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"No gifts" rule? Anybody done this?

post #1 of 116
Thread Starter 
Has anybody instituted a rule with their families/friends that DC may not receive gifts of toys and "things"? I decided this is a necessary step to stem the tide of junky, unappreciated toys that my ILs constantly flood Ds with. Every time he visits, it's a new freakin' toy. Every holiday (*every* holiday, not just Xmas and his birthday) he gets a bag or basket of toys. And they're without exception poorly chosen toys, cheap things with umpteen pieces, zero versatility, battery-powered gimmicks. We've had several discussions about this with them & I think at this point it's being unrealistic to think they'll ever "get" it. To them, Stuff Is Love.

The problem is (and this is how I'm thinking of explaining it to them) they give all this stuff thinking it'll make Ds happy, but it ends up making us all miserable. The other night Dh & I had yet another stress-filled, traumatic, awful episode of cleaning up Ds' room ... and yes there was yelling on our part and tears on his : There was a literal carpet of broken toy bits on his floor. The toys are fun for about an hour, then they become "crap" that's impossible to keep neat, sets poor Ds up for failure as far as keeping an orderly environment & makes it hard for him to find the things he really enjoys playing with over & over.

Not to mention what it all teaches him about the disposability (is that a word?) of possessions and the habits of consumerism. The ILs are in heavy consumer debt right as they're on the brink of retirement, despite having 2 good salaries, because of MIL's compulsive need to acquire material things. DH & I struggled to free ourselves from a similar pit & I don't want Ds to have to do it too.

Anyway, I know this is NOT going to go over well with the IL's & their family (my family might take it a little better, but then, they're more sane about presents anyway). I figure the rule will be, no "things", but they are welcome to give him time, or experiences (trips to the zoo, gift certificates for a neat resturant, coupons good for a picnic or afternoon of cookie baking).

So if you made it to the end of this novel : my questions are, have you instituted a rule like this? How did your family take it & how did you get them to accept it? Did they ever get used to it? Was it hard for your Dc to adjust to no longer getting piles of presents? Did *they* get used to it? Did the whole thing work like you thought it would?
post #2 of 116
I don't have a "rule" about gifts, but I have made requests. For instance, I have asked that presents be arts and crafts types of things -- we can always use more crayons, clay, paper, etc. They are easy to store and the kids get more use out of them. Also, for Christmas presents, I ask family members to get one present that all three of my kids can enjoy together. I let the kids have their own presents for their birthdays, but Christmas is about family and sharing, and I don't want that focus lost in a pile of gifts.

Some family members respect our wishes and others do not. I can do nothing about that and I don't try -- trying to change someone else is pointless.
post #3 of 116
I haven’t but I'm considering some solutions to gift giving. I asked my parents to contribute financially to our next visit instead of giving DC a birthday gift and I've asked for a contribution to a larger gift from other people (diaper service and etc.)

I think what you're asking is absolutely and perfectly reasonable. I'm just offering some other suggestions.

DC has a birthday coming and I'm worried about the excess because last year was a mess! I may be right there with you in another week!
post #4 of 116
Thread Starter 
Thoesly, I've tried making requests to the ILs. I even requested art supplies, in fact, and Ds got junk like disposable "no mess" paintbrushes (you dip them in water, the paint's already there) and different gimmicky "kits". DH & I even set a limit one year: "ONE GIFT." Guess what "one gift" was? A big box filled with junky little things! Where was it all after a week? On the floor, or in the trash : The problem is that MIL seems honestly incapable of going through a critical thought process about whether something's worth buying, KWIM?

And although I may not be able to change their *opinions*, I can and IMO should change what we allow them to give our children (I know the avalanche will start with DD soon, she's 6mos). They're free to disregard my wishes & continue buying things .... but those things won't come in my house.

ICM, thanks for the ideas! Maybe I could add bonds or some other financial gift (in Ds' name) to the list of "acceptables". Good luck with the birthday piles
post #5 of 116
I really struggle with this. I am such an anti-clutter/anti-junk freakazoid, it literally makes me anxious when I feel like there is too much stuff in my house. DD really doesn't play with toys - she would much rather play with the dogs or do art projects. She has a very active imagination.

There is a part of me that really wants everyone to please stop with the gifts! I also worry about what that teaches, that we need "stuff" to be happy. I also think it takes away from the specialness of receiving something. I remember getting presents twice a year - birthday and hanukkah. If I got something outside of those times, it was a huge deal and I remember to this day how special those little extras were. Now it seems that when we get together for any family occasion, DD spends half the time ripping open toys and then tossing them aside.

But then there is another side that realizes the truth about giving: everyone gives because they are getting something in return. Whether it is to be polite, whether it is because it is something they wanted when they were young, whether it is because they want to be thanked and appreciated - everyone has their own (often subconcious) agenda. So when you ask someone not to give, you are also denying them the chance to get something themselves.

I think the idea of redirecting is a good one. If asked, I will often ask people for art supplies, music, books, dress-up clothes, or coloring books. If not asked, I just take it, wait for everyone to leave, and then I put it in my "good will drop off" bag. If dd is very attached to one or more of the items, I let her have it. I cannot blame you one bit for wanting to request "no gifts" but even if you do, prepare yourself for the probability that the gifts will come anyway.

I've come to terms with the fact that you really can't stop people from giving, but you can try to make the gifts easier to deal with.

Good luck!
post #6 of 116
I hear you on the "No junk gifts" rule. To avoid suffocation, we've had no choice but to institute a "No (more) stuffed animals" rule for my 4yo. This rule gets broken occasionally (The Comic Shop Guy gave her "Summer Fun Cuddly Cthulhu" toy last Yule ). People have been good about no longer giving her generic teddy bears, Easter rabbits, etc every year, though.

I also usually ask that her gifts not have commercial cartoon characters on them. We haven't had cable tv since before she was born, though she does know some of these characters from DVDs and computer games. She has a very few cartoon items, including her Dora the Explorer bike, but, since she has never been exposed to TV commercials and rarely sees a mall, I don't think she has any idea of the full scope of cartoon merchandise. I want to keep it that way.

A few of things we do ask for are magazine subscriptions, gift certificates toward dance, music and art lessons and contributions to her Registered Education Savings Plan.
post #7 of 116
Quote:
Originally Posted by girlndocs
Thoesly, I've tried making requests to the ILs. I even requested art supplies, in fact, and Ds got junk like disposable "no mess" paintbrushes (you dip them in water, the paint's already there) and different gimmicky "kits". DH & I even set a limit one year: "ONE GIFT." Guess what "one gift" was? A big box filled with junky little things! Where was it all after a week? On the floor, or in the trash : The problem is that MIL seems honestly incapable of going through a critical thought process about whether something's worth buying, KWIM?
Any chance they would consider gift cards or even a special shopping trip *with* you and your child instead? People who give gifts want to give pleasure, so maybe a trip where they can see what types of things are genuinely preferred would help -- maybe not, but at least it would be something proactive you could do. I think this is an area where it is important to respect boundaries -- if they don't respect your wishes, you have the right to put their offerings in the donation box, but telling them you refuse to accept their gifts or you will only accept certain types of gifts runs the risk of doing real damage to the relationship (which, really, is the only gift that matters.)
post #8 of 116
We've done this mostly for birthdays. "No presents but your presence" kinda thing.. We invite a few kids over for cake, ice cream and fun and they watch my kids open their gifts from mom and dad.. Really they have so much all ready, and I'd much rather my kids enjoy their friends for the friendship and not the gifts.

I get away with it by springing birthday parties at the last minute. I ring up the moms and ask "Hey can your kiddoes come over for cake and ice cream." "Sure! When?" "Uhh.. in about twenty minutes?" It's worked the last two years in a row.

We don't have a big close family so too many gifts at Christmas hasn't really been an issue..

All the candy holidays (Easter, Halloween).. that's where we run into trouble! Not to change the subject, but has anyone gone 'no candy', or at least less candy?

piscean mama
and the cap toothed gang
post #9 of 116
Quote:
Originally Posted by piscean_mama
All the candy holidays (Easter, Halloween).. that's where we run into trouble! Not to change the subject, but has anyone gone 'no candy', or at least less candy?
My kids have food issues, and candy can be a problem. Here's what we do: They collect the candy trick-or-treating, and they get to have 3 pieces each (we let them choose from a selection of pieces that won't make them sick -- we keep some on hand just in case they don't get any acceptable pieces) Then, they leave the rest out for the "Great Pumpkin" who steals it away in the night and replaces it with a new book for each child (we can never have too many books!)
post #10 of 116
We're trying to go no/less candy, but I'm as addicted as dh and dd are- perhaps even more so. Candy and fun were inseparable in my house when I was a kid. If anyone else is in a similar situation, we should start a support thread in Nutrition.

eta: thoesly- I just saw your "Offerings for the Great Pumpkin" idea, and I love it. We will probably try something like that this year. dd is VERY big on rituals right now! (Of course, the question is, will dh and I have the resolve not to eat the candy ourselves? )
post #11 of 116
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thoesly
maybe a trip where they can see what types of things are genuinely preferred would help
We've referred them to certain stores & catalogues, & pointed out specific items. Either we get "They're too expensive!" (she's willing to spend $30 on a box of crap that'll be broken/used up in days, but not $30 on one longlived, versatile toy) or she goes out & finds some cheap, plasticky, gimmicky version of what we suggested (HOW does she do this I ask! aughh!!).

Quote:
I think this is an area where it is important to respect boundaries
I don't agree that this is a "boundary" that they're owed respect for. Their right to swing their fist ends at my nose, kwim? I'm not willing to let my household be disrupted and my ds be miserable & overwhelmed (honestly, he is) in the name of "respect". The respect that's owed here, imo, is for our parenting choices.

As far as accepting & then donating their gifts, how do you think that would affect ds? Whenever he's given something new, he's excited, because it IS something new, and it's from his Nana & Grampa. To have him receive gifts & take them away from him, either before or after the unwrapping stage, would surely punish him unfairly for a situation that's not his fault.

Quote:
telling them you refuse to accept their gifts or you will only accept certain types of gifts runs the risk of doing real damage to the relationship (which, really, is the only gift that matters.)
Yes, but the inappropraite nature of their gift-giving & inability to set limits on themselves *is*, right this minute, doing damage to our relationships here in our immediate family.

Look, honestly, I've tried with these people. I appreciate your suggestions but frankly I don't see material gifts for a child that already has everything he needs to be such an important thing to defend. And that's really what it comes down to. He has all he needs. More things aren't going to make him happier. And I believe that's become an essential lesson for him and his grandparents to learn.
post #12 of 116
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LoveBeads
when you ask someone not to give, you are also denying them the chance to get something themselves.
Yes, but if you re-read my OP, you'll see I'm not asking anyone not to give. I'm putting a moratorium on *things*. They're as free as the wind to give of themselves in ways that don't involve plunking down money at Big Lots for whatever's on sale. We in our immediate family have been giving this way for years now.

Also, I think it would be more than a little whacked for adults to feel upset about not giving gifts to a child out of a belief that it would somehow cut down on their own haul!
post #13 of 116
Ok. I'm going to respectfully bow out because none of my suggestions are helping. We seem to have different values and priorities, and I don't think we will ever come to agreement -- and we don't have to. Best of luck to you finding a solution that works for your family.
post #14 of 116
I was merely trying to point out that it is a frustrating exercise to tell people how to give, as they give for their own reasons. I didn't understand your second paragraph unless you misinterpreted what I meant by "getting" something out of giving - I was talking about an emotional "getting" (it feels good to spoil my grandchild), not a material one.

But I can see that I'm making you frustrated so I'll bow out of the discussion.
post #15 of 116
I think it would be wrong to say NO GIFTS. You can say NO XYZ. You can suggest ideas. Mom instead of giving a toy why not you bring cookie making stuff and make cookies together. The cookies will be gone quick enough. Dad, you are good at playing cards why not buy DC cards and teach him how to play a game. Find an activity that they can build on and “gift” to their children in better ways.

You have a trash can. Use it for toys. If you push this to much you are more likely to do more harm than good.

It does feel good to give to a grandchild. Many times grandparents do this because they could not do it for their own children. Many grandparents don't realize that they have talents that can be passed on to their grandchildren.
post #16 of 116
Thread Starter 
I'm sorry you feel it's wrong. I've been through literally 5 years of negotiating, suggesting, asking, and line-drawing and the situation has reached a point where allowing them to continue to indulge *themselves* by flooding Ds with meaningless possessions is doing far more harm than good.

I would really like to hear from someone else who's passed a "no *things* as gifts" rule. Am I really the first one ever?
post #17 of 116
Can you try to encourage the behavior in the kids that you wish the in-laws had?

Do a 1 toy in, 1 toy out policy, or one box of stuff out, for one in. Then your kids will have to prioritize what they want to own and take care of. What's worth the space?
post #18 of 116
We're due our first in November so I can't say how our "plan" will effect our little Max, however, we've let all the grand & great grand parents know that when one toy enters our house one will be leaving. Once Max is old enough he will get to choose which one he gives to needy children. This way I'm hoping the grandparents etc will choose their gifts more carefully and also, I can pass onto Max the necessity of looking after others who are less fortunate than he.

This may help in your situation, you may find your dc decides to get rid of the new "crappy" gift in order to keep those that he plays with more often and they will learn that it's not just about getting it's about giving as well. If you can't control the gp at least you can control how it effects your household.

Hope this helps & good luck.
Dani
post #19 of 116
apricot, snap! thinking along the same lines.
post #20 of 116
My IL's are always giving us lots of stuff (I'll try not to call it junk second hand happymeal toys, toys with only half the parts, dirty stuffed animals, ect...) It's stuff that other people gave them, or they found in the junky discount bin or at garage sales ect... They have always struggled with money and their kids never had alot, so like your ILs, it's like stuff is love. I haven't yet been able to change a single thing my IL's do. I also think I could cause some hurt feelings by declining their "gifts."

They have good intentions- gotta love that.

Basically, all that "stuff" goes straight to Goodwill or the garbage.
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