Social Question

SavoirFaire's avatar

To whom does a gift belong (see details)?

Asked by SavoirFaire (26543points) February 12th, 2012

Does a gift belong to the giver or the receiver? This may seem like a question with an obvious answer, of course, but responses given on two recent questions suggest something other than the obvious answer. So if I give you something, do I retain some right to do whatever I want with it in virtue of you not having earned it and I having paid for it?

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29 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Among equals or peers, the gift always belongs to the reeiver.

The issues between parent and child are much murkier and rather hard to sort out.

SpatzieLover's avatar

The receiver. With my own child, it only becomes an issue if it wasn’t a gift.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I agree with @gailcalled on that. In that case, the “gift” of the laptop may not have been a “gift” at all, it may have been a “for your use for specific purposes with some recreational leeway” item.

zenvelo's avatar

It is the receiver’s. And there is no added condition if from a parent. If it is a gift from a parent, it belongs to the child.

Parent’s though, have parental oversight on the child’s use of anything. So the gift status does not exempt the child from improper use. If a grandparent gives a child something, the grandparent cannot take it back, but the parent can take it away if not used appropriately.

If parents want to put restrictions on something they give to the child, it is not a gift but just something the parent bought that the child is allowed to use. To call it a gift with conditions is like putting a condition on the parent’s love for the child.

Response moderated (Flame-Bait)
gailcalled's avatar

@john65pennington: The car is a nice gift, but that is a string attached (albeit a reasonable one.)

SpatzieLover's avatar

^I agree, gail

john65pennington's avatar

No, I cut the string with my trusty scissors, the key I handed her the keys.

marinelife's avatar

Well, there are gifts and there are gifts.

Something a parent supplies to a child is subject to behavior and other requirements. Computers and other electronics are definitely privileges not necessities.

Gifts between friends and family members are different. The gift belongs to the recipient to do with as they will. The giver has no say.

Coloma's avatar

The receiver.
A “gift” is just that, once it passes from your hands to another you relinquish all rights to said “gift” and as to how it is used.
If you retain any designs on controlling the gift once it is given then it is not a gift, it is rendered barter with expectations of some sort of payback. If there are any hidden agendas of extreme appreciation or using the “gift” for emotional leverage, well…it is no longer a “gift” it is a tool through which you hope to control another.

Coloma's avatar

Fraudulent “gift” giving is one of my biggest pet peeves, I especially detest those that “give” a little pittance to a homeless person and then try to control how they use it.

bkcunningham's avatar

@SavoirFaire, the laptop shooter was one question on Fluther. What was the other refererence in your question?

zensky's avatar

Tis better to give than to receive. Someone much smarter than I once said this – and I believe it to be true.

I do enjoy receiving a gift as much as the next person, but it’s a rare occasion that I am truly happy with one; for I do not wish for non-sentimental things anymore. I feel I have enough do-dads and trinkets.

Moreover, the worst thing someone can do (to me, anyway) is try to maintain “control” over the gift; nothing bugs me more than someone who continues to “check up on” their gift. Have you been wearing the sweater? Have you finished the book yet?

If I give someone a gift, it’s from the heart. No strings attached. It’s theirs.

bkcunningham's avatar

@zensky, if your parents gave you a typewriter (back in the day) and you proceeded to write a newsletter sent to hundreds of your friends and relatives telling them what assholes your parents are and how they treat you like crap; not once but twice you did this, would your parents have allowed you to keep the typewriter?

I agree with @gailcalled on this one. Parental/child relationships and gift giving, especially computers, are different.

zensky's avatar

I don’t think that would ever happen to me. My kids are grown up and we are all on facebook together. However, if that ever did happen – I sill stand by what I said.

Seaofclouds's avatar

It belongs to the receiver. In the case of the laptop, we don’t know that it was a “gift” actually given to the girl or just something they bought for her to use for her schoolwork.

For example, for Christmas two years ago, my son received a Xbox 360 as a Christmas present. It’s his. He can take it with him when he moves if he wants. I can still ground him from playing it though. That is a gift. I got recently got a new laptop and told him that he can use my old one to play games on through the internet (such as poptropica, nickelodeon, etc). The laptop was never given to him as a gift, instead it was just something he was told he could use since I am no longer using it and we didn’t see the point in trashing it or getting rid of it when someone else in our family could use it.

bob_'s avatar

If any of you guys gives me something (e.g., a sandwich), that something is mine and mine alone.

Response moderated
bkcunningham's avatar

@bob_ , the giving of a sandwich to a smart alec child and the taking back of said sandwich and shooting holes in it is how Swiss cheese was invented.

Brian1946's avatar

@bkcunningham

”...shooting holes in it is how Swiss cheese was invented.”

Then perhaps that was done with arrows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Tell ;-)

bkcunningham's avatar

Do tell, @Brian1946. LMAO Good one.

mangeons's avatar

In the majority of situations, the gift belongs firmly to the receiver.

However, in the case of a parent and child, it is different. The parent has the right to confiscate anything they gave the child that they wish, whether it is “fair” or not, as long as it does not affect the child’s safety or well being. In this particular situation, the laptop may not have been a gift at all, just something provided for the child. The father had every right to do what he did, though it seems extremely harsh.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Between adults, a gift is the receiver’s unless it’s something symbolic like an engagement ring and then it belongs to the receiver for good only after a wedding has taken place.

Between parents and children, gifts are gifts but subject to parental discrestion. I know my parents gave me things plenty of times that came with a serious “tag” about being taken back if abused or as punishment for bad behavior.

downtide's avatar

The only kind of gift I can think of that should be returned, is an engagement ring, in the event that the wedding is called off.

Coloma's avatar

What about people that “give” you their unwanted weird stuff and present it as some sort of offering of the gods? lol
I had an old friend give me her leftover Ham Carcass once under the pretense that she thought I might want to make Ham and beans. I NEVER make Ham and beans. It was OBVIOUS that SHE just didn’t want to put the remains in HER trash can.
I took it home and tossed it out for the wildlife, so, it all worked out. haha

tranquilsea's avatar

I don’t know that the waters are murkier when the gift is given to a child. I would never destroy a possession of theirs. The game I talked about destroying in my question was a game my husband and I owned, it was not my son’s.

I have taken away gifts for months on end in an effort to correct behaviour. But I would never destroy it.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Many of the answers given so far are what I expected, though it is interesting to note that several people gave important qualifications here that they did not feel the need to make in the referenced questions. Since inexactitude is what prompted this question, it is good to see that people at least have more to say in defense of their claims. I do think, however, that the responses raise further questions.

First, this question could have just as easily been posed as “To whom does property belong, the owner or the supplier?” Given the responses, is it incorrect to speak of children having property if they do not really own what is given to them? And if they do own property, what gives parents the right to destroy it, as opposed to the right to merely take it away (which could be seen as merely an element of a parent’s power to discipline a child—taking the child away from the toy more than taking the toy away from the child)?

Second, there is the question of how far this parental authority goes. In taking away her computer, why did Tommy Jordan have the right to demand that his daughter can never use her own money to obtain another one until recompense has been made for his actions? As Mr. Jordan destroyed the computer, it is surely his fault that the computer is gone. Yet he wants repayment for his destruction of the laptop, and only then will he permit his daughter use her own money to buy another one.

Third, there is the question of how long does this authority lasts in its full force. The obvious answer here is that the child becomes free of this authority when she moves out of her father’s house. One wonders if college counts or not, but that seems secondary to a further issue. It seems to be one thing to take a “possession” away from a 6-year-old (in quotes because it seems few believe that children really have possessions), yet quite another thing to take one away from a 12-year-old or an 18-year-old. Rights come with responsibilities, yes; but responsibilities come with rights—unless, of course, we are in a condition of slavery. If we disallow children the ability to become adults in increments—e.g., by accepting at some point that they may have and express opinions with which we disagree and not interfering with the free expression thereof—we should be unsurprised if we end up with an 18-year-old infant.

I appreciate that these are nuanced problems, and that the obedience or disobedience of particular children must be a factor in these decisions, but that seems all the more reason for nuanced responses (rather than blanket endorsements or condemnations) and a strong insistence on staying within the evidence. I find myself personally unable to detest Mr. Jordan as his loudest detractors suggest, yet equally unable to applaud him as his loudest supporters have done.

Thank you all for your answers, and I hope the length of this post has not discouraged people from addressing the new questions I have raised.

SpatzieLover's avatar

To whom does property belong, the owner or the supplier: The owner. Whom the owner is needs to be clear. Our son is the owner of his own laptop. We let him know it is his. We do control what he is allowed to do on said laptop. He is rather young though.

how far…parental authority goes: We make our home rules specific. I can’t fathom destroying something, then forcing someone else to pay for it. That’s insanity, IMO.

how long does this authority lasts in its full force: We plan to wean our child into adulthood. We will always maintain clear rules.

In this particular case, I think the parent is insane. I do not use that word lightly, either. He gave in to a massive power struggle with a violent performance. This has nothing to do with parenting or discipline.

bkcunningham's avatar

Third, there is the question of how long does this authority lasts in its full force. The obvious answer here is that the child becomes free of this authority when she moves out of her father’s house. One wonders if college counts or not, but that seems secondary to a further issue. It seems to be one thing to take a “possession” away from a 6-year-old (in quotes because it seems few believe that children really have possessions), yet quite another thing to take one away from a 12-year-old or an 18-year-old. Rights come with responsibilities, yes; but responsibilities come with rights—unless, of course, we are in a condition of slavery. If we disallow children the ability to become adults in increments—e.g., by accepting at some point that they may have and express opinions with which we disagree and not interfering with the free expression thereof—we should be unsurprised if we end up with an 18-year-old infant.

To this part of your quesiton, @SavoirFaire, would be when they are old enough to make the purchase themselves or pay a substantion part of the purchase, then I’ll negotiate what happens to the material object as a form of punishment. I get what you are saying and agree to the point that the negotiation, and what the terms of getting the object or privilege returned depends on the circumstances and the age of the kid.

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