26 answers

Help with Grandma Who Is Buying Way Too Much for My Kids

Hello Ladies! You have been so helpful with my other requests, so I thought I would come to you with another!

My mom loves buying things for my kids. It can be really nice and helpful, but it is getting to be way too much. For one I would prefer to have a different style of clothes for my kids, but can't justify spending more money when they have perfectly good things in their closet. And our house is overflowing with toys. We don't have a playroom and so toys are getting broken in my kids' bedrooms because they have too much.

I know I should just give a lot of their stuff away, but it is all from her and so when she comes to visit she asks about the things that aren't out.

She buys gifts for birthdays and Christmas, but also for Valentines day, Halloween, Easter and any other holiday that may come up. So far this year both of my kids have SIX presents under the tree from her and she is STILL shopping.

I want Christmas to be about giving more than receiving, but I am struggling with that when my kids are getting so much that they don't need.

I know I should count my blessings, and I do, but I am wondering if you have any advice for me to get her to buy less with out offending her...she takes offence VERY easliy. I would like to tell her two gifts for the kids and the rest will be donated to charity or to have her put money towards a college fund, but I know both of those would offend her because I have tried to joke about them in the past.

Please help!!!:)

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Honesty is the best policy. It will be hard, but tell her the truth. It's wasting her money if the kids don't even play with the toys. Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful

I have 7 and my MIL is the same way, boundries can sometimes help. But I have come to the realization that I can't stop her from doing it, she is spending her money and it is her's to give away. But one thing that has helped a little especially with the excess is to take it to her house when she gets new things for the kids, she has seen how mush overflow I have and has gotten better about at least asking about something first.

I don't know what the right answer is, this has been going on as long as granparents has exsisted. But GOOD LUCK!

More Answers

My mom is thesame way!! This is how I redirected her "giving" over the years...

I would tell her a month in advance that would like to give a "big" gift this year and if she would like to go "In" on it, ie: a table and chair set for the kids, or a playhouse, or even a large savings bond to start for each child, Let her know that you want them to be able to go to college someday and that You would love for her to go "in" on one with you. or even tell her of a great store that you saw some darling outfits in and maybe you and her could go to lunch and x-mas shopping together so you could show her how much you adore that store..hint hint.... this way her feelings are not hurt, she feels included and it is a win-win. Someties my mom still gives as much anyway but I also know that I wont have her around forever and it is still fun for the kids and that is what she wants. Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful

I know how hard this can get. My mom goes way overboard as well. As for christmas, I changed what I was getting my kids because I knew that between the two sets of grandparents, there would be too much. So we get our kids one or two good presents then we get them the clothes, underwear, and such that they need(pjs). The other thing we have done is encourage our kids to donate to toy drives. This year the school was doing it and when the kids asked if they could bring toys I told them if they wanted to they had to pick from their own Christmas stash, and they actually liked that idea. Birthdays are also a tricky time. My sister actually started this but now my mom gives each kid a $10 gift card and a $50 check which we deposit into thier savings account. My sister finally told my mom that toys come and go, but a savings account benefits them in the long run. Now I tried to convince my mother in law to do the same but she refuses, out right, probably because it wasnt her idea...

Anyway, I know what you are going through. One thing about people who get offended often is that they choose to get offended. If you spend your time worring about what is going to offend them, you will never accomplish anything. Do what is best for your family. Donate some of the toys if you feel that is the right thing to do, and when she asks where the toys are tell her that she has blessed your family so much that your conscience was bothering you about all the unfortunate children that would have nothing so you decided to share. She may get mad, but you have eased the burden on your house, and made some other child very happy. (You can even choose names off an angel tree and let your kids pick for those kids and spend what you would have spent on your own kids on the less fortunate, we do that sometimes too). As for the toys in your kids rooms, limit them to one or two bins of toys, let them choose what they want to keep, and give the rest to the goodwill. We do this once a year, just before Christmas, so there is room for the new stuff, and we get rid of what they dont want anymore. Again, if your mom asks, tell her there isnt space for it all and that you had to make some hard decisions to make room for the new stuff. She really cant argue with that!

Good luck, I have been there too, you just have to remember to do what is best for your family and not worry about extended family and such...sorry about the novel!

1 mom found this helpful

Honesty is the best policy. It will be hard, but tell her the truth. It's wasting her money if the kids don't even play with the toys. Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful

Our grandma did the same for years but once the kids started asking for really expensive stuff she's backed off. I also mention all during the year how wonderful it is when she spends time with them, not mentioning gifts. When we chat I try to mention a charity that we've been able to help or friends that were in need that benefited from her generosity. It's taken awhile but once she realized that I don't intend to limit her spending but that the gifts move on she really has stopped buying so much and started getting things the kids really need instead. Another thing is that when the kids got old enough they started sending her lists of stuff they wanted. This year my 3 year old cut pictures from ads and pasted them to paper for her. I love that now I can depend on her to get the kids the latest trend in underwear, new shoes, a party dress, etc. that I would love to be able to buy but seem extravagant in our budget. My husband and I also adjusted our attitude to appreciate that at Christmas we are not overwhelmed with buying because we don't. Grandma already did.

1 mom found this helpful

My mom is terrible at this....one day last September I was tripping over toys everywhere. The kids don't like toys and won't play with them, they'd prefer to be outside playing. Anyway I gathered up every last toy. All of the 'storage' ones in the basement, the ones in their rooms, the ones in the living room and piled them all up in the family room - the biggest room in the house.

Then I invited mom over. I let her see just how many toys the kids had and gently explained that lessons, piano, gym, etc we're much more of a gift than all the plastic toys. (it was literally a pile waist high that went from wall to wall. Ugh!!) I donated nearly ALL the toys and kept a handful. Mom has been really, really good over the last year about not buying toys.


1 mom found this helpful

We have the same situation with two sets of grandparents. Christmas is ridiculous. We have spoken to them both, but they do the same thing every year. So my husband and I maybe buy one or two things and that's it, if at all. I love both sets of grandparents, they are so wonderful to the kids, that I have stepped back and let them do their thing even though they know how we feel about it. I am thrilled that my kids have both sets of grandparents growing up (I was not that lucky.) So it's okay, we make sure we purge the playroom (along with the kids) on a monthly basis and as a family take the toys to places that need them. Pick your battles and if the joy comes from the grandparent in this way, just work during the rest of year to make your kids appreciate their good fortune and love of so many.

1 mom found this helpful

I would tell your mom that as much as we appreciate all the wonderful gifts, that you think the best gift of all would be a contribution to each child's education fund. If it is true, you could point out how much she taught you to value education, blah blah blah. This might let her spend the money she wants to spend and keep the clutter down in your house. Good luck!

The joy of grandparents is gifting. So be honest and set ground rules for her. Explain you are scaling ack due the economy (or whatever) and that it is inappropriate for her to give more then one present or (set a limit like we have $50 total for both kids and Christmas and $25 each brithday...including shipping). If you are brave enough, also tell her you will be needing to scale back the house and bring the extra toys to the consignement store (find one that is cash forward instead of credit) and that moeny will be put into the college fund. And at that time, share the information about the college account you have set up (how much you have saved, what is the goal...how much a year you would like to seeput in etc.) then set that as the gift she should give beyond the limit you set on amount. My father-inlaw, for example is basically paying for our kid's education little by little over every holiday. Or, you can share that your kids are saving up for something really big and expensive. tell her you want it to be something they worked for and choose to save for. So that if she wanted to give $10 cash and then the rest in savings, the kids could decide to put that away for the big toy. Wait, just noticed your kids are young...maybe in a couple of years. so anyway, set the college fund stuff, the cost limit, and don't feel guilty about the selling the stuff off. Oh, and get the Five Love Languages for children. You will see her love language is gifts and understnad a litle more anout that and how to handle that..and see what your kids love language is too.

I think if she is spending time with them as much as she buys for them, then you have a healthy situation. If she is not spending as much time with them, I would suggest and tell her that her "Presence" is on a grander scale than "presents." Time and memories is something all kids and adults treasure and can be the greatest gift of all. I think it's great that she buys for the other holidays as well-what a cool grandma! You need to instill in your kids the giving principal rather than receiving. So, when they buy a gift/gifts for Grandma or anyone...let them choose as much as possible and make it a special gift just from them. When the kids and you receive the gift, it is up to you to decide what to do with it. If there are things they don't play with or clothes that they don't wear, absolutely give it to other kids or donate it to charity or store it in plastic bins so it's not so overwhelming. When she asks about the stuff, be honest about it even if she gets offended. That's how she chooses to handle it. Perhaps she will get a subtle hint that she buys too much or she will choose to keep on buying. Either way will need to be okay, because she is your Mom and you can't change her. It's time for a heart to heart talk; let her know how much you love and appreciate her and the same for the kids, BUT share your feelings and ideas about this matter. For instance, you would be more comfortable if she bought them one expensive toy/clothes (outfit) and she could stop there. Money is a great idea; make her aware that you would like to start a saving's account and use the money she would normally spend on the other 4-6 gifts to go into that and eventually a college fund or other things in the future that they might need as they grow older. The other thing I wonder is if you feel like you are in competition with your Mom as far as wanting to "keep up". If she doesn't have any other grand-kids, then that will make a difference too. If/once she gets more...this could easily subside a bit more. All the best with this...

If she's going to be offended anyway, I'd do what's best for my family. Maybe you could talk to the kids ahead of time and tell them they may keep 2 or 3 presents. Don't open the other, and take them to the Children's Hospital or something in the next few days. In their thank yous, maybe the kids could mention how good they felt being able to do something so nice for the kids. You should be able to find someplace where the kids could actually meet face to face. Tell you mom what a great Christmas you were able to have and pass on due to her overwhelming generosity. If she says something, you could just blame it on the economy and say you just really felt a need to help those out who couldn't have Christmas and you were grateful she made it possible for you. It might totally backfire, but it's all that comes to mind right now.

I did not read all of the responses, but I have an idea. I told my MIL to make a coupon book. ie: I will take you to get ice cream, I will have a sleep over with you, let's go to the museum of your choice, do a puzzle.....you get the idea. I want my children to know that time is valuable and I want them to spend as much of it with their Grammy and Grampy as possible. Hope this helps!

Hi B.,
I haven't read the other responses, but I would suggest 3 things, first invite your mom over to see just how much "stuff" your kids have, then explain to her that you simply don't have room for more and that your are going to have to ask her to limit what she buys for your kids. Be explicit with what you want, 1 toy per kid for birthdays and Christmas and cards/notes/trips out for activities for the other holidays, for example. Let her know that you appreciate her generosity, but can't have your home overflowing with toys. Maybe some could go to Grandma's house for when the kids visit, but explain that you have to get rid of some of the toys because you just don't have the room and that you will be giving some things to charity. Be honest with her, and approach her with love and respect, she'll come around.
Second, provide mom with a list of things your kids actually do need, books, shoes, socks, whatever and let her give them things they can use if she wants to buy them gifts. Be willing to accept that the clothes and things she picks out might not be what your would have chosen. This is a way for her to be involved with her grandkids, and it seems to be important to her. Also, encourage her to take the kids out for fun time with Grandma instead of simply shopping for them.
Finally, show your kids how to be generous with what they have. Explain to your daughter that some kids don't get Christmas presents, and ask her to help pick out some of her toys to give to them. You could even help her choose one of her new Christmas gifts to give once she has opened them. Teach her early on the joy of giving to others and helping those who have less and she will remember.

Hi B.,

I can't wait to hear what happens. I certainly feel for you. My mom is the same way. I think it's about more than too much stuff, it becomes a boundary issue. It's important that your mom respects the boundaries you have in place.

Of course your kids are lucky to have her in their lives, but that doesn't mean she can do whatever she wants- even in spite of your protests. I think if it's not totally clear to her, she may not know that you're serious or is maybe just not wanting too many 'rules' about how to be a grandma.

I think my mom was buying gifts for all the wrong reasons, and we did have to tell her to stop. We explained that our daughter is thrilled to spend time with her, but we are not wanting to have a child who gets an overabundance of toys when there are so many children without. So we said there will be a limit of 2 gifts plus 1 outfit, and anything beyond that will be donated to charity. She was upset at first, and said we were ruining her opportunity to be a grandma. I said I was sorry she felt like that, and that she is more than welcome to spend time with our daughter doing things for "free". She could take her to the park, library, etc. So I basically put it back on her. If your point is you want to be a loving grandma, I just gave you many ideas to spend time and never restrict that. Why is it just about gifts? The kids will remember the time together more than they will ever remember the presents.

We do get some pouting every now and again and a test of the limits, but we held firm. Sounds like you will get a fair dose of offense, but it may help set a healthy precedent which is a good thing.

Good luck and let us know what happens.

I just heard this same issue on Dr. Laura. Dr. Laura said stay out of it, let the woman be an extravgant Grandma.

She encouraged the mom to help the kids do a great job of savoring each gift, thanking the giver. I suggest continuing to teach the children about charity and kindness, etc.

P.s. Growing up, I had abusive parents, and I never once had a grandparent who gave me a gift. Yes, your mom sounds extravagant, but there are worse scenarios. Just love them, mom.

HI B., I would suggest that you tell her its too much. If you want, you could tell her that everything that the children need they already have, and you may pick a child in need to benefit from the extra things that your children don't need. This time of year is so easy because charities are always asking for donations. Let your children be in on the giving. It will help them be more kind to those people less fortunate

The responses I've read so far all seem to tell you to set boundaries. Good idea. If she doesn't abide by your guidelines, start selling or giving away. I too hate to get rid of something that is like new and still useful, but enough is enough! Save new toys for Toys for Tots, and give or sell the older ones. There are lots of consignment sales in this area (S Denver). You could make some money to put in your kids college fund. I see that as the only way to take control of the situation from your end.

Welcome to our world. I thought my hubby (who comes from a family of 11 children) was going to have to be revived our first Christmas with a child. My Mom meant well, but it shocked him--I was used to it--grew up with it. Well, he told them it was sweet, but really our child loved them to death, so the toys weren't necessary. She was a little hurt at first, but then as they got older and their income became more fixed, the gifts became smaller amounts and the time with them became more. My hubby also mentioned it made him feel a little embarrassed, too. Like what he provided wasn't good enough. We also have told them that we love it when they help us with tuition for things. One year they gave the children skiing lessons. They have helped pay for instruments and lessons and other things that we may not have been able to do without their help and those things will stay with the children long after toys. Put your thinking cap on, and always make sure grandma knows you love her to death--she doesn't need to buy your love! As for the clutter, you need to get it out because it isn't safe, I'm grandma will understand and want her babies safe. Good Luck!

Let your mom be a grandma. It's her money. Instead of trying to change her, just change what's at your house. Pack up toys in a box and store them so you have a manageable amount. Too many toys = too much mess. If your mom asks where a toy is, just tell her the kids had too many toys and it was too much to manage so you packed them up.

When your mom visits, encourage her to read books with your kids.

You can store the excess toys or give them to friends or give them to charities. Use it to teach your kids about giving. They won't be greedy. "We're packing up these toys so we have for the new toys." You could even hang on to some of the toys that look especially nice and re-gift them. That would save you shopping hassle! You'll be able to give gifts to new mommies in your neighborhood. ...if you want.

So, my advice is to let your mom buy as many gifts as she wants....but don't let her control what goes on in your house. Be clear and upfront with the fact that so many gifts means the gifts won't be staying at your house as long.

If she seems upset about you giving it away, just pretend to be really clueless.

All you can do is share with your mom your feelings about all the presents. Best of luck. Remember to come from a space of love. It is the best way to communicate.
With my whole heart, C.

Good luck! It is what a grandparent urges to do for their grandbabaies.... spoil them(at least most of them). When it comes to grandparents, you almost have to let them get these kids what they want to get them; however, if the items they are getting are questionable, then you have more that the right to step in full force.

I would just nicely tell her that you would appreciate her thinking of contributing to a 529 plan for their college.
Explain that the kids don't play with things if there is too much and you would prefer her to pick a few special things they will enjoy all year as opposed to them just letting things get broken.

Explain it has NOTHING to do with her personally however that she needs to maybe witness herself that there are toys everywhere and that the kids rarely play with half of it. Your kids are young and tell her that they have no idea about quantity and it is overwhelming, that you would much prefer to have her save up for their first bicycles or something larger they will enjoy later.

If she takes offense, apologize but stand firm on your reasons leaving a personal spin out of it. I think it is a Grandparents right to like to spoil, however they need to understand that you don't want your children to start off life with unrealistic expectations either.

I know from experience with a four and seven year old it is about quality not quantity. We have a playroom over run with stuff and went through it before we set up for Christmas and dontated a ton of it. You can get over run with toys that lay in the corner and gather dust. There are too many children this year going without anything and maybe you can tell her you would love for her to understand your prosepctive. Make sure your hubby backs you on this conversation.

Start with the topic of the economy and how you see your kids overwhelmed and children out there with nothing. Keep backing up how much you appreciate her spoiling her grandkids and that they love her and just don't need all that stuff but time with her.

Maybe encourage her to get a "family gift" like a membership to the zoo all year or something large for all of you as opposed to a bunch of toys that won't get played with.
The other option, is for you to scale back big time and tell her then some of the things she bought will be put out as Santa gifts....that way she can do what she wants but lessen your financial burden as well as not overloading the kids with stuff they don't need or won't play with.
Good luck, feel blessed. I tend to over do for my kids because they don't have grandparents or aunts/uncles that send them stuff so I feel badly for them. But this year I really had them sit down and think of what they truly wanted instead of a ton of things on their list this year is tight for everyone.

Start a 529 college savings account for your kids. Give her a heart felt card stating how you enjoy watching her dote on your kids but if she could make an investment in their future and less on toys that they won't remember when they move out... Word it so that you know she cares for them and they will be so greatful when college rolls around. A few gifts is fine but they get lost if there are too many.

I have 7 and my MIL is the same way, boundries can sometimes help. But I have come to the realization that I can't stop her from doing it, she is spending her money and it is her's to give away. But one thing that has helped a little especially with the excess is to take it to her house when she gets new things for the kids, she has seen how mush overflow I have and has gotten better about at least asking about something first.

I don't know what the right answer is, this has been going on as long as granparents has exsisted. But GOOD LUCK!

I would just give them back to her. And tell her NO they do not need this, or say ok then that (the gift) and stay at your house for when they come over to visit.
good luck.

hey, as the mother, you need to put your foot down. went through something similiar with my children and my mother in law. not easy but effective. we all want the best for our children and have different means of raising them to be good, nice, grounded members of society. and the ground work is laid early in life. so, tell your mom that you appreciate that she wants to spoil her grandkids, but it's not necessary. in the future, two gifts per child for christmas and birthdays is fine, mention that there is a price limit, like 20 bucks a gift or something along those lines to prevent her from spending and outrageous amount on a single gift. also let her know that your would rather she put the extra money into a college fund for the kids should she insist on spending money. as for gifts and toys overtaking your home, i clean out my kids room twice a year, sending what i can to a goodwill store and donating toys to make room for the new gifts. stress to your mom that its much more important to you for your kids to remember her by all the memories they've made together and much less to remember her because she always spoiled them. set your ground rules, asking her what she thinks is resonable, then make up your mind and stick to it. good luck and merry christmas.
ps, if she's as touchy as she sounds, it's not going to be easy to do this and chances are she is going to be offended.

Tell her straight up but do it with love.If she does it again,tell her you will be taking the older toys the kids have and donating them to charity...As a grandma,I get in trouble for sending cookies,,,I get my feelings hurt by one daughter all the time.I do all mine totally out of love not because I want to busy their love...Just tell her again with love or tell her to send you a gift card to take them out for a special dinner or donate a toy to a special child...Grandma here still learning...................

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