Soldier Ornament

Reasonable Gift Giving

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

It’s closing in on Christmas and instead of being happy, I am dreading it. Why? Because my in-laws believe they have a “right” to spoil our 18 month old son and 4 year old daughter and spoil them, they do.

I hate confrontation and they’re not my parents, so I haven’t said anything to them directly. But my husband tried talking to them, asking them to cut down on what they give the kids this year. (Last year they actually sneaked gifts into the kids rooms when we were busy getting dinner on the table! Unbelievable, right?) They never listen. Instead they just brush us off, I guess hoping we won’t say anything on Christmas day because they know we don’t want to make a a scene.

It feels like they are competing with us and with my parents, too. It doesn’t have to be this way. They are wonderful grandparents in so many ways. My children are fortunate to have all four grandparents living close to them. There is no good reason we can’t all give our kids a great Christmas without this tension. I want all of the grandparents to join us in raising compassionate and generous children, not spoiled brats who will grow up expecting to get everything they want. The real world just doesn’t work that way.

Any ideas for us?

Living in Dread

Dear Reader,

How sad to be dreading this time of year because of this situation. It certainly is counter to the spirit of the holiday, isn’t it?

You and your husband need to present a united front on this – no taking a backseat because you “hate confrontation.” Sorry. It’s time to establish some serious boundaries so that this holiday is positive.

Write a carefully crafted, respectful letter to your in-laws. Let them know how much you appreciate having them in your children’s lives and that you know they want the best for their grandchildren. Then, discuss your parenting philosophy, i.e what kind of adults you want your children will grow up to be and how you are approaching this. Explain that your goal is to do what is best for your children and that means, sometimes you have to draw the line. Finally, be very clear that, contrary to their beliefs, the rights of grandparents do not over-ride the rights of parents. Tell them that they need to respect your wishes. (While  “asking” them to respect your wishes may be more comfortable, this is a situation that requires clarity and conviction.)

Next, decide how you would like your in-laws to approach their gift giving. Here are some suggestions:

1) Give them a gift list that you and your husband have created, as this should help cut down on the competition factor.

2) Set a limit on how many gifts they can give your children. Tell them that if they show up with more, you will donate the extras to needy children. (I know this sounds harsh but it is up to you to establish boundaries and sadly, it may take a time or two for such determined grandparents to get the message.)

3) Set a spending limit explaining that 50% may be spent on gifts and the other 50% will go into a savings account for college or other professional training opportunities.

4) Explain that their real value to your children is their time and attention. Suggest that, instead of countless gifts, they take your children on special holiday outings. Whether  that’s looking at Christmas lights, followed by hot cocoa or attending a special holiday show, the event itself can become a very special tradition for them. (Creating memories is, after all, the greatest gift any grandparent can give their children!)

Decide which ideas feel most comfortable to you and your husband, add any others you might have, and include this holiday “plan” in your letter. Now, here comes the hard part – pop it in the mail today! Yes, there may be hurt feelings but keep your eye on your ultimate goal – raising children who will have a set of values that serve them well.

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