In Laws Outdoing Everyone on Gifts

Updated on November 05, 2018
K.W. asks from Houston, TX
20 answers

My in laws are out giving everyone else combined. They like to give the coolest gifts. My parents feel awful because their heartfelt gifts just don’t compare. My husband and I (mom and dad) feel awful because we already know we can’t afford any gifts this Christmas. My in laws refuse to even buy her gifts that she wants or needs (like she wants a bike but they only buy technology based stuff). This year for Christmas she really needs new shoes, a jacket, and a bike. She’s love some legos. We don’t allow the technology stuff at home so while my in laws gifts are always the coolest and make everyone else’s look lame they don’t get played with and create massive drama after the day is done. Is there a way I can get this across to my mother in law? My husband already tried. They are usually spending upwards of $500 at Christmas on one child so is it too much to ask they buy gifts we approve of and maybe one thing she needs?

Edited: we have a computer and tv and encourage use. But no video games. They have so far bought her and iPad, kindle, ds, iPhone, and switch. It’s one 8 yr old with developmental issues! We do allow Wii but they won’t buy those games.

I normally wouldn’t do shoes or a jacket for Christmas but she loves shoes and money is super tight for us right now. And with it in the 40s and below and raining waiting on the bus a jacket would be nice.

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answers from San Francisco on

I'm a little old fashioned. I believe when you get a gift you accept it graciously, and with gratitude.
That being said, if the gift is something your children don't need, want or you simply don't approve of it, then by all means exchange it, sell it or give it away.
Once it's yours you can do with it what you want. If your in laws get pissy about it just remind them that your husband already told them your kids weren't allowed to have those things.
Problem solved.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I completely understand where you are coming from. As a mama who struggled when our kids were younger...I get wanting to have the necessities before having the nice stuff.
I don't know what kind of relationship you have with your inlaws...but can YOU sit down and talk with them? "Carlo, we are so incredibly grateful for how much you shower "Sarah" during Christmas! She is always so excited to open your gifts. Is there any way that I can ask a huge favor? We are struggling a little this Christmas and Sarah really needs some basics. Shoes, warm jackets, cute shirts...all of those things would be so incredibly helpful!"
But here's what I assume your inlaws are doing. They SEE that you are struggling and have the ability to purchase some of those high end gifts that they assume you cannot purchase. Maybe they think they are doing you a favor? Also, it sounds like their love language might be "gift buying" and that is how they are trying to show how much they love their grandchild.
Try to have the heartfelt conversation, if that doesn't work then I would suggest one of two things. 1. Just keep the gift. 2. Ask where they bought it and then return it and use that money to buy what you need. (If you choose number two you have to ask on the DL..."Oh my gosh, we love this! Where did you get it?!"

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

They certainly seem to have money to burn and have made gift giving competitive.
It seems they will not listen to reason so you might have to return/exchange gifts.
Perhaps you could pre-screen gifts before the kids see them.

As for affording gifts - when our son was ready for Legos I bought a 5 lb bag of them on eBay and it was a nice grab bag of random pieces.
We built all kinds of things with them just using imagination.
Consignment stores will have things like bikes and they won't be nearly as expensive as buying new - or check Craigs List for deals.

I'm not sure what you mean by technology gifts but schools are becoming more and more tech oriented.
You certainly don't want the kids playing video games all the time but getting comfortable with computers is a big part of their education.

Good grief - no 8 yr old needs a smart phone.
Our son didn't get one till he left for college.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i think you need to rethink YOUR stance on being a recipient.

your parents' emotions are theirs. it's very silly to feel out-gifted. it's not a competition. but this is not yours to fix.

you and your husband are also silly to feel awful because you're not outgifting his parents.

so if you and your parents can't afford the extravaganza, why not stop comparing? you can buy gifts that are wanted or needed as your budgets allow. the in-laws can blow their retirement on whizbang gifts that may or not be a hit.

yeah, it would be great to get that good rain jacket. but what would you do if your inlaws WEREN'T buying silly expensive nonsense?

do that.

and thank your inlaws with unfeigned delight for celebration of the holiday and their grandkids, in their own way and with with their extravagant generosity.

it's silly, but not as silly as being resentful about it or trying to micromanage it.


6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Welcome to mamapedia, K.

Your husband needs to talk with his parents about how the two of you are raising your children and what you both feel they need.

HE needs to talk with his parents. HE needs to set the boundaries. HE needs to set the rules.

If it means that he tells them - look- the gifts you buy are not allowed in our home (which I don't understand why technology isn't allowed) and you end up taking them back - maybe that will wake them up.

Shoes aren't really a kids Christmas gift in MY opinion. A BIKE? YES!! Shoes? No. I don't know how old your daughter is - by the mention of Legos - I'd say she's under 10. A bike can be REALLY cool.

In Houston - how bad does a kid need a jacket - it doesn't snow - right?

Why are you so adamant about no technology? Sorry - but kids need to know how to use technology. it's OKAY for them to play - hell - your kid might end up creating something because of her ability to use technology.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

your husband needs to address HIS family.

I don't understand why you are so hell bent on no technology. If they won't change and listen to your desires? Maybe you should just stop accepting their gifts? If you don't like them? take them back and use the money where you feel it's better spent. Unfortunately, I totally disagree with you about video games. There are some really good ones out there. Sounds like you really like a lot of control on your kids. What's going to end up happening is your kids are going to be at a friends house and go manic on games they aren't allowed to play at home because you have restricted them. You've made it it forbidden apple. You're creating just don't know it.

Gifts are supposed to be from the heart, not a competition. So people give what they can.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I agree with mamazita and mynewnickname - a combo of the two.

We have been through this. My husband tried different approaches. Looking back, I would have handled it differently. It was his family, so he handled it himself - my only input was - it could not affect our Christmas morning. It had started to. It was endless opening of my MIL's gifts that were inappropriate, the kids never wanted and never used, and we were donating every year. They outnumbered all other gifts - including Santa's. It took until afternoon just to open all our gifts when we had to open hers as well. It was nuts.

My suggestion would be - open them at their house. Either keep them there if you don't want them at your house, or take them, sell them and use the money for the bike and coat etc. you will allow her to use/have. If your husband has already talked to them and they still disregard your parenting decisions as to electronics - then I wouldn't feel badly about it.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Toledo on

I would either return the gifts or sell them on craigslist.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I guess I don't feel like you get to dictate to grandma and grandpa what they get to give as gifts. What you do get to dictate is what you do with the gifts after they are received.

I get that money is tight, but "forcing" them to buy gifts that are things your child needs to get through the winter is a bit . . . tacky. I can't believe that there isn't a single thrift store near you that you can't afford to buy appropriate winter clothing for your children from. Plus, isn't Christmas a bit late to be needing those things?

Let the in laws buy what they want - you can return, sell, save for later, or even give away items that you do not think are appropriate or needed for your child. I'm not sure why you would even get in a power struggle over something that is so simply solved. Are you sure the drama isn't coming from you and not them?

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

IMO, it's not the outdoing that is the problem, it's that they don't respect your parenting.

My kids also have 1 set of grandparents that is much more extravagant than the other. We solve this by not having them together for opening of presents (so neither set of grandparents sees what the other is buying so there is no feeling of competition). And our kids know that both sets of grandparents love them. This is not a long term problem. The difference is that in our case, the extravagant grandparents ask my husband and I for ideas, and Christmas always includes new clothes as well as toys that we have pre-approved.

The problem, as I said above, is that they don't respect your parenting decisions. I would suggest opening the presents from your inlaws at their house, and then anything that isn't permitted in your house can stay there when you leave. Then, maybe they will get the picture. In any case, I don't think that you can solve this. Your husband - their son - has already tried, and it's his job to handle his own parents. If you try, it could backfire and ruin your relationship with them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I've been there. My SIL has gotten my kids gifts that they didn't need/I didn't want them using or playing with. Many were technology based like leapfrog tablet for my son when he was only 2 years old (!) and a kindle for daughter when she was only 4. She's also gotten books/toys for them that I didn't really want in the house. Every time she did this, I really wished she would've just gotten them a gift card so I could pick out what they needed or felt were appropriate.

What I did was to just say thank you and put it away or give it away (she's the type who would get offended if I were honest with her about it). I've been doing this for years (my older child is 6) and my SIL is finally understanding that if she gets my kids something they don't need/I prefer them not to use, it'll be put away and not be used. Now she's better about asking me first what my kids need or would use before she buys things for them.

If I were you, I would just return the extravagant toys, buy your kids the things they need with the money, and explain to your inlaws that your kids didn't need them/they're not allowed to play with them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think you need to see this as their problem and their own sense of inadequacy. They cannot make other people feel bad unless you (and others) cooperate with that. What's "lame" is their need to show off and be defiant. While I don't think we parents can give grandparents a list that takes all the fun out of choosing a present, and while I don't feel it's their job to buy the jacket you can't afford, I see that they are not choosing based on the child at all but on commercials and other ratings of "coolness" as well as their obsessive need to show that they are richer than everyone else. This is their disability - that's an easier and more charitable way to look at it.

If your child has developmental issues and is only 8, she does not need an iPhone! You're right. I think your husband should tell them one more time what your parenting standards are, and ask them to respect your values. If they do not, you have 2 options: 1) return the gifts unopened, or 2) accept the gifts in the mail but do not invite Grandma/Grandpa for Christmas to see your child open the gifs. Open them yourselves to prescreen them. Then decide: can your child have them, or are you returning them or selling them to use the proceeds to buy what she needs. If you were trading in the Legos they gave to give her an iPhone, that would be wrong - but you are trading in something she is way too young for (and no 8 year old needs an iPhone, regardless of developmental level) in exchange for something that she will get a lot of use out of and which have a learning component.

If they will not listen to reason, you can only control their access to your child. And that has to be your husband's job. You may have to have a quiet Christmas at home with a few used gifts and board games from the thrift shop - but it will be appropriate and devoid of drama. If you and your husband don't draw a line in the sand now, it's not going to get better. Maybe his parents will see that you are serious. If not, you're at least going to have less drama. Don't have a fight along the lines of "No, you can't come to Christmas because you're ridiculous and we call all the shots" of course, but do say, "It's too much commotion for us and so we're going to have a 'just-us' holiday." If they don't listen and bring gifts at other times, your husband needs to take the gifts away and say, "We'll put these aside until later, as I have told you before." Put them in a closet, and refuse to discuss. If you go to their house and they get out of control, your husband has to be prepared to pack you all up and take you home before your daughter overhears comments she shouldn't. Do not be the "bad guy" yourself.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Honestly, I would stop thinking about it. You can't control other people no matter how annoying they are. Your husband can tell his parents that whatever they get her, your daughter also needs a jacket and shoes and a bike and he would appreciate it if they got that as well. They might. They might not. Don't expect anything useful from them. I'm sad your daughter has no jacket!!! There are many places (like churches) that collect shoes and jackets and hand them out to families in need. Ask your parents for shoes and a jacket for her too. She can have more than one pair. Please find out what resources are available to you. My community has four local thrift shops. Two are inside churches and there are always kids jackets and shoes and boots for in $3. Look for a fleece jacket also to wear under her winter jacket. Keep us updated on your daughter getting some winter clothes she needs!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

You can't dictate what people will give but if they ask what your child wants/needs then you can tell them.
In the meantime I would use your own money and buy a jacket for your child.
If they were to give an additional coat by chance then that is a bonus.
I would just suck it up and let the kids enjoy opening them.
In addition to that, I would lighten up on the no technology as they will need to learn how to use in the future for school and life in general. Better to learn how to use it when you're young enough to be a quick learner.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I am confused a little why a wii is okay but not the switch, which is basically just an updated wii? A kindle is basically like buying books, how is that not okay? and with a kindle there are many wonderful classics she can download for free! To me that is a wonderful gift! It almost feels like you are just determined to see every gift from them as wrong no matter what, maybe that is because you can not buy the same items and feel badly about that, but you don't need to feel bad just because they happen to have more money right now, older people often are better off finically then young families.

In the end a gift is just that, a gift, and it is unfair of you to ask them to give less just because others can not give more, but it is also unfair of them to give gifts like an iPhone you many not be ready for your child to have, so there needs to be some balance and compromise I think on both sides here. Maybe if the conversation is had in a more "lets find some common middle ground" rather then "everything you give is wrong, even access to hundreds of wonderful books", you might find them more open to buying that new bike this year, or a subscription to kindle books, or something you more approve of then an iPhone.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Last Christmas, I gave my 6 and 4 yo kids tablets. I sometimes sit with them while they play kids'games. The 7 yo plays on a couple of sites that allow her to dress characters. Just last week, I played a word game with the 5 yo. She is learning spelling and matching the number of letters to the number of spaces. We go to the library for books because they prefer reading a book they hold in their hands. They also like to go to the library to play educational games on the kids' tablets. These games are different than those they get on their own tablets. For the last few months both use adult tablets. Their parents check up on their use from time to time. Once in awhile this makes it easy to talk about use and why some is not helpful.

The 7 yo is on the Autism Spectrum. Would be called Aspergers before. She uses games to stay calm and watched kids' programs. So does her older brother who also has Aspergers. He started research when he was about 10. He likes to tell us what he's learned. He has difficulty having conversations.

So I'm not sure why you object to tablets. Of course they are too young for phones. I download kids books on my kindle. The girls prefer real books. Their parents and I are avid readers. The 6 yo reads books. The 5 year old seriously wants to read. Sometimes, I help her read words in games.

I wonder how your husband talks with his parents. Does he just tell what not to buy? And what to buy? My daughter and I have conversations about their goals as parents. All year long we have conversations off and on about things they'd like for theire kids and what I'd like to buy. Together we make a Christmas list. I definitely have more money than they do. My daughter and husband express gratitude for what I'm able to do.

I suggest that the abundance of gifts and your dislike might have more to do with your and their son's relationship with them than with the actual toys. I suggest that you lovingly talk with them about how grateful you are for the gifts as a start of a relationship in which you work together on a gift list. Instead of telling them what you want them to give, share your family values. Talk about what your kids are involved and interested in. Talk about the special needs of the 8 yo and what sort of things that will help her. Recognize that the grandparents may be buying what they would've liked at that age. I noticed at the beginning I did that.

I know if my daughter was critical if my choices and that I over indulged at Christmas time, we would be estranged. I would feel criticized and unloved.

A few years ago, my daughter suggested I bank money for education past high school. I've opened an Oregon cCollege savings account for the oldest. That money is tax free. I've named the younger kids as beneficiaries on investments. I'm very pleased to know I will be helping with education after I'm gone. It did take me a year before I was able to do that. I love gifting. Gifting is my love language.

I suggest if you focus on love and gratitude, you will be able to work those negative, critical feelings out even if the grandparents continue to give more than you'd like.

I grew up poor. Being able to gift is important to me. My children are also poor. They are glad to receive my help.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Well I see one of the old-timers here is still ugly to those she doesn't like. Damn. Some things don't change. Flaming other members one doesn't like is not cool. Glad to see you wouldn't normally do shoes for Christmas either. I don't for 8 year olds.

You don't dictate gifts. If they ask what the child wants for Christmas, you tell them.
You don't like the gifts they give? Return them and buy what you need or want.

Your husband needs to address his parents and set the boundaries with them. You two need to be a united front about things.

Like others, I don't get the technology issue. But it's your home and your kids. I think you're going to create a monster by withholding technology. As soon as they are out of your sight? They will fight for the technology. I would loosen up a bit. Not be so strict. Everything in moderation.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I just want to apologize for the women that aren't hearing you and are disrespecting your parenting style. It is not their place to judge what you allow in your home. You were asking for help and some of the responses were dreadfully disrespectful. Just know, it's not you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Do they give gift receipts? Maybe you can ask them to include them and you can return the stuff you don't want and get the stuff you need?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Score! I guess Mommy will get a new iPhone for Christmas. You should keep the high priced electronics for yourself!

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