In-Laws Bearing Gifts

Real Relationship Advice (and no politics today.)

CoupleDumb headquarters gets lots of questions. Why is my husband a jerk? How do I survive another lie? How do I stop my kid from eating soap? This week we decided to tackle one topic that we are asked to write about all the time: IN-LAWS.

One of our readers writes:

Anonymous here, but my in-laws can’t stop buying my kids things.  My kids have an entire wardrobe of clothes for each season at my in-laws house.  I can understand one or two “emergency” items, but an entire wardrobe?  They have tons of new books and toys to play with each time they go to their house. Waaay more toys there than here. If my kids are into something, my mother-in-law buys the entire series, set, accessories, and anything else with that license.  They bought a Wii system in case my kids want to play while at their house.  It is so over the top it’s ridiculous.  They also let my kids run wild in their presence and can never say no to them. EVER.

So our solution, after a few years of trying to figure out how to handle it, is to severely limit the amount of time they spend with my kids. My kids are a little older now and their schedules are busy so it’s easier to do that anyway.  I don’t want my kids to be spoiled, entitled brats. I don’t want them to think that anything they can’t get from us they’ll just get from their grandparents, and admittedly I don’t like feeling like an inadequate parent because whatever I do for my kids they will do more.  Neither of my in-laws is easily approachable either.  The shopping comes from a place of total insecurity, but nonetheless it is just not how I want my kids raised.  Our solution seems to be working, but maybe this will help someone else figure out how to handle over-spoiling grandparents.

Anonymous just shared a very important topic; spoiling the grandchildren. On one hand, this has been the prerogative of grandparents since they stopped killing their heirs for fear of a coup. Socio-biologically, it makes sense to shower your grandchildren with gifts because they are your legacy; your DNA extension. However, the constant gift buying disrupts the routine. It creates a false sense of entitlement for the child. It creates an image of the grandparents that is largely based on objects and gifts rather than an emotional attachment.

Recently, we had in-laws visit and found the grandmother giving money to the boys. We suggested she stop but she continued. The rationale was that she was not around them all the time and this would help them remember her. Well, that completely depends on how parents raise their kids. Our kids do not care about the material (unless, of course, it’s toys like SkyLanders or Nerf).

This need to be remembered comes from the fear of not being enough. Most grandparents will go through this especially if they are apart from their grandchildren because of distance or just hectic schedules. However, their need for the affection of their grandchildren often clashes with the wishes of their children. It comes down to boundaries and respect. Set the boundaries (like anonymous said) and then it is up to the grandparents to respect that boundary. The raising of the children is your responsibility and you are to choose if you want them to be entitled brats or responsible, caring individuals and grandparents need to respect that.

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