34 answers

Should We Stop Giving Birthday Gifts to Extended Family?

Hi Moms,

I need your opinion on an issue that my husband and I are facing. My husband and I always remember the birthdays of his sisters and their kids. For the adults, we just mail a card, but for the kids (nieces and nephews) we usually mail them a card and a generous check. In the past year, not one of the kids has ever called and said thank you. And, when our son's birthday was 2 weeks ago, he got nothing-no call, no card, nada even though his birthday is around the same time as most of the other birthdays. I say that we should just stop sending these kids anything for their birthdays. My husband says we should ignore it and take the high road. What do you think?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you all for responding. We appreciate all of your input. This website is so great because you get to hear all perspectives. I should have been a little more clearer in that explaining that I never expected any money or gifts to be given to my son for his birthday. The nephews and nieces that we give $ to are all teenagers. They used to say thank you, but not anymore. A simple thank you from them would have been great, but no one takes the time to care enough to put in the effort (but, boy they sure cash those birthday checks right away)! I guess really, I'm more hurt because, no one called to say or send a card for my son's birthday especially since his one aunt and her husband who are my son's godparents and my son's birthday is the day right after his godmother/aunt's birthday.

Featured Answers

Sorry, but I agree with both of you. Yes it is best to just ignore it, because I am a firm believer in what goes around comes around. However I would just send a card and/or no money or just send $5.00.

I have went through this, but I chose to ignore them totally.

Hi there. I would be irritated with the situation and would stop acknowledging the birthdays. You could always send a card but nothing else.

I would stop on the "gift" part, but continue with the card. They will appreciate you remembered when they are older.

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Do not stop giving those gifts unless its a financial burdon. If you do you are telling those kids that the only reason you are giving is to get something in return. I realize it is rude not to give a thank you! But look at the parents. They don't even call their nephew on his birthday.

1 mom found this helpful

We still give cards and gifts or money to our nieces and nephews, but when would send gifts to my girlfriends kids would take the money, never say or send a thank you, so after several years of that we just quit sending anything. She would'nt even call my kids on their B'day, let alone send a 99 cent card. It's sad that her kids were not taught to appreciate anything that they would get. My three kids sit down and write a thank you.

Hi there. I would be irritated with the situation and would stop acknowledging the birthdays. You could always send a card but nothing else.

I don't know what the right answer is, but I thought I would let you know you weren't alone. My son is spoiled so he doesn't need anyone else to send gifts, but last year we had family and freinds that didn't even call. That's rude especially when we go out of our way and can't afford it to make all their holidays special. I wonder where the point is of taking the high road and being walked on comes in. But, trully unless the children are older they have no control over what their parents do, so I have a hard time not buying for them. Just thought I'd let you know you weren't alone Iknow this wasn't much help.


I do know exactly where you are coming from. My husbands famil is just like that. We give a card and money to the kids until 13 years of age. That is their last one. It is true about them not even acknowledging they even got a card plus never saying thank you. We don't remember the siblings of my husband with a card. He usually just calls them and say happy birthday. Although none of them call him. I don't have siblings so I don't have to worry about such stuff.

We adopted a little girl as an infant 3 years ago and my hubby's family (some) of them forget our daughter. I think it is because their children are old enough and oh well to them.

This is the best advice I can give you hope it will help!

M. Hall

i would say it depends on the ages of the kids, but you should give gifts if you want to not to expect a thank you even though that would be the polite thing for them to do.

We don’t give gifts expecting to receive anything back that means even on our birthday, child’s b-day or on any holiday. We give gifts out of love, use this great opportunity to teach your children just that. We don’t give expecting to receive back we give because we love the person/people we give to.

I know that not receiving even a thank you can hurt but remember that you did not give to get glory, you gave out of love. And be content in the fact that you are teaching your children to be good caring people. Remember you know what you did was right and out of love that should be the only validation you need.

Sorry, but I agree with both of you. Yes it is best to just ignore it, because I am a firm believer in what goes around comes around. However I would just send a card and/or no money or just send $5.00.

I have went through this, but I chose to ignore them totally.

Hello M.C., I agree with your husband. Punishing the children for the lack of manners of their parents is not the answer. As a neice who was in this boat, my aunt made the biggest positive influence in my life by always letting me know that I was loved no matter what. I will always be thankful to her for remebering me and teaching me manners that were never taught to me at home. I say talk to the adults and let them know that you feel hurt that your child is completly forgotten. Then talk to your neices and nephews about the importance of thank you cards when receiving a gift. Let them know that it is important for you to know that the gift was recieved. If the parents don't provide it, send them a self addressed envelope with a reminder in the card. After that hold the children themselves responsable for sending the thank you notes. This will be an added gift to them, teaching them manners. Good luck.

I would stop but not for the reason that your son didn't get anything in return. I'd stop because it's extended family. A card is just fine. A gift is not always needed. Sometimes people forget that a card showing someone is thinking of you means just as much if not more to some people than a gift.

I think your husband is right to a certain extent. I would continue remembering everyone with a card but perhaps your relatives don't want to exchange gifts....and maybe they can't afford to. So, I might consider not giving gifts. I guarantee your thoughtfulness will one day be appreciated.

Hi MC,
I'll be 61 in August. I have a brother who is 2 years younger. We had a 'double' family situation in that our mom's sister was married to our dad's brother. For years, this aunt and uncle would give a gift to both of us on both our birthdays (in Nov. and Aug) until we were 8 or 9. After that, our birthday card always came with $2.00 in cash until we were in our late teens, and our parents did the same for their 2 kids (our 'double' cousins). No one else in our extended family gave us anything more than a card, unless we had an actual birthday party. You have no "obligation" to give any of these nieces and nephews any gift at all. It's totally been your generosity over the years. Maybe it's time to start sending them just a card wishing them a wonderful day on their birthday. As far as the non-response/thank you, that's partly a fault of their parents for not expecting and overseeing the writing of a thank-you note (a lost art, sadly). As a side note, if you're debt-free and have an emergency savings account already built up, maybe you could use the $$ you would have sent the nieces/nephews and start an educational savings account for your child/children.

Just some thoughts from someone who would rather be debt-free than bankrupt (= "slave to unpaid bills"). We love Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover program. "Debt is dumb, cash is king; and the paid-off home mortgage takes the place of a BMW as the status symbol of choice."

Dear M.C.
I'd continue to send a card as to not ignore, but I wouldn't send another check. I would take the adults actions as a sign that THEY have decided to discontinue gift giving and follow suit. Explain to you husband that you don't want them to feel uncomfortable accepting a gift when they have clearly chosen not to reciprocate. The cash you save could be put in a savings for your children's future. ps. If you do continue to send $ to appease your husband, I think you may become resentful. --Good luck with this one.

I think, the economy being as it is, it's fine enough to send a card only. I'd tell anyone to start out that way or at least a nominal amount (not generous) to see if there's at least a thank you. With just a card, no one's obligated, really.
But, without wanting to sound "eye for an eye"-ish, if your son was totally overlooked, maybe everyone else is weighing whether or not it's even worth it and/or just simply forgot. I know I'm guilty of forgetting birthdays. But it could be a sign to just discontinue sending cards, let alone cash, when it goes unacknowledged.

I understand what you are saying. If people are unable to say thank you, then don't acknowledge the event. There is one exception, the child is to young to do it themselves. It wouldn't be fair for a child to "pay" for their parents rudeness.
I have a step daughter who does not say thank you and so her dad and I decide we are done. It would only take someone 15 minutes to write a quick note, address the envelope, stamp it and drop it in the mail.
I hope you and your husband come to an agreeance.

It's sad to say, but I agree with you. My husband and I had the SAME situation...and I finally put my foot down. I said-"If we receive a card next year, at least a card, we'll send them something then". Of course, we didn't even get a phone call!! I think it's rude. And, you are right-not even a THANK YOU??? I just don't think that's polite and it seems like you are being taken for granted!!
Good luck with it all.

First of all shame on those mothers for not teaching their children to say thank you. I would stop sending the cards and cards with money. I bet you'll get a call then......

I was a sahm also .. money was always tight...I always made my children make sure they Thanked anyone that sent a card money or not...we couldn't always afford to send money and sometimes no card maybe only a phone call.... My kids Loved the mail regardless if there was money or not, but they also enjoyed the fact as they got older when someone took the time to call them and tell them Happy Birthday in person...

Seems to me that if a parent can't teach their children the manners they should have, they are teaching them to expect something for nothing...And why should you have to buy Love from your own family?

I stopped worring about it years ago and just worried about my own children...That and we didn't want to be known only for the money etc.that we could give!!!
It' funny my oldest daughter is married to a man that doesn't think she needs to say please & thank-you to him , she has worked hard to explain why and why their 2 year old needs to learn good manners...I have to say she has done a great job with her,usually she doesn't need to be prompted so that proves they do learn what they live as the saying goes...

Good Luck

I am in the same situation with my brother, sister-in-law and their 2 children. We stopped giving gifts to the adults a long time ago but still send and give to the nieces and nephews. Since we see them at Christmas time and give the gifts to them in person, I doesn't bother me as much if they don't send a thank you (although my children still say thank you in person and send a thank you note). But for birthdays I send a card with money and get nothing in return. No call and no thank you note. My brother knows better because my Mom made us write thank you notes our whole lives. It has become second nature to me now and I would never accept a gift without sending a thank you. My children are told that they cannot use a gift until the thank you note is written and sent. This strongly encourages them to get them done fast. My sister-in-law on the other hand has no social graces and probably would never think about it at all. I did talk to my brother about it and he said he hated writing thank you notes as a kid and wouldn't force his kids to do it. He told me to stop sending gifts. The funny thing is that his kids are home schooled so you would think they would have more time and maybe use this as an opportunity to teach the children how to write letters (the old fashioned way vs. e-mail). I have decided that next year I am going to send cards to the kids for their birthdays without any money inside and if they ask why I will tell them why. By the way, all my other nieces and nephews send thank you notes.

I would stop on the "gift" part, but continue with the card. They will appreciate you remembered when they are older.

I have been in your same situation. I always try to have a good heart with good intentions.....but for 8 years I sent cards to my husbands family and my own family for birthdays, anniversary, and special holidays such as Valentines Day, Thanksgiving, Easter etc. I would send gifts to the neices and nephews on their birthday and Christmas. I truly loved dong this. But year after year when we continuely received no cards in return for our our speical days and my son received nothing the feeling of giving wore off.
When I started to feel resentful was when I knew it was time to stop. The feeling of giving had changed. There is nothting wrong with that. It does not make you any less a good person. I grew tired of people who did not want to put an effort forward to do nice things in return. It took time for me to find cards and gifts and stamps and the time to write.....so when I felt it was not appreciated I stopped.
I put my passions elsewhere to others that appreciated it.
I did not want to waste my valuable time feeling resentment so I stopped what I was doing. What I learned was that was important to me (cards, gifts, etc) was not important to others and I had to respect that (even though I didn't understand it). Family can be a strange group of people.

Well, Im going to assume that you send cards/money for the person who is having a birthday, not for your own validation. I say you should def. keep sending cards to the adults, after all you are not the one being rude, and Im sure your birthday wishes are sincere. As for the kids, I would decrease the amount of the checks. You say generous, but that could mean different amounts for different people. For nieces and nephews, I always send $25. A thank you would be nice, but I don't always get one. Usually I can look at the parent and tell where I will get a thank you and where I won't. One of my siblings is so wrapped up in their own life that they rarely say thanks, never call just to say hi, always have a previous engagement for birthday parties, and never concern themselves with how somebody else is doing...but if we were to treat them that way there would be a meltdown!

Anyway...I say don't punish the kids, but don't burden yourself, either. Do what is nice, but don't go overboard either way.


As long as the gifts you are giving are not a financial hardship for you, you could add to their college savings program instead of sending the money directly to them to spend. If they don't have college savings yet, you could start a 529 account for each of them, and add what you normally would have sent in their card into the 529 account each birthday. By the time they are ready to go to college and they are able to access the account, hopefully they will be mature enough to thank you then. Good Luck!!

Maybe you could follow-up with a phone call a few days later. The kids may not have been taught proper etiquette regarding gift receiving. After a couple of these, they'll get the hint that a thank call or note is what comes next after receiving your gift.

Generous is one of those words that can mean many different things to many different people...
The first thing I thought of was my Great Aunt... She sends a card and $5.- to all the extended family. In her case its about 60 people that she blesses with her money.
If your hubby wants to stop the money/ card because of a lack of appreciation suggest a card with or without any $ or with just a few $$ (less than $20) then let him make the decision.
He has YOUR best intrest at heart (not over spending yourselves for those who don't even appreciate it.) and also the other kids also. If they ever ask why they didn't get the $ then you can just tell them that they NEVER thanked you so it stopped. (aka life lesson) Use the $ that you save from them to take yourselves out to dinner and spend some special time together.

I was curious maybe your family doesn't reciprocate monetarily because of budget reasons? Just a thought. In our family when we send a card and money to the birthday child its because we want to do it, not because we are expecting anything in return. We also determine the amount to go in the card based on what age the child is. For example a 1 year old gets $1 a 2 year old $2 etc.
I do have to agree with you that a thank you would be appropriate, not only for you but it would be teaching some manners to your neices and nephews but I would most likey put the cause of no thank yous on those childrens parents. Sometimes a phone call a week or so after the card is sent, is a suble way to get your point across. "I never heard anything and I just wanted to make sure that my card/gift was received".
You could always just send the birthday greeting and not include any money.

I say take the high road...but perhaps nix the generous check down to a modest gift card...You'll have a lot less angst over a $10 toys R us card.

Keep sending a card but stop the gifts and $ - it is not being appreciated.

I would not blame the children for not thanking you or your husband. It is their parents responsibility to teach them good manners. The parents should be teaching these children to say their thank you's and if the children still don't...then the parents should make them. And personally...I wouldn't send out too generous of checks anyway. It is a nice gift for a kid to receive even a small amount of money.

We'll I'm going to have to disagree with the first poster. I say send a card and stop the gifts. Why should the financial burden in these economic times be on you. Of course it's your choice in the end. But sometimes taking the high road does not mean to continue to do what your doing. Sometimes taking the highroad means stoping what your doing. You sound like the type of person who if you got a simple Thank You this wouldn't be an issue.
I've had this issue in my family and it's call recipication. When there is none, whether it be gifts, a dinner invite or going out and always picking up the bill you have to stop somewhere.
Would you continue to invite people over to your home to eat your food and drink your drinks if you never get invited to their home?? I know I wouldn't. Sometimes taking the high road is also basically being a door mat and I for one am not a door mat and hope your not either. How about taking the fork in the road or the road less traveled :)
Good Luck!
J. in Macomb

Well. . . Are you doing for them because you have expectations of them for your family's birthdays or or because you just want to bless them? As far as gratitude, if their family does not practice "a thank you" policy then the kids won't realize it is appropriate. Answer this question honestly and then make your decision. Blessings. . .

I agree it's their parents responsibility to teach them good manners.Don't stop sending them cards and just don't give them as much as you do.If it bothers you maybe talk to one of the parents and say all these years sending out cards I'd like to get a "Thank You".


I know your frustration and I think that your husband is probably right when he says take the high road. Especially because it's about giving not receiving right? It's not the kids fault their parents haven't taught them to say thank you, or to give a present in return. If anything just skip the adults, but not the kids. I don't buy gifts for adults (birthday, Christmas, etc.), but I do for my nephews. For birthdays we send a card and $30.00 and at Christmas we spend about $40.00 on each nephew.

Good luck!

Yes, you should. Your extended family may not be acting deliberately thoughtlessly - they may well just be overwhelmed. Most of our children have so much these days that these gifts are really not necessary. For many households right now, feeling obligated to provide gifts for all of their extended family is a financial burden they may not be willing to admit they have or they may be 'maxed' out time wise. Your family may find it a relief actually if you stop. I understand your husband wanting to take the 'high road' but perhaps cutting out the gifting is the more sensible alternative.
Good luck.

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