Too many presents: How to say ‘No thanks!’ to Grandma?

We had a regular who wants help with over-generous grandparents. Here’s what she wrote:

“How have others addressed crazy gift-giving friends and relatives? DD has more toys than she will ever play with – and it gets worse each birthday and Christmas. I know the in-laws and grands-in-laws do it because they love her, but it’s a literal MOUNTAIN each holiday. We give stuff away, but I know they look for certain gifts when they visit. We do gift ideas (like books, clothes, specific toys like Legos) and asked for them to not spend so much money (or to put that $ in the 529!), but nothing has worked…”

I love the suggestion of asking for help with college fund. Or I have friends that ask for help with extra-curricular activities like music lessons or Gymboree classes. I think asking for experiences instead of objects is a good way to address it.

Or if you had to get mean, you could make your pile of what you’re going to give away and let them “accidentally” see it. Maybe that would help them realize they are giving too much. (Is that too mean? I mean that as a last resort after talking fails.)

So what do you guys think? How do stop an well-meaning, but over-zealous grandparent who just want to gift?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, AJC Momania

43 comments Add your comment

JJ

March 15th, 2011
2:16 pm

We’ve already done this……

JJ

March 15th, 2011
2:20 pm

You graciously say Thank you very much. Then you do with it what you want…..

A friend of mine had a birthday party for her then 5 year old, six weeks before Christmas. That child received SOOOOO many presents and ripped them open so fast, she never really saw what she was opening. I suggested to my friend that 1/2 of them be put away until christmas……

That’s what I did with my daughter. When she was over-whelmed with presents, I would ’stash” a few of them and bring them out at a later date…..

Becky

March 15th, 2011
2:33 pm

This is why for this past Christmas, most of the little ones in my family were only given clothes..They all have way to many toys and if the grandparents (or family) can’t understand that, then you start giving away the toys that they give..I would think that it would only take maybe 2-3 times of giving away almost new toys for them to get the hint..

JATL

March 15th, 2011
2:39 pm

When my mother was alive, we had to set “strict” boundaries! My MIL also wants to get everything, but she does listen. My oldest just had a birthday, and she was getting him a Playmobil set that cost over $100, but felt that one gift wasn’t enough. I told her several times it was what he wanted most, he was getting lots of other gifts from us, my dad and friends, and her “one” gift was quite big and expensive! At Christmas, I usually let the grandparents know that a few toys and/or books are fine, but when they want to go beyond that, I tell them about clothes, pjs and shoes the kids need with the stipulation that -if you REALLY feel you must get them more than you have already, then this is fine, but they don’t have to have a mountain of gifts on top of Santa coming! I don’t want to ruin the grandparent’s fun, but if we didn’t limit it somehow, it would get way out of hand.

A&Z's Mom

March 15th, 2011
2:43 pm

We tend to have the same issues, this past year, when asked for ideas for Christmas we suggested a family pass to the Children’s Musuem or Aquarium. This way the kids can enjoy it all year and it won’t break.

jc

March 15th, 2011
2:53 pm

Some of us don’t have family left to spoil our children. You should be thanful rather than whining about it.

JJ

March 15th, 2011
3:03 pm

Thank you JC……..

Spacey

March 15th, 2011
3:06 pm

It is a toy explosion at our house!
My husband and I do not buy for the kids, we know the Grandparents will get more than enough.
I have this situation with one of my sister-in-law’s. She buys little trinket crap from the Target “Dollar Spot” for every holiday! Valentines, New Years, Ground Hog Day, You name it! She buys something for the kids. We have tons of that little crap around our house.
I feel bad, but I just cannot justify spending money that way. Also, I think all that little plastic junk is bad for the environment.
My husband just says it is nice of her and not to worry about buying stuff myself. They got mad last year when I did not buy my baby an Easter basket. He was 6 months old! Seriously.

ssidawg

March 15th, 2011
3:19 pm

I encourage combination gifts- a toy to play with now and money in the college fund so my kid will have toys to play with when he’s an adult.

motherjanegoose

March 15th, 2011
3:22 pm

@ jc, I agree …we received baby presents purchased from a garage sale, for our then newborn son….almost 24 years ago. Since the in-laws are chain smokers, the clothes reeked and went straight in the trash. Another topic I am unfamiliar with, as we rarely receive gifts from family members.
My sister is the exception and quite generous!

Lady Strange

March 15th, 2011
3:22 pm

I just go through my son’s stuff periodically and give away the things he no longer plays with. I’m not overly concerned about someone getting upset about it. It’s just a toy after all. Though most of my family is pretty good about not overbuying toys. Clothes on the other hand, I can barely get his dresser drawers closed! It’s about time to purge that too actually since it’s warming up now.

motherjanegoose

March 15th, 2011
3:26 pm

ssidawg…what is a college fund…haha…ours did not get one.

My neighbors complained, years ago, about being invited on vacation with their parents to a beach house every year and having to go. I do not get this. I have NEVER been invited on a vacation, on someone else’s dime. If you do not want to go…just say so…is it that hard? We always get to choose where we go, as we are paying for it ourselves.

Becky

March 15th, 2011
3:26 pm

@JATL..That is my husband..He never thinks that the kids are getting enough and runs out and buys all kinds of stuff..I think I mentioned that about 3 yrs. ago, the girl got THREE doll house because he didn’t know which one she would like the best..Really? Then he gets upset because they have so much “junk” around the house..

#A&Z’s Mom..That is a good suggestion, I’ll have to remember that..

@jc..I’m sorry that your kids don’t have that much family..I sometimes wish that my two didn’t have some of the family members that they have, but for the most part, we love them..

Kat

March 15th, 2011
4:11 pm

My sister-in-law got my niece a year-long pass to the zoo, and a Fernbank year-long membership for our kids. Experiences are awesome, and we really enjoyed it. We bought our own membership this year because we enjoyed it so much!

Wayne

March 15th, 2011
4:14 pm

My wife gets a bit nuts with presents. Every ‘holiday’ she has to give something to the boys. Christmas time, she piles the gifts up from Santa and I swear, he needs a sleigh just for our house.

This past Christmas was an eye-opener for her. There were some gifts the boys didn’t even look at. I looked at her and I could see she finally ‘got it’. Some of the gifts are still in our front hallway where the boys pass by and haven’t said a word about them. They are destined for the attic where they’ll probably get them at a birthday, or Easter, or Equinox day, or Earth day, or…

[sigh]

Wayne

March 15th, 2011
4:15 pm

Hit enter to fast. I wasn’t raised that way. Couple of gifts and I was glad to get them. Generally, they were what I wanted too.

Becky

March 15th, 2011
4:24 pm

@Wayne..I totally get that..We took the kids to Toys R Us about 3 weeks before Christmas so that they could show us things that they wanted..The girl picks out something that I had never even heard of..Some kind of digital scanner machine that would design and paint your nails for you..Dang thing was on sale for $179.00..When we got to the car, I looked at her and said, do you really want that? Naw, she said, I just saw it and knew that Poppy would buy it..They both have things that they got for CHristmas that they have never even taken out of the box..As you said, someone will get that for a birthday or something..

Betty

March 15th, 2011
4:24 pm

I think this is a great topic as I’ve had this issue before too. My husband and in-laws all want to spoil the kids with way too many things, no matter how politely I suggest otherwise. Whenever I try to get “firm” with them and suggest giving to charity, college funds etc, they all get very affended and my husband accusses me of hurting their feelings, so basically, I’ve stopped protesting. I just quietly put things away for later or deliver them to a charity–no one seems to notice.

The thing that really irks me is when friends of my in-laws not only buy our kids toys for every holiday imagined (and some of these people we don’t even really know that well) but then the family expects me to reciprocate and buy toys for these strangers, which I will not do. So the in-laws go out and buy gifts for those kids too, and make sure I know that they did it in my name with the insinuation that I didn’t have the manners to do so myself. UUGGHH!

JOD

March 15th, 2011
4:29 pm

Well this got snarky quickly and I called it that people would make the ‘ungrateful’ accusation. What’s wrong with wanting to focus on the reason for the occasion (or season) instead of gifts? I don’t think it’s ungrateful to want family and friends to feel like they don’t have to spend a bunch of money for birthdays and Christmas.

@A&Z – That is an awesome idea!

@TWG – I have decided that you have a thankless job.

Becky

March 15th, 2011
4:43 pm

@JOD..Did I miss something? I don’t see a lot on her being snarky..Trust me, I’m not ungrateful for anything that my two get..I just want people to not waste moneybuying things that will be given away…

Wayne

March 15th, 2011
4:46 pm

I’m with you Becky. I was reviewing the posts here and wondering where the snarkiness was. I thought it was a pretty good discussion.

JOD

March 15th, 2011
4:58 pm

I was specifically referring to the ‘ungrateful’ post, which seems pretty snarky to me. I didn’t say there was a lot of it, I just said it was early.

Becky

March 15th, 2011
5:04 pm

Sorry for the typos..

@Wayne..I guess it’s official, I’m blind because I still don’t see it and I went back and reread each post..

Hope everyone has a great evening…

jarvis

March 15th, 2011
6:22 pm

This got snarky…these topics lately are boring…Arizona is a desert…parent your kids…don’t befriend your children…back in my day…I don’t comment on sex topics….you don’t have to blog here if you don’t like it…I only comment on sex topics…grow up…be grateful…you don’t know me…my eldest is brilliant…don’t eat anything that’s not eco-friendly, gluten-free, and organic…

MomsRule

March 15th, 2011
6:27 pm

I would welcome this “problem”.

I sort of understand people not wanting others to over give to their children but I think that’s a much better problem to have than having no one besides Mom and Dad to dote on them.

When I have grandkids, I’m sure I will become guilty of over indulging. Who am I kidding? There’s no doubt about it. And I will enjoy every minute of spoiling them :)

I love the idea of family passes. I’m filing that nugget away!

mom of 3

March 15th, 2011
6:28 pm

If they didn’t have grandparents then it would be left up to the parents. Just shut up and be thankful — maybe your kids whine so much because you do. (no particular one, just the whole dang blog) Thankfulness is a lost art form i thought just on kids but now I see on parents as well.

motherjanegoose

March 15th, 2011
7:24 pm

@ jarvis…whose eldest is brilliant…not mine…I have stories to prove it and have shared them with DB!

deidre_NC

March 15th, 2011
8:28 pm

i agree with the idea of some kind of lessons the kids might enjoy-gymnastics-piano-karate whatever–or as someone said a year membership or pass to a museum or somewhere like dollywood (i think of that because its close to me and completely family friendly-as in there is something for everyone).

@jc-im sorry you have no family-pretty much same here for my younger kids-i dont know how old your kids are but you might want to check out-i dont know…there is a ‘grandparents’ organization that is kind of like big brothers or big sisters-the grandparents get to have ‘grandkids’ and the kids get to have ‘grandparents’. maybe someone on here knows what im talking about???

catlady

March 15th, 2011
8:47 pm

I give a toy, as suggested by the parents. I buy clothes occasionally through the year, after talking to their parents. I try to spend my money in ways to help them (diapers, memberships, CSA subscription) so that they can nurture those precious grandchildren. If there is a need, they can ask me and I will try to help.

It takes some effort to be a good grandparent. I am still feeling my way. I hope I get many additional years to perfect this.

deidre_NC

March 15th, 2011
9:07 pm

amen catlady.

Stacey

March 15th, 2011
9:40 pm

I was watching a TV show once and a lady mentioned that she and her friends are all financially comfortable and neither need nor want more stuff yet they feel compelled to exchange Christmas and birthday gifts. She said they came up with a rule that whatever gift they gave had to be something they would use and be done such as dinner, theater tickets, etc. I know my son would love to take a day trip somewhere or go to a Falcons game or something like that. Yes, he’s a kid so he wants toys but he’s old enough now to cherish memories. I’m not one of those who feels like a kid needs a party every birthday and we decided to just do cake & ice cream with extended family except for “landmark” birthdays. Since he turned 10 this year we were willing to do a party but he wanted to take a weekend trip instead.

mom2alex&max

March 15th, 2011
10:11 pm

Oh my parents spoil them ROTTEN and I am perfectly fine with it. My grandparents were the same way with us. I think it’s great. It’s a parent’s job to be the parent. The “grands” are there for the fun stuff!

Misty

March 15th, 2011
10:38 pm

What about the grandparents who are raising a grandchild or watching them on a fairly basis. If it weren’t for the grandparents, those children wouldn’t have anything and I mean anything! I would ask for passes to places that could be enjoyed year round, or that would help, like catlady mentioned. If I had a child that had too much, I’d go through and get rid of what they couldn’t wear or play with.

Liz

March 15th, 2011
11:04 pm

When I was growing up (20+ years ago) we were members of a “Book of the Month Club” for kids…each month, we received a new children’s book in the mail. My mother was truly wonderful about reading to my sister and me, so we looked forward to receiving the new books. This is how we ‘discovered’ many wonderful classics.

I wonder if there is anything like this today…would be a great gift idea for the kids that “have everything” and would encourage reading, as well. And books are easily recycled when children outgrow them (although my parents saved many of our favorites for THEIR grandchildren!)

Den Mother

March 15th, 2011
11:21 pm

I am blessed to have parents that understand the value in an experience rather than a toy. Don’t get me wrong, they do purchase small gifts for birthdays and Christmas but their “big” gift to my oldest (my 2 year old is too little to participate) were ballet lessons for a year. Likewise, for our anniversary, they purchase a membership to a family friendly location such as Fernbank or the aquarium. We get a lifetime of enjoyment out of these experiences rather than 3-4 days of fun with a piece of plastic.

jarvis

March 15th, 2011
11:39 pm

@momgoose, that was just a string of random responses I felt could adequately contribute to Amy topic.

jarvis

March 16th, 2011
12:13 am

Or “any” topic whether or not they are not they are about Amy.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

March 16th, 2011
12:37 am

Spacey — will you please resend the idea you sent me like two weeks ago. i am having problems with that gmail account but if it’s at the top I can send it over on my phone. I thought I sent it to my other account. I will double check but please resend if still in your send cue. thanks so much. sorry for the delay on that one.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

March 16th, 2011
12:38 am

Don’t know why that isn’t bolding when it’s me … hmmm.

FCM

March 16th, 2011
8:17 am

I stopped worrying about it so much….My side of the family buys the
“practical” stuff like clothes, music lessons, soccer equipment, etc. His side is Toys R Us for the most part. YES the girls have so many toys that I have litterally given away 2 – 3 black trash bags full without them noticing. However, if his family wants to buy it that is fine. They seldom get more than 1 big key gift off the list they ask the kids to give them for “ideas.” In fact, my children now purposely put the big tix items on the list they give Dad knowing he will get it and knowing I will get them the cool clothes and stuff. (their words, not mine).

I look at it like this…Nobody forced them to buy it. It is up to me to figure out how it gets stored in my house…the “unloved” toys go away to some children who hopefully can appreciate it and I never tell the family. Everyone stays happy and I stay sane with the junk (er toys) we do keep.

JJ

March 16th, 2011
9:09 am

I buy stuff for the 2 year old next door all the time. Target dollar store, clearance items, clothes, etc. It’s just something I like to do. I don’t have a little one anymore, so I spoil the baby next door. I was shopping at Target the other day, and found the cutest Tinkerbell outdoor Stepping Stone kit, complete with mud, mold, paint, etc. ( I figured it was something she and her mom and grandma could work on together, then put it outside). It was on clearance for $4.00!!!!! I was just going to give it to her, but her birthday is next month, so I am holding it for then.

TinaTeach

March 16th, 2011
9:26 am

My in-laws like to spoil our son but since they don’t have as much money as they used to they are a little more careful about it. I’ve seen pictures from when my husband was little where there were toys surrounding the tree to the point no one could walk into the living room!

I believe in buying a few things for birthdays and X-mas/Hanukkah. For minor holidays we do candy or flowers. My grandparents also give my son an Easter basket (even though he’s Jewish!). I don’t buy gifts for extended family (parents, siblings, and neices or nephews when we get some). I rarely send birthday gifts unless we are going to a party. Otherwise I call them and wish a happy birthday. Sounds cheap, I know but I prefer to call the person and talk to them on their birthday then to give them more junk that will only clutter up the house.

My MIL insisted we all go in for a gift card for my SIL this year to Sally Beauty which she will use to buy something that will probably clutter up her already over cluttered apartment, but I caved anyway. I’d rather have gotten her a grocery gift card.

Carol Covin

March 16th, 2011
11:11 am

Overgifting or buying the wrong gifts is a common family issue.

I asked for practical gifts from some of our children’s many relatives – clothes, themed sheets, and so on. When they didn’t respond with the excited joy that come from toys, the family relatives looked to me for relief and I let them go back to buying toys.

Half of the Christmas toys were put away for six months, until they’d played with the first half, and then they were as though newly received.

You can ask for anything you want – tickets, toys small enough to put in the car you are driving home from Christmas or store in your apartment, gifts from a list or money for college. It doesn’t matter. People are going to buy what gives them pleasure. Accept graciously for the thought behind it and do what you need to do afterwards.

For family members snoopy enough to look for the toys in your house afterwards, make up some white lie. XXX really enjoyed the YYYY you bought him. I’m not sure where it is now, but he has had so much fun with it.

My DIL’s were smart enough to take photos of new grandchild in clothes they received before they disappeared from sight.

Granny-Guru http://www.newgrandmas.com