Sage Advice: Grandparents Heap Too Much Stuff onto Grandkids

By Amy Dickinson | September 24th, 2019

How do you deal with overly generous grandparents?

Grandparents give kids too many toys Asky Amy

Dear Amy: My husband’s mom and stepdad are very generous with our two children.

They often take the kids overnight and always return them with new toys and clothes – too much, in our opinion.

Our children have many toys that they just don’t use. My mother-in-law has also told us that they have financial concerns.

We have tried asking for them to spend time instead of money on the kids, but they insist the gifts are always on sale or are inexpensive second-hand items, and that it makes them happy to give the kids “stuff.”

When we try to talk about this, his mom tends to make passive-aggressive statements in response.

We would love our children to be excited to see Grandma and Grandpa, not just excited to see what new toys are waiting for them.

We argued about this, and over a month later, his mom was still so upset that she didn’t call my husband on his birthday.

I’m concerned that these fights will lead to resentments and will damage our relationships. What can we do?

– Upset

Dear Upset: Your reaction to this overindulgence is reasonable, and it sounds as if you have done your best to communicate your values respectfully to your children’s grandparents.

Their reaction is overblown, angry, and unreasonable, but understand that when they load up on “stuff” for the kids, they likely believe that they are showing an abundance of love. Sometimes — especially when people are hurting financially – they will see showering material things as the ultimate expression of love and generosity. This is the limited language they have to express their devotion to their grandchildren.

You’ve expressed your values, and your message must have gotten across because your mother-in-law is still reacting to it.

Now you should reach out and let these grandparents know that the kids love to see them and that you hope visits can resume when the grandparents are ready.

If the grandparents continue to overindulge during overnights, explain to the kids the “one toy in, one toy out” rule: They can choose what they want to keep as long as they pick out the same number of toys they no longer play with (or clothes they no longer wear) to put into the donation box.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2019 by Amy Dickinson

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