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How do I tell my mother-in-law to stop giving so many gifts?


Melissa Kay
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This may sound strange, and I know I should be grateful, but my mother-in-law gives my daughter TOO MUCH STUFF. Every single time my daughter goes there, or any time my mother-in-law comes to our place, she has gifts. She gives her loads of stuff for Christmas, birthday, you name it. For Valentine's day she gave her a whole bunch of new outfits, candy, DVDs, school supplies, video games, toys, etc. It adds up to more than some kids would get for Christmas. She will do the same for any little "holiday."

 

My daughter does not have room for all this stuff, and has a hard time parting with things. I have tried just going through her room and getting rid of stuff, I have also tried letting her pick what to get rid of, but she just keeps getting more. It's a bit overwhelming for her. And to me, it feels like her grandma is trying to buy her love. My daughter and I have both agreed it would be easier if her grandma just didn't buy her so much.

 

I have talked with my mother-in-law about it and she cut back for a little while, but would slip things in my daughter's suitcase when she spent the night there, or just make some kind of excuse why she got her something. First she was sneaky about it, now she is not sneaky at all.

 

I don't want to raise my daughter to be materialistic or to put such a huge value on "stuff," but it's hard when my mother-in-law does this. My daughter has a pretty large extended family, so she gets more than enough presents. I feel like my mother-in-law is trying to out-do everyone else. There are so many other kids out there who could really use things. I do pass things on when I can, but it is hard getting my daughter to get rid of anything. She has said it would be easier if her grandma just gave her less.

 

How can I handle this tactfully? I am really frustrated since I have already addressed it with her and she has chosen to ignore it.

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Ahhh we have this problem. I will be interested to hear if you find and answer.

 

I have actually told my in laws "enough is enough" and then next birthday they roll up in a truck full of presents.

 

We have also said if they want to spend money, buy clothes or books. But they are not interested in that, they want to spoil the kids.

 

It is annoying. I know your problem well.

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From my talks with friends, a lot of grandparents do this. Mine died before I was born, so I never had first-hand experience, but yes, this is a common problem. Most of my friends have said nothing and just allow it. But if it were me and my kid, I'd probably say something because I don't believe in spoiling children. I never wanted for anything as a child, but I also don't feel like I was spoiled. I think it's a delicate balance and every parent has to decide what they feel is appropriate for their child. If you have already talked to her, and nothing has changed, I'm afraid I have no advice...except to say that you are in a very common situation and I'm sorry. I hope it gets better.

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My grandmother has this problem. A divorce and an big empty house left her lonely and feeling that she must give her relatives a lot to feel good about herself.

 

My grandmother is a impulse shopper. She buys a lot of stuff and hauls it over every once in a while. Stuff we just don't need. And, she lives pretty simply herself. She never does ANYTHING for herself.

 

Her heart is in the right place but a lot of my sisters gifts just end up being junk because there is just too much of it to ever enjoy.

 

Your husband needs to tell your mother that, although the gifts are greatly appreciate, you only have room for so much stuff. Limit gifts to set dates (birthdays, christmas) and as her to only buy a set amount of stuff (10 gifts tops or a monetary value)

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Thanks, everyone. It's good to hear I'm not the only one dealing with this.

 

I have set a limit on gifts with her before, and said only for Christmas and birthdays, but apparently she "forgot." Actually, I know she didn't forget, because she commented that the stuff wouldn't take up much room and that she knew we didn't have a lot of room.

 

I guess what is making me the most mad about this is that it's clear that she understands what we've asked her, she's just choosing not to listen. I try to tell myself this is petty, I am lucky to be able to complain about "too much" stuff instead of "not enough," but for some reason it still bugs me way more than it should... I'll have my husband mention it to her again though.

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One more voice to the choir....my mom is like that too...

 

I have tried everything...

 

I have outright asked them to spend 1/2 and contribute the other half to an education fund...What happened? My dad liked the idea, my mom didn't care for it. So dad wrote me a big cheque and mom spent MORE, I swear she did, in an attempt to outdo him.

 

I have tried encouraging her to buy one big-ticket item that I know my child wants. That kind of worked, but then she worried that he'd notice the other kids got MORE presents, so she bulked up the gifts with lower cost items- but the volume stayed the same.

 

My sister tried to explain that as a parent, it's upsetting that Nana & Papa outdo "Santa" at Christmas time. No change.

 

I will say that luckily, she is into the books, so sleepovers, valentines etc. tends to be only a nice book and a treat. Also, truthfully, I save a lot of money on clothes....

 

The truth is- she means well, as does your MIL. And you cannot change her. So here's what I have decided on the matter....

 

My children are going to be spoiled. But they are not going to be spoiled ROTTEN.

 

They are going to learn gratitude, charity and respect for their things.

 

My 4 year old is very aware of the fact that he is "lucky" and that there are children who don't have toys (this took awhile for him to grasp). So after birthdays and Christmas, he has to go through his toys and choose at a minimum the same number of new toys received to give to the salvation army. So if he gets 6 new toys, he needs to select at least 6 old ones to give away. He comes with me to the drop off and knows they are not going to the garbage, but being made available to families that aren't as lucky as we are.

 

Also- I encourage him to share and loan his toys to his cousin and friends. Truthfully, if they don't come back- phew! less crap in my house.

 

Finally, a positive thing about them having too much is that if they abuse or misuse a toy, I can take it away permanently to teach him about respecting his things. It will hurt him, and I have only done it a few times, but he has so many other things, he won't suffer for long.

 

As for MIL, the only thing I can suggest is that you try to appeal to her sense of tradition/sentimentality- For example- books endure more than any other toy, take up less space and are IMO the best gift to give. So, suggest that they are a preferred gift, especially when she writes a personal note inside so your daughter will have many of them to read to her own children someday- can't say that about Barbies, Ipods or DS games....

 

Another thought as well- suggest that many of the superfluous gifts be KEPT at grandmas house so when your daughter is visiting, she can enjoy them with grandma...

 

If you find a solution that works- I'm sure we'd all like to hear it...Good luck!

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Yes, she does mean well, and I can't change her. And I have also accepted that my daughter will be spoiled, even if I don't like it. Like you, I never really have to buy clothes or even many school supplies.

 

I have tried having my daughter get rid of 5 things if she gets 5 things, etc, but it was hard for her to part with things. Sometimes I knew she really wasn't all that into the new stuff, so didn't want to get rid of 5 things she really liked better - but at the same time, it was "new" and it was from Grandma, thereforee she wanted to keep it. To me it seems a little like taking her to the toystore and telling her she can pick out whatever she wants - and then only keep half of it. Because that's basically what my MIL does, and then I am the one saying get rid of it. It would be easier if it just never entered the house at all!

 

I agree that books are better, and I have also suggested craft supplies and things my daughter uses up - clay, playdough, markers, paper, glue, etc, and even things like bubble bath, bath fizzies, are things she will enjoy using but at least they are not taking up space.

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How old is your daughter? I am finding with my 4 year old, it is easier to choose 1 of 2 items than to pick one from everything. So what if you helped her with learning to part with things? Go through her toys with her, pick out a few things you haven't seen her play with for some time and ask: Do you want to give away Barbie's car, or the My Little Pony Garden Playset?

 

I've found it makes a huge difference to give my son a limited, rather than limitless choice. I set out two outfits in the morning, and two pair of jammies at night, and he chooses which to wear. It is SOOOOOOOO much easier than asking him to "pick something, anything" or trying to say "here, wear this"- both of which often ended in tears....

 

Last night, he wanted to play video games, which was not on my to-do list, so I said Do you want to play playdoh or do some colouring", again a lot less tears than 'You're not playing video games, choose something else"

 

Maybe that will help? I don't know how old your daughter is....

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If it were only that easy, KG. I tried that, to no avail.

 

Besides the OP is talking about her MIL. It is considered by many to be extremely poor etiquette to suggest to other people how they should spend their money on you. If this message is going to be conveyed , it should come from the OP's husband, her MIL's son. There's a good chance her MIL would be insulted or outraged at a comment that may be heard as "This is how I want you to give me/my daughter your money".

 

Funny thing is, one day the OP's daughter will walk into Grandmas and say "Where's my present?" and Grandma will likely be astounded at her presumption! This happened with my niece and my mother was horrified that she displayed such a "gimme-gimme" attitude. Then my sister calmly said "what do you expect?" I mean she's a child and she knows that everytime she goes to grandmas house she gets a present....That cooled my moms jets a bit. Now she's a lot more reasonable.

 

I wonder too- Does grandma DO things with her granddaughter, or does she just BUY things. I will say this about my mom- she plans and does fun stuff- there's always a holiday craft (colouring eggs, decorating cookies etc...) and minor holidays are often now marked with a small treat and a book.

 

You cannot change what others will do. You can only change how you react. she means well, so the best I think the OP can do, is to try to teach her daughter gratitude, charity and sharing, in recognizing that she is one of the lucky ones....

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