31 answers

Mother in Law Gives My Child a Ton of "Cheap" Gifts for Christmas...help!

My mother in law and I have a "different" type of relationship. As I have been told over the years from other family members and friends...this is not unusual. Every Christmas, she showers my 7 year old son with way too many toys. I have asked her EVERY year not to do this. The toys are not well made, and break almost the next day. This is heartbreaking for my child because he thinks he is doing something wrong. Believe me, he is no "angel"...but he is "my angel" and is a typical 7 year old boy. All boy and plays hard...I asked her again (after giving her a small list of the xmas presents he asked Santa for-to give her some ideas) anyway, I am dreading watching again this year...his joy and then his disappointment. I have spoken to my husband more times than I care to count...to have a talk with his mother (he is a mama's boy by the way) and he understands my frustration, but does nothing about it. He says "she will never change"...after this happens again this year, I am thinking about putting all of the cheap and broken toys in bags and giving them back to her. Please do not misunderstand me. I am grateful she buys him xmas gifts - but am I off base to want her to please do as I ask?

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I want to thank everyone for their responses...this year my MIL gave my son some $$, clothes and 4 toys. One broke the next day and one when we opened it up, two parts were missing from it. Before xmas, I had explained to my son that is the "thought that counts" (as I do every year) and than no one ever gets everything on his list from Santa. That is not what xmas is about. I also explained that some toys are more "durable" than others, so be gentle with them. My husband and I have been teaching him the "value of a dollar" and when he sees something on tv or at the store he wants, he has to earn the $ to buy it. We along with my parents and both of my husbands (his dad divorced my MIL years ago and she never remarried; he did, and I get along fine with his wife of over 16 years) anyway - we all have college funds for my son. After xmas, we let him decide how much of the xmas $$ he wanted to put in the bank. I had explained to him it earns "interest" when it is in the bank. He also earns allowance every Saturday from doing his chores during the week. To my delight, he took over half of the money and asked me to put it in his bank account.

The holidays can be hectic, stressful and way to busy...but this year, thanks to all of you - I kept sane and took all of your advice to heart. Thanks again for taking the time to respond - I wish all of you a "Happy and Safe New Year"
~G.

Featured Answers

Hi G.- I second one of the saner voices that advised not sending anything back. That would only deepen the materialism which you are objecting to, by essentially complaining that she didn't send the 'right' stuff.
Here's what I did with an extravagant east-coast Christmas grandma- I peeked, carefully, inside each and every parcel, and if I knew it would be a problem, I gave it away.There was always plenty left under the tree when the children were younger, and I could sincerely thank my MIL for her generosity. At a certain point, though, in league with other siblings, we shifted the entire family's gift-giving (except for those members with young children, or who were in financial straits) to contributions to the Heifer project in each others' names- for the children, and for us,too, it has been fascinating to see what their gifts of various livestock animals were able to do in the lives of their third-world recipients. Best wishes for truly happy holidays- Ruth in Sacramento

I think you've done all you can with the MIL. Sounds like you've been patient and understanding. Why do grandparents totally ignore the advice of the parents? My in-laws are the same way. Special my MIL. I think it's a great idea to send her all the toys back... at least the broken ones. Why not get one great toy that will last a while? Maybe they just don't get it... it is a different generation. Maybe she'll get it once she receives that bag.
Just trying to be supportive because you are doing the right thing.

Christmas shouldn't be about how much you send on someone or what you get them. It's the thought that counts. You should be happy that she buys him gifts.

More Answers

Dear G., For all of my four children's lives my mother showered them with gifts, especially at Christmas. I am her only child, and these were her only grandchildren

For many years we tried to stop her from giving so much. She always gave well made toys that lasted forever.

First, I asked that she please give stuff that would break quickly to aleviate the clutter. She did not.

Then we fretted and stewed about it for many years.

Needless to say our children loved receiving all the gifts.

My Mom and her friend would hit the toy stores every day after work to see what wonderful things they might have missed the day before. They both needed Born to Shop bumper stickers.

My Mom loved children and toys, and gagets of any kind. She said they would call to her from the shelves to take them home.

We finally gave up trying to stop her and just went with the flow.

We finally would sort the toys every few months to various groupings, Give away, Pass down, Store for a while and rotate in 2 months. This seemed to be the only way to manage the clutter.

My mom has been gone for 17 years now, I miss her, my children miss her. And I have a grest supply of sturdy toys for my grandchildren.

The toys will come and go, brake and recycle, but the joy in my mothers eyes and the joy and remembering of a precious grandmother will last forever in my children's hearts.

Nana Dot was much more than a toy giver.

So my suggestion is to let her enjoy, and teach your son to accept these gifts graciously. His gift can be gratitude for a Grandma who loves him.

Stuff breaks and we all make mistakes. Mistakes are our opportunities to learn. All that is required when we make a mistake is to fix it as best we can, and learn from it.

Maybe you can find other things for them to do together.

Go for walks, go to the park, bake cookies, built forts, do puzzles, learn math, learn to spell, write stories, read,
and just enjoy each other.

You can buy the well made toys that will last.

My God bless you and yours forever.

Lovingly, Janet

4 moms found this helpful

What's more important: proving your point about the gifts or keeping a positive relationship with your mother-in-law?

If you do want to drive home the point about the gifts, then by all means, give her back the evidence of how trashy and cheap they are.

If you want to keep the relationship positive, surrender to the facts that (1) she is going to give him cheap gifts, (2) they are going to break (3) she isn't going to lsten to your requests and (4) your husband isn't going to intervene. Smile and say thank you. Focus on the positive that she is giving your son gifts -- and a lot of them.

You might want to try sweeping as many gifts as possible before your son gets much of a chance to play with them. You could then squirrel them away for a rainy day or a sick day. Then bring them out a few at a time, to make those long days seem a little shorter.

Or maybe you could try viewing them as consumable gifts, meant to be enjoyed for only a short time and then gone forever. (Kinda like a bubble or an snow man.) It's okay when the bubble pops or the snowman melts. Although it's sad, it is also part of that kind of fun. Perhaps these gifts can be viewed of as the same kind of toy.

As a side note, my grandmother used to shower me with cheap gifts as a child and continued it until she wasn't able to shop anymore. As a child, I just remember the thrill of opening and opening and opening all those gifts! They may not have been the best but they were plentiful. After a while, my brothers and I just got used to the fact that Nana's gifts only lasted a short time but that was okay, because there were so many. As an adult, I just thanked her for her thoughtfulness and tossed about 75% of the gifts out unopened. The others almost all were broken and tossed during the next few months.

However, I still have 3 of those corn on the cob handle things that she brought me. THose alone have survived out of the hundreds of gifts she purchased before she died. I'll keep them forever -- even if they are rusted beyond use.

1 mom found this helpful

A seven year old can understand and learn a valuable lesson, that a cheeply made toy or other item doesn't last. Use these toys to put away, and bring out one at a time for short term, one time use throughout the year when your son needs something to distract him when going to the Dr.s or other occasions.

I can identify with everything you say except it's my mother who does this. This year, I asked her to help with the kids' college fund instead. I even had the kids (ages 10 and 12) ask her for college money instead. They are really very tired of the cheap junk too! Maybe this will strike a chord with her to help where help is needed. If college is already taken care of, maybe you could ask for financial help with a car fund instead. He will be driving before you know.

Omg mine is the same way all these cheap things and they always break and its fustrating trying to fix em or glue em or even dealing with this what i would do is tell your mother in law instead of giving him all these cheap toys add up all that money she actually spent on the toys and to get em a big nice good toy it worked for me and i said this in a much nicer way so thats what i would do good luck let me know what happend laters lori

If it were me, I would just say "thank you" and explain to your son that gifts are just that...gifts. I have tried to teach my children that holidays aren't for the purpose of having friends and family provide everything on their wish lists and that they should just be grateful that people have loved and cared enough to buy them anything at all. My kids have and get SO MUCH STUFF that I am almost grateful when something breaks so I can get rid of it! With that said, I would just say "thank you for thinking of him" and teach your son to be grateful for the gifts he has been given. Period. She will be his grandma forever and chances are you are not going to change her habits any time soon. You and your husband can get him the things on is wish list that you want him to have.

Hi G.- I second one of the saner voices that advised not sending anything back. That would only deepen the materialism which you are objecting to, by essentially complaining that she didn't send the 'right' stuff.
Here's what I did with an extravagant east-coast Christmas grandma- I peeked, carefully, inside each and every parcel, and if I knew it would be a problem, I gave it away.There was always plenty left under the tree when the children were younger, and I could sincerely thank my MIL for her generosity. At a certain point, though, in league with other siblings, we shifted the entire family's gift-giving (except for those members with young children, or who were in financial straits) to contributions to the Heifer project in each others' names- for the children, and for us,too, it has been fascinating to see what their gifts of various livestock animals were able to do in the lives of their third-world recipients. Best wishes for truly happy holidays- Ruth in Sacramento

HI there,

I have a seven year old son as well and my Dad is the one who does what your talking about. I have gradually gotten through to him that it's better to have a quality gift than many miscellaneous ones that break or don't get played with. I admit, it's a little easier because he's my dad and not my in-law but I worry a lot about hurting his feelings and they get hurt easily.

I don't really know if there was one thing that got through to him. I tried giving him a list of great gifts that I'd like him to give, it didn't really work. I tried telling him gifts of his time and company were great, like a trip to the zoo or something like that. He doesn't like that either. He loves his grandkids but doesn't have the patience to go a lot of places with them. I just get rid of the toys. He comes around and asks about certain things and I have to say I got rid of it for whatever reason-we didn't have the room for it or my son wasn't playing with it enough or whatever. We had a garage sale this summer that was 95% toys! If nothing else works, I say just donate them, un-opened, to the salvation army or something. Or have a lot of garage sales. I know it's not because you don't love your mother-in-law, it's not about that. I know how frustrating it is. Sorry, not much help. But I feel your pain.
We should get together this summer and have a huge toy/garage sale!
Oh, I also told him he could contribute to our son's college fund and he actually sent us a savings bond! A nice change!

1 / 3
Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.