Excessive gifts can impact values and behavior. Learn how to stop grandparents spoiling grandchildren (without offending them) with these tips.
The toys, the clothes, even the sweets—you can’t seem to put a stop to it.
As much as you appreciate grandparents showering your kids with gifts, it’s getting a bit excessive. Receiving presents may be fine if they were the occasional indulgence, but it happens more often than you’d like.
They receive so much from them, they now want you to buy even more things you’d rather not get. You’re tired of saying “no” to their requests, wanting them to appreciate what they have instead.
The worst part? They now expect something every time they see their grandparents. “What did you bring me today?” is their new greeting for them.
How to stop grandparents spoiling grandchildren
Your parents and in-laws likely act with good intentions. They…
- don’t see your kids often and want to stockpile presents when they do
- show their love through gift-giving
- enjoy shopping
- want the best for them
Keep their side of the story in mind as we discuss tactful ways to tell them to stop or slow down with gift-giving. Seeing their actions from their perspective adds empathy and gratitude on your part.
After all, this is a “good” problem to have in the first place. Some kids don’t have grandparents, or their grandparents don’t give them anything, even their time and attention. Give them a little bit of flexibility knowing that this means a lot to them.
That said, sometimes over-indulgent grandparents can take it too far. Though you appreciate their sentiment, you still want them to stop spoiling. When gift-giving affects our children’s values, expectations and behavior, we need to step in. Here are a few useful ways to do that without offending them:
1. Acknowledge their intentions
Conversations about grandparents spoiling grandchildren usually go sour because they feel attacked. From their point of view, they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. They probably think they’re doing the right thing, and can’t see the downsides of their actions.
You can imagine how defensive and hurt they might feel.
Instead, start the conversation by acknowledging their intentions and thanking them. They might feel less attacked and more understood when you show you’re grateful for all their gifts.
You might say, “Thank you so much for these presents. I know you love to shop for the kids…” or “Thank you so much for giving the kids so many toys. I appreciate that you think of them…”
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2. Explain your expectations
Once you’ve acknowledged their intentions and show gratitude, be clear about your expectations. Don’t just say “stop giving too much.” Be explicit to avoid further miscommunication. For instance, they can:
- Limit gift-giving to special occasions like birthdays or the holidays (instead of every visit)
- Give a limited amount on how much they spend so they don’t buy them a $400 device
- Ask for specific things you approve of, like books, art supplies, or board games
- Suggest useful essentials, like clothes and diapers
You can also offer other options that are more appropriate for you and your family. If your parents are set on spending $400, that can go towards a savings account instead of electronic devices. They can help with ballet classes instead of giving an expensive toy, or experiences like an annual pass to the zoo.
And ask them for their input as well. What do they think your kids would really enjoy? How would they like to support their school year, or what outings would they love to take them to?
3. Give information about the downsides of spoiling kids
Many grandparents shrug off suggestions to stop spoiling their grandchildren. “I’m a grandma—I’m supposed to spoil my grandkids!” Or “I raised you and you turned out all right!” They feel they’re exempt or even have a duty to give over-the-top loot.
Show them instead the downsides of spoiling kids, especially with material items. Cite recent research and articles, or give examples of how receiving too many items has impacted your child’s behavior or put pressure on you.
Have they been giving too many unhealthy snacks and treats? Blame your dentist and say that too much sugar and goodies have affected their teeth.
Do they allow an extra hour of TV when they babysit? Explain that you have important rules about too much screen time because excessive exposure can have downsides to their learning.
This can sway them to rethink their gift-giving when they can see the evidence pointing to the same conclusion.
4. Tell grandparents you have no space
For many households, excessive gifts simply aren’t possible because of the lack of space. Thank them for the gift, but explain you might have to exchange or donate it because there’s too much clutter and over-stimulation. Let them know that you can’t house all these items, especially large ones.
Sometimes picturing the gifts in your home paints a more accurate picture of just how much they’ve been spoiling the kids.
This would also be a good opportunity to offer alternative solutions that don’t take up physical space, or at least for too long. Suggest money toward savings, school supplies, or quality time spent with your kids. Or they can give the kids crafting kits for a more special way to spend time together.
5. Highlight the grandparent-child relationship
Every week, my mom visits the kids, usually on Fridays. And each time, she brings a small treat for my kids—a box of crayons, stickers, or a small toy. I never thought she spoiled my kids, so I cringed when one of them asked, “So, what did you bring me this week?”
I certainly don’t want them to equate her visits with getting toys and treats.
After all, it’s not about what grandparents give, how often, or how much is too much. Instead, focus on building a strong and loving relationship between them and your kids.
Explain that you don’t want material items to overshadow their love for your kids. That you don’t want your kids to expect something each time they see their grandparents, or to assume that’s the only way they can interact with one another.
Grandparents spoiling grandchildren can be a tricky situation to resolve, and an ongoing process at that. Without established boundaries, you run the risk of building resentment and confusion.
Start by acknowledging their intentions and thanking them for all they do for your kids. Explain your expectations of appropriate gifts or how often to give so they know exactly what you have in mind.
If they’re not convinced, give them information about the downsides of spoiling, from research to your kids’ behavior. If space is an issue, simply point out that the lack of it has become a problem.
And if they truly want to “spoil” them, focus on something that strengthens their relationship, like outings together or a season pass to the museum or zoo.
Because the real gift—the joy of your kids being with their grandparents—is far more valuable than any wrapped box they might receive.
Get more tips:
- Toddler Too Attached to Grandma? How to Cope with Your Emotions
- What to Do with Grandparents Trying to Parent Your Kids
- Why You Should Always Intervene when Adults Overwhelm Your Kids
- Want to Practice Minimalism with Kids? Focus on These 3 Key Areas
- Do You Have an Ungrateful Child? Here’s What to Do
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