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!

Merry Christmas! I probably have to agree with your husband - I have an aunt who sounds very much like your MIL. I can tell you I learned what to expect (it actually became a joke between me and my cousins ... "what did XXX yet for you THIS year?" I also learned that in my aunt's eyes, she loves her family so much she wants to buy as much as she can possibly afford, which isn't much at all. In her eyes, it was and still is (with my daughter), quantity over quality. She's actually a very insecure person who seems to believe presents equal love ... even though we've told her to PLEASE save her money and come visit us instead (my daughter loves to play with her). After over 3 years, nothing has changed. And this is a woman who truly doesn't have the extra money to spend.

I would recommend talking to your son before the holidays - I'm sure he's old enough to understand what to expect. Hopefully he won't be so disappointed. Maybe you can even ask your MIL for gift receipts so you can return the gifts before your son even plays with them? Then he could pick something he really wants.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful day!

Dear G. ,
Happy Holiday And Happy New Year .
my advice to you is to let it go . let your mother in law have her good feelings that she have got many stuff for her grandson . and let your son know by him self that there is different kinds of toys that he need to Handel with care so it will not broke.
my kids gets gifts like this all the time from certain people in my family and my husband side as well .
first of all even if i know this person can afford to get them a very expensive gift . i do not tell my kids or my husband or the person who is giving the gift that your gifts are bad .
my 9 years old & my 10 Years old kids tells me we feel bad for the person who is getting us this toys that breaks easily because they are wasting their money over something is not good .
so now what they do is they do not open the gift . they unwrapped for sure but they never take it out side the box no matter how much they wants to do that , and they just put the gifts in their rooms and they have a big smile in their face when they look at it .
they keep telling me this is a gifts from our aunt or uncle or grandmother and it makes us happy to look at it .

they are like this because i never tried to put down anyone in front of them .
even for my husband i do not tell him how come your mom or brothers gets this kinds of gifts . because i love him and i will be hurting him if i say something like that .

so my dear let it go and just be grateful that your mother in law is trying hard to be in your son life and make a good memory in his life .

happy Holiday .

I hate to have to say this, but the problem is not your mother-in-law. It is your husband. And you knew he was a mama's boy when you married him. Your husband needs to stand up to his mother for his wife and child! I know this from personal experience.If he won't, then your only other solution is to explain to your son when the toys break that it was no one's fault, that the toys are not well made, which is true. You see, your husband is right, she will never change...unless he is man enough to take care of the situation!

Merry Christmas to you and your family today! I hope it is a jouful day...really I do.

One question, does your mother-in-law live close to you? Is she there when your son opens the presents? If she lives in another city or state, you can always open the boxes when your son isn't home and get rid of them that way. My mother-in-law lives across the country, so I do have some control!
If you don't have your husband's alignment on how to handle it, it is really hard. Have you made it clear to your husband really HOW DISAPPOINTING it is for your son to have the toys break and what kind of impression this leaves on him about his grandmother? That might be the way to your husband as he is a "momma's boy". OR if this doesn't work, I think your son is old enough for you to have a good heart to heart with him in a kind of light hearted manner...something like "you know how much grandma loves you,right? Well, sometimes grandma buys things that break because she doesn't know a lot about toys, so just know how much she loves you and if the toys break, it is important that grandma took the time to get these things for you and she did it with all of the love in her heart." This way you are building character for him and it isn't about the toys, but about something bigger than that. your son will be disappointed a lot in life, so it isn't so bad that it is happening now, BUT you can make it a much bigger lesson for him.

Good luck and happy holidays. I hope this helps.

I think that it is not a big deal. I mean it's just once a year and once they break just throw them in the garbage. Plain and simple. Sometimes you just can't change people. You can try speaking to her if it really bothers you. But trust me it is not worth it... just let it go.

You are off base. I can understand the frustration. We all have someone who gives us or our loved ones undesirable gifts and yet we should grin and bear it. I mean she didn't even have to get him anything. IT IS THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS. Whether your son is sad his toy broke or not, he knows that Grandma gave him that and that she loves him and thought about him.

Your husband is right, you cannot change someone. I'm sorry for the presents being flimsy and upsetting your boy. Think of it as a lesson in learning for him, be gentle, be thankful, etc. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Why get into it with her when (I agree with your husband) she is not going to change. Box them up and give them to the shelter or Goodwill or Salvation Army or some other charitable organization. You don't have to share this info with your mother-in-law because you don't want to hurt her feelings and I am sure you mean well.

You cannot and should not tell your mother in law what to buy your children. Your son will enjoy opening up the presents, even if they break straight away. He will also learn that some toys complete are junk. When he is old enough to shop for himself, this will serve him well.

I feel bad for you and more so for your son, that his new toys break the next day, not even getting 24hours use out of the, although her thought is good, but i think you have a great idea, if she buys cheap toys that break the next day, you ought to put them in a bag and give them to her and maybe then she will finally understand why you gave her a list and asked her to go by that list. If that doesnt solve the problem then maybe your better off, not letting your son open the packaging of the toys, asks where she bought them from (" cause you would like to buy another is what you can say if she asks why") and then return them and hopefully you can find something that is much more sturdy. I hope for you and your son, that she goes by his list. Good luck and have a merry christmas

G., I feel your pain. My MIL watches my daughter several times a week, and never, ever shows up without a new toy. They are always cheap, usually too advanced for my daughter and often break easily--often into small pieces she can choke on. My house is ready to explode with too many toys, and my daughter either gets frustrated because the toys are too advanced or upset when they break and I take them away. I love that my MIL wants to shower my daughter with toys and attn, and my MIL is a wonderful woman, but I'm afraid that my daughter will also come to expect a new toy every day. I have started collecting them in a bag hidden in my closet and taking them to charity. My daughter is too young to notice when a handful of toys disappear overnight, but your son will notice. So, I think you have a great idea: collect all the broken toys, give them back to your MIL and with a wide-eyed, innocent look say, "Gee, these broke so easily. It's such a shame. I thought you might want to take them back and demand a refund." Best case: your MIL gets the hint and at least saves up for fewer, better quality toys. At the very least, you'll get the broken toys out of your house and let your MIL deal with them.

What about a 529 plan (college fund) and then only one gift.

Let it go..... You are making way too much out of this - - - my mother does the same thing..... Just look at it in a different perspective - it's like her spending her money on a fun day at a carnival - the money lasts for a day - the memories of her love a life time....

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.

Do not, I repeat do NOT send her back the broken presents. This will cause more problems than you ever will want to deal with. Teach your child to use them gently. Tell him that they are not so sturdy and so to be careful. Or, since there are so many, donate them somewhere. You do not want to send the message that you are ungrateful or teach your child do behave in an ungrateful manner.

hi G.,
Have you tried going through a sales ad with her and showing her the things he would want? this could help especially if she appreciates a value.
I don't know if I would give her the toys back because this could be construed as confrontational, but you could mention that they broke and could she give you the gift receipts just in case this happened again.
Also what about suggesting she get your son clothes?

gosh when I grew up I never even had christmas and was always jealous of everyone.

I think it is very sad that we as adults would tell people what to get as gifts...I am sure this what christams is about..the quality of the gift not the idea I was lucky to be given to.

I hope my children grow up to realize that gifts are tokens of someone's thought to give and no amtter how big or small the being thought of is the biggest gift of all.

I tOO gET nO wHERE wHEN I aSK mY hUSBAND tO sTAND uP tO hIS mOTHER oR jUST tALK tO hER..hE oN tHE oTHER hAND iSNT A mAMMA'S bOY..bUT I tHINK tHAT yOU sHOULD aSK hER tO rESPECT yOUR wISHES hE iS aFTER aLL YOUR cHILD..

i have the same problem!!! it is so annoying and frustrating. my son doesn't seem to be as affected by them breaking...the real annoyance for me is all the useless cheap CRAP around the house!!! (when they do break, i just secretly throw them away!) i imagine your MIL would be so hurt and offended if you gave them back...not sure it is worth damaging your relationship? i would suggest just enduring it...it only few days a year...

please understand i am not trying to be disrespectful to you, but you are asking for peoples opinions and here is mine. i think that it would be rude to give her a bag of broken "cheap" as you called them toys. i like to give lots of christmas presents too. the kids really have fun opening them. christmas is about family and the giving spirit. dont write out a list of exactly everything you want him to have and then get mad because it isnt exactly to your standards come christmas morning. just be thankful that your husband gets to spend christmas with his mother. Please believe me I would love for my daughter to recieve a bag of "cheap" toys from her grandmother but she died before she was born. Please be a little more thankful for what you have than what you dont have. this is only my opinion. take care and u and your family have a wonderful year!

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.

Hi there-
I'm not sure if you're mother in law is computer savvy, mine's not but this year I made a wish list for my son on Amazon.com and emailed it to family. They really appreciated it and were able to shop online from his list. For my mother in law we made a date to go x-mas shopping together(definitely not an everyday thing for us!), I hit the toy store & then I could give her gentle steering in the toys my son would like. I would try my best to be diplomatic about it, maybe next year tell her you're asking grandparents to limit gifts to a certain number, she may be more likely to spend more if she knows there's a limit. For this year, if a toy breaks, nicely ask for the receipt, I think the bag of toys back to her would cause a lot of hurt that would only cause more problems. Good luck!!

I know it's after Xmas now but here's my suggestion. Keep one or two and donate the rest. Grandparents are going to do what they want, whether we like it or not. Their brains don't work normally once they have grandchildren.
If your son breaks his toys too quickly, teach him that it's a consequence of being too rough or if it's a cheap toy, teach him that some toys aren't made well and there's nothing we can do about that.
I'm firmly against having Xmas lists. Gifts should be given out of love and they shouldn't be expected.

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