looked inside and then tried to tape them back. Know he knows what all he is getting and then when I asked him about it he started lying, yelling and crying. I am not sure the appropriate way to handle this. He was just diagnosed with ADHD last year and I am still trying to figure out how to approach different situations. My first reaction was to take all of his gifts back and he gets nothing for xmas…..but then I was like is this the right way I should handle this??? I want him to learn a lesson. So confused!! Needing Advice!!!!!! Thanks


Hmm… that’s a tough one…

On one hand, the fact that he knows what he is getting for Christmas is in itself a punishment, isn’t it? Christmas day will be a disappointment if there are no surprises.

On the other hand, one thing you might do, if you have the budget, is make him give all those gifts away. You know, to sort of re-direct him to thinking about Christmas as a time for giving.

Ooor.. maybe a combination of the two. He knews what he is getting, so he’ll not have that surprise for Christmas, so maybe instead he will be able to focus on picking gifts out for other people?

Posted by souldreamer on Dec 05, 2013 at 8:46pm

I don’t think he should be punished for this. It’s a huge temptation..didn’t we all sort of want to do this when we were little? He lacks the impulse control to stop himself.
I would opt to make light of it…on xmas morning have him chose one gift at a time and see if he can still recall what each one is, and if he can he gets to keep the gift?
Next year I would stash them all safely until the day of to prevent a repeat. Don’t be hard on yourself, or him, life with ADHD is tough enough as it is for both those who have it and those around.

Posted by AJGO on Dec 05, 2013 at 8:48pm

Amen to AJGO!  I second their comments.

Posted by reneerh on Dec 05, 2013 at 9:15pm

laughing over here in my neck of the woods smile Sorry, but when I was a child (no such thing as adhd then) anyway, I did the same thing, I can still see myself opening each present carefully so I don’t get caught and taping them back up nice and neatly, not neat enough mom freaked out, not yelling or anything just freaked out in my moms kinda pissy way and I didn’t get punished either.  Mentally I was so disappointed with myself, Im sure I didn’t act it cus us add-ers tend to not show that kind of emotion (Im not hyper)

But as souldreamer said isn’t it punishment enough to know what you got? YES it was.  Christmas day came and I tried to act surprised and I was so embarrassed.  Mom put my presents in her room and locked her door ever since.  Even now Im 47 and my mum still locks her door around Christmas.

One mistake will stay with the child forever but, we will look again because anticipation drives us crazy, we must know.  So I wouldn’t mention it again take it as a lesson for you also, put them gifts in a locked area, like your room or lock the attick, one year I got a storage unit to make sure my kids didn’t see the 4 wheelers Santa bought them. And my kids don’t have adhd, theyre typical pain in the butts. Hope this helps. Oh my mum would say “Oh there’s lil Miss Peaker” every year around Christmas, that was an awful punishment, but it worked.  No self control for me.  Merry Christmas.. Oh make sure those presents are under that tree, that’s the best punishment of all.  If you afford it buy one more nice present that the child doesn’t know of and save it for about 10 minutes after all the presents they opened or opened again lol my last present was a baby alive doll, oh how I appreciated that last present.

Posted by BexIssues on Dec 05, 2013 at 9:27pm

I think my brothers and I all did this when we were kids, and only one of us has ADHD!  For next year, I would suggest the same thing that AJGO does and put out only some presents at most just 1-2 days before Xmas.  That way the temptation to peek is short-lived.

My son has figured out many of my present-hiding places in the house, and now I keep them zipped up inside my luggage, so they’re sort of hiding in plain sight in my closet.  He hasn’t figured out that one…yet!

Posted by MendelZ on Dec 05, 2013 at 9:28pm

P.S. I still have that doll

We got to open one present the night before Christmas which was awesome, unless it was socks then we cried, but only one present

Posted by BexIssues on Dec 05, 2013 at 9:29pm

He is very disappointed in himself we had a long talk about it. I asked him what he thinks his punishment should be and he said to be grounded till Xmas and have to do chores, no computer, no friends and clean out the dog pen (this is a much hated chore around our house LOL). My sister had went to a parenting class and they said to ask the kid what their punishment should be and usually they are way more harsh on themselves then you would be. I was just devastated that he did this it hurt my feelings but I understand he is so excited. I should not have put them out already….I just figured when I told him not to touch them he would listen and then he didnt obviously.

Posted by My ADHD Son on Dec 05, 2013 at 9:30pm

I don’t see this as an ADHD thing - any kids would do that. Just tell him that he now knows what presents he’s getting, and carry on. The disappointment on Christmas Day will be his lesson.

Posted by staypositive on Dec 05, 2013 at 9:52pm

I also agree with AJGO.  Such a temptation.  Sometimes we need to modify the environment.  In this case, putting them out the night before (it was that way when I was a kid,‘cause that’s when Santa came!  I would let yourself feel disappointed and frustrated and then forgive him(all this within yourself).  Then you can calmly tell him that you are disappointed because part of the fun of christmas is the surprises of what one is opening.  Not having the fun of surprise is a natural consequence. I personally would also say that lying is not OK, but I wouldn’t make a big deal about it, there are many opportunities to learn lessons I would try to keep Christmas a joyful family time.  There are so many frustrations in parenting a child with ADHD.  Being compassionate to everyone including yourself goes a long way.

Posted by Ilana on Dec 05, 2013 at 10:24pm

Why does it matter when he finds out what they are? I remember getting yelled at for waking up early and going downstairs on a Xmas morning, where I saw one of the most fantastic gifts I have ever received, unwrapped, just sitting there. Being screamed at took the happiness out of the experience, and contributed to lifelong feelings of being inherently bad or wrong. Twenty years from now, what’s going to matter more? That he waited to see his presents, or that he feels good about himself as a person? I would let it go entirely, because after all, the gifts were for him. In my experience, kids who live in fear of punishment and condemnation lie the most.

Posted by sdsea on Dec 05, 2013 at 10:35pm

sdsea, wow perfectly said, you make so much sense.
One little experience can change one’s life, especially adult life when we blame everything on our childhood.  Thanks for great reply

Posted by BexIssues on Dec 05, 2013 at 10:39pm

Thank you for all the replies everyone has helped me a lot and very good points sdsea. Thanks

Posted by My ADHD Son on Dec 05, 2013 at 10:57pm

I understand where you are coming from, but kids - ADHD or not - will be kids.  I don’t have ADHD and I’m the one that wraps all of the presents and I want to reopen them days after seeing them under the tree!  I wouldn’t punish him for this.  He’ll remember it longer than you do…it will be a fond memory 20 years from now! smile  Being disappointed by not being surprised is a big enough punishment for him.  You bought them for him, let him have them.  Sometimes as parents we want to control everything, but we can’t…this is advice from a control freak!

I only put ‘filler’ presents under the tree you know, books, underwear, gifts from friends/family that sort of thing and the ‘main’ presents go under the tree after she’s asleep so she sees them on Christmas morning.  On Christmas eve we let her open one present. 

I also do a 12 days of Christmas with her.  We have an advent calendar that was made on a stocking.  I fill the stocking with 12 small gifts that I wrap in Christmas paper and bows (nothing more than $5 - most are from the $1 store!).  Every day she can decide whether she wants to open 1 present before school or after school.  I also buy one of those Cadbury Chocolate advent calendars that start 1st December. She gets the chocolate (it’s really just a tiny one) after she’s finished her homework and chores.  She’s 11 years old and she looks forward to this EVERY YEAR!  Since she’s rarely allowed chocolate and she LOVES chocolate, every day is like Christmas for her. 

Don’t let this ruin Christmas for you or your son.  Have a great Christmas!

Posted by lmgw on Dec 06, 2013 at 1:10am

Don’t do anything.  His “reward” of peeking will be discipline enough on Christmas.

But watch some Dr Russell Barkley on YouTube.  Children with ADHD CANNOT delay goals - if there is something in front of them right this instant they cannot delay satisfaction.  It is not possible.  It is a physiological impairment, a pothole in the brain.  He does not have that function.  You know like an old keyboard that is missing it’s L, you can type everything else but when you get to L you just won’t have a letter there.  It doesn’t get better because it is NOT a character or learning issue.  Children with ADHD learn just fine, it is putting that learning into action that they are unable to do, “If I open my presents now I will ruin my surprise” is knowledge but confronted with the package and no immediate consequence before him for NOT opening (i.e. a parent being there to see) they cannot themselves bring that knowledge to bear, connect the dots from this instant’s impulse to want to open the present to the disappointment inevitable in the future. 

So if you choose to discipline then you are disciplining him for something he has absolutely no control over.  Would you punish a diabetic child because their pancreas was not working correctly and their blood sugar elevated.  Of course not.  ADHD is exactly the same thing,  He can no sooner control a malfunction of his brain than you can make your legs longer by focusing on it.

So just chalk it up to lesson learned.  You obviously cannot leave out the presents. Put them away and next year you know not to put out anything he can’t have unless you can manage to keep an eye on him every single moment he might be around them.

Posted by YellaRyan on Dec 06, 2013 at 8:51am

Oh, how I know this grief! We have never put presents under the tree before Santa does because we know the impulsivity is uncontrollable for our son. However, one year (I think my son was also 8 as a matter of fact) we found him downstairs at 4 am, by the tree, several packages opened strewn around him, and assembling a lego kit that was wrapped and snuggled under the tree just hours before. We had even told the kids that any gifts opened before mom and dad awoke would be surrendered, but it wan’t enough to override his impulsivity. We were hurt, we were angry, we were very disappointed. There were a lot of yelling and a lot of tears that morning. I was so traumatized by it I wrote about the fiasco and how we almost let ADHD ruin our Christmas (

I had the same reaction you did back then. But, as I have grown to understand ADHD more and understand my son on a much deeper level, I know it was no big deal. Just part of who he is. I was robbed of seeing the surprise on his face but, so what? There are a lot of worse things that could happen.

I agree with everyone else—punishing him for this is punishing him for a disorder he was born with, if not punishing him for being a kid in general. He has shown you great remorse and is already punishing himself more than the situation warrants. Show some empathy and let him off the hook.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

p.s.—here’s a great article on helping him learn strategies to cope with his implusivity:

Posted by adhdmomma on Dec 06, 2013 at 6:53pm

neither my brother or myself were adhd and we did that every year.  eventually you learn that it wrecks Christmas since you already know but it was the fun finding the presents and then getting them open.  like a spy mission or something.  all in fun, no harm.

Posted by dubajm on Dec 07, 2013 at 8:44am

Honestly being a month before Xmas? Why are things already out all wrapped? I would never expect a kid to see presents a month ahead of time and not be curious. Hell, I can’t even keep a present for more than a few days before I want to receiver to open it. I have very little patience for waiting for such things. I never put things out until the night before Xmas when my child was younger. It worked best for the both of us.

Posted by adhdmom2000 on Dec 07, 2013 at 9:20am

Christmas day when presents are open will do the trick. He made his own punishment.

Another good hiding place is the truck of a car.

ps I have to hide food in my closet sometimes.

Posted by chrisd on Dec 08, 2013 at 12:17am

And personally, I would NOT buy him one more thing than he already has. But I’m mean like that.

Posted by chrisd on Dec 08, 2013 at 12:18am

Reply to this thread

You must be logged in to reply. To log in, click here.
Not a member? Join ADDConnect today. It's free and easy!

Not a member yet? Join here »

Search the ADDConnect Group Discussions