Overindulgent grandparents - how to handle? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 08-29-2011, 01:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My 3 yo DS stays with my parents during the week while I'm at work and has done so since he was a baby.  He adores them, and they're crazy about him but they are also about to drive me batty because of how much stuff they are constantly getting for him.  New toys and other items seem to magically appear on a weekly basis...my mom's explanation for this is that she feels that DS is bored with everything they already have (which is a lot, at least to me).  Granted, it's not like they buy him huge, obnoxious, expensive toys (most of the time), but I don't feel like it's good for a child to get a new toy, even a small, inexpensive one, every time they go somewhere.   

 

I have tried to logically discuss my concerns with them.  I've tried to rationalize their actions by reminding myself he's their only grandchild, and I'm their only child, and they were poor when I was little and couldn't give me everything they would have liked to.  I've tried sending them links to activity ideas online...I even purchased a couple months of the Little Acorn Learning monthly guides for them to use, but they never did.  I've also purchased several books like The Toddler's Busy Book to give them ideas. I've gotten completely furious a few times.  redface.gif

 

I get the impression my parents think I'm overreacting, and sometimes I wonder if I am.  I just don't know whether I should accept the toy overload because I really have no control over it -- I'm a single parent, I have to work, and DS is already going to playschool 2 mornings a week, which is the maximum I can afford right now, so my parents are pretty much the only child care I have -- or if there is some way to get through to them about my concerns.  I wish they could just be the doting grandparents (which they are fabulous at being), and not my primary child care.  Any ideas on how to lovingly handle this situation?


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#2 of 17 Old 08-29-2011, 01:31 PM
 
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tell them you're trying to minimalize and the rule is that new toys stay at their home?  do they stay with your little one at your home or theirs?  blame it on the clutter/cleaning cycle and tell them you decided one toy in = one toy out and you hate for them to waste their money? 

i agree that's a pretty awful expectation to set up with your child.  though, too, i think buying stuff/allowing the kid to ask for/do just about anything is part of grandparenting, at least as much as i ever saw. 


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#3 of 17 Old 08-29-2011, 01:41 PM
 
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What, exactly, do you object to in this scenario? Is it just the accumulation of stuff? Or do the toys take away from interactive play? Imaginative play? Outside run and jump play? 

 

 

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#4 of 17 Old 08-29-2011, 01:48 PM
 
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You might also gently remind them that too many choices of what to play with can be overwhelming...they may not be seeing a "bored child" but an over stimulated one.  I have watched kids not play with a room full of toys simply because it was a "room ful"...perhaps gently suggest they cycle existing toys to make them new again.

 

Also, to be honest, I suspect its a grandparent phase. Our dd's grandparents used to buy a lot then it tapered off.

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#5 of 17 Old 08-29-2011, 02:18 PM
 
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My kids (5 & 8) usually get a toy & love to shop with grandma. It has not set up any expectations, nor a sense of entitlement, with them. They understand that shopping trips with mom are very different (& not as fun!) as trips with grandma. I'd let it go & try to enjoy the fact that your lo has multiple adults who care so much in his life. A couple more small toys than planned shouldn't impact too much, IMO.
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#6 of 17 Old 08-29-2011, 03:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies.

 

It's not a clutter issue.  Everything remains at my parents' house, more or less.  My concern is that DS basically points to something in a store, or mentions he wants something, and it's his. 

 

To all those who mentioned it's a grandparent thing...that's great.  I get that.  And I'd be more than fine with it...I would even encourage it...if we saw them less often and/or they bought him less stuff.  But we see them almost everyday.  And they take him on "errands"  3-4 times a week which almost always results in a new toy each time for DS.  I'm sorry, but to me, that's teaching my son bad habits about money and consumerism.  When it has almost become a part of our usual afternoon routine for him to show me all the new stuff he has at Grandmama and Grandpapa's house, that's too much.


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#7 of 17 Old 08-29-2011, 03:40 PM
 
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To me, this sounds like a choose your battles type of situation. I'd be annoyed too. But they are kind enough to take care of him all week, and they probably go out on errands to keep their sanity. If it were a safety issue, then I'd support getting serious about it. But I think that parents have more influence over kids than grandparents. Now, if there were other issues where they didn't respect your wishes, and this is one of many, then I'd say start looking for someone else to watch him. But really. I understand the frustration. I just don't think it's worth fighting about unless you are willing to find another sitter. Now, if they were feeding him junk or they were smoking around him, I'd put an end to it one way or another.

I do think that suggesting rotating through different boxes of toys is a great idea. But it sounds like they have found something to help them get through the day, and they are happy with it. It can be tough, especially on grandparents, to keep a kid entertained all day and keep them from wrecking the house.

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#8 of 17 Old 08-29-2011, 05:01 PM
 
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I do kinda think you are overreacting.  Let them spoil him a bit; that's pretty much what grandparents do.  I'm sure you are super grateful that they are able to watch him during the week while you work (many parents would love to have that option), so think of it as being part of the situation you all have arranged.  Not only are they gifting your DS new things because they think he will get joy from them, but they also, obviously, benefit from being able to shop for him.  Giving gifts is half about the giver and half the receiver, yk?

 

As far as kids asking or expecting something new every outing or frequently - I think that's a pretty typical toddler/preschooler attitude, so not necessarily a result of being given new things often.  It passes, and, they soon figure out that just b/c grandma spoils them with new toys, doesn't mean mom and dad will follow suit every time they go to the store. 


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#9 of 17 Old 08-29-2011, 05:21 PM
 
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Point to something and getting it is one thing but the need (and yes some do need) "things/toys" often is a whole other issue.

 

I kind of think it is misguided to only give small children "gifts" on special holidays or b--day when they are growing and changing so much in the early years. I could never just give for ex. on Christmas and turn around two weeks later and do a b-day at that's it for the year

 

small children (what the OP is talking about- toddler age) - IMO need more often and that does not need to mean they need $$ spend (and according to OP in the first post it didn't seem to be about $$) but I know my two changed interest and grew so much that what was a great toy two months ago at age 3 is not now and another is needed---ex. are puzzles (degree of difficulty) to pretend money with the "homemade" store that now is needed but wasn't a few weeks ago- you CAN foster imagination and sometimes that means more "toys" it does not need to mean more $$$$

 

so without know what items were bought it does come across that you are a bit overreacting

 

there are way to deal with "lots" of items- give away what is no longer used

 

you can "give" and still teach that you are not over indulging - it's all in how you go about it and as drummer said- 

 

Quote:
Giving gifts is half about the giver and half the receiver,

 

 

or if this is how things are----

 

 

Quote:
 I don't feel like it's good for a child to get a new toy, even a small, inexpensive one, every time they go somewhere

this goes with what examples the grandparents are showing--are they buying something every time they go out for themselves as well? is he seeing they get something and he does not? how is this being explained to him?

 

if this is the case maybe you don't have a great child care situation and that might need to change it


 

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#10 of 17 Old 08-29-2011, 06:23 PM
 
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I also think you're overreacting a bit. My parents are like this as well. They are ALWAYS getting new toys for their house (for all the grandkids, actually). I can hardly think of a time when grandma took dd that dd didn't come back with something (most recently: a raincoat; several books and sticker books from; a special drinking mug--all on separate occasions). My mom is firmly of the opinion that, while parents can "spoil" children, grandparents cannot. I resisted this as first, but I think she's right. Despite the fact that dd pretty much always gets indulged when she's with my parents, I haven't found that this has made dd entitled or greedy when she's with us. Or with them, frankly. She's always polite about saying thank you. If grandma gives her free reign in a toy store she generally chooses only one thing unless she's specifically invited to get something else. If I give dd a limit--grandma can buy you a book, but no TV characters--dd respects that. Grandma doesn't use the gifts as a substitute for time and experiences with dd--she gives them in addition to those things. Dd understands the idea of donating items to those who have less than she does, and willingly goes through her toys and books periodically to find things to pass along to others. She earns a small allowance at home and understands the idea of saving for things she really wants. In short, I don't think her values are being hopelessly corrupted or anything and I think my dd is extremely lucky to have grandparents who get a thrill from making her feel special.

 

 

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#11 of 17 Old 08-30-2011, 04:57 AM
 
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I'll admit I'm jealous that you have someone in ds's life that dotes on him and wants to buy him things but I know "too much" would annoy me, too.  Maybe you could tell your parents about this marvelous idea you came across about rotating toys.  Pack away a bunch of stuff that doesn't get used much, then bring some of it back out after a month or two at which point you pack away the toys that had been out and had become "boring."

 

At 3, I did tend to buy ds something small each time we went out.  I didn't think it was fair at that age to take him to a store and expose him to all of that interesting stuff and not be willing to buy him something (frequently just something for $1).  But I didn't take him to stores 3-4 days a week.  I know some people run errands for fun and to fill time.  It's possibly easier and more interesting for your parents than taking ds to a playground.

 

I do think this will naturally taper off.  Kids that age are changing so fast and interested in so many different things.  When they are a little older and not going through such frequent developmental changes, their taste in toys tends to focus and slow down.  And people don't get urges to buy things for older kids all the time, either.  


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#12 of 17 Old 08-30-2011, 06:33 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simplemama32 View Post

Thanks for the replies.

 

It's not a clutter issue.  Everything remains at my parents' house, more or less.  My concern is that DS basically points to something in a store, or mentions he wants something, and it's his. 

 

To all those who mentioned it's a grandparent thing...that's great.  I get that.  And I'd be more than fine with it...I would even encourage it...if we saw them less often and/or they bought him less stuff.  But we see them almost everyday.  And they take him on "errands"  3-4 times a week which almost always results in a new toy each time for DS.  I'm sorry, but to me, that's teaching my son bad habits about money and consumerism.  When it has almost become a part of our usual afternoon routine for him to show me all the new stuff he has at Grandmama and Grandpapa's house, that's too much.


i for one don't think you're overreacting.  i was just suggesting that you blame it on a clutter issue, not that that's the core of the problem. 

i totally get what you're saying.  and i agree. 

only one other suggestion... have you really sat down with your parents and had the conversation about consumerism and why you think that buying toys in excess isn't good?  or could you suggest that maybe they start working on school stuff (in whatever form you want that to manifest), or exploring outdoors rather than going shopping?  maybe if you could keep them out of the stores, that would be a good place to begin. 

i know i said it was a grandparent thing, but i don't know how you can really stop it unless they begin to understand (and respect) your POV.  i wonder if there are any journal articles or anything that might support your ideas, and would they consider reducing the presents if you showed them research?

 


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#13 of 17 Old 08-30-2011, 01:37 PM
 
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I totally get where you're coming from. We went through this when my oldest was born. He was also the first grandchild. My parents used to watch him about 4 times a week and there always was a new toy. It's a hard situation because it's coming from a place of love. But I felt it was just too much. I don't mind the occasional toy, but every time they saw him was excessive in my opinion. One day something clicked with my mom...i think it was seeing him have all these toys and being bored with them after a couple of days. She came to me with some ideas...

 

-DS1 was 4 at the time and was about to start pre-school. She asked if they could pay for half the tuition. 

-he was also getting more involved in activities...soccer, tumbling etc. She wanted to pay for some of these classes. Also to pay for supplies for these activties (shinguards, baseball bat, etc.)

-now he's 7 years old, she takes him back to school shopping and buys his supplies.

 

They still buy toys, but it's not as much now. I'm not really sure why it's so important to spend money on her grandkids, she (both my parents) are wonderful grandparents. They do all kinds of stuff together, play outdoors, cook, read etc. I guess she got to the point of if she was going to spend money on them, it should be spent on something they wanted instead of excessive toys.

 

 

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#14 of 17 Old 08-31-2011, 06:36 AM
 
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It certainly is a choose your battles situation.  Other than the toy issue it sounds as though they are helping you out quite a bit.  I suppose, since they're your parents it's easier to be annoyed by them not following what you want done with your child and that's pretty hard to deal with as a mother.

 

Though...  if my family did even an ounce of what your parents are doing for you I'd be over the moon... I've not had one bit of help EVER.  As they think that spending money on children who will lose interest or grow out of something is pointless and so my kids get nothing from them.  They were the same way with me. 

 

I think sometimes grandbabies are heart melters,  though they may have heard your concerns, your words do not sound as cute as his requests.  I can't say no to sweet faces either. 

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#15 of 17 Old 08-31-2011, 07:42 PM
 
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I TOTALLY understand - my family (mom especially) is a HUGE blessings in terms of providing childcare and I know they adore my dd.  But DH and I really value simplicity and think too many toys overstimulate kids and limit their imaginations.  My family's philosophy is the more, the better.  Complaining about them buying her too much stuff makes me feel guilty and ungrateful for all the help they do provide, but at the same time it's frustrating when you feel like values that are important to you are being undermined.

 

Simplicity Parenting is a great book that talks about how too many toys can limit play and imagination - do you think your parents would be willing to read a chapter in the book to try to understand where you are coming from.  There is a chapter called "simplifying your environment" and it talks about too many toys and an overstimulating environment. 

 

I've had a lot of conversations with my mom about it, and while she still doesn't completely understand my position and buys more than I would like, she has cut down on it a little.  Getting something new 3-4 times a week is too much, IMO - maybe you could agree to buying one new thing a week?  It's still a lot but maybe your parents could agree to limit it a little.  


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#16 of 17 Old 09-01-2011, 08:38 AM
 
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I just wanted to add that I think the question of toys/imagination/overstimulation is SO dependent on the child. Certainly, I know some kids who get overwhelmed in a room packed with toys. My dd is not like that at all. Her imagination seems to thrive when she's surrounded by different objects to bring into her creative play. She does have a lot of toys--mostly purchased by her grandparents--and she's an incredibly creative 5yo. She can spend, quite literally, hours on her own making up scenarios with her various figures (playmobils, polly pockets, stuffed animals), making costumes out of her arts and crafts supplies, building elaborate and surprising structures with legos and magnatiles and then populating them, etc. I've been pretty blown away by how much she repurposes the toys she has, using them in ways that wouldn't have occurred to me and with how independently she'll play. I don't see her toys as inhibiting her creativity at all--and even with all those bright plastic figures, she's still quite happy to play "pirate fishermen" with some sticks and rocks and a mud puddle at the park, as she did yesterday. In other words, having the toys hasn't inhibited her ability to be creative without them.

 

If a child seems to be easily overstimulated or overwhelmed by toys, then I think setting limits makes a lot of sense. But I think that, as with all things, it's important to follow the child's lead--and that it's not worth creating a problem where no problem might exist.

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#17 of 17 Old 09-01-2011, 12:33 PM
 
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Just to put your mind at ease....my parents gave me whatever toy I wanted as a child. I think at one point I had 75+ dolls. They really spoiled me! As an adult I hardly ever shop or buy anything. Heck, I'm 81/2 months pregnant and need new shoes and haven't bought any. It never translated to materialistic behavior. Now, I don't like the idea of having a ton of toys, for both financial and space reasons, but I don't think it necessarily does any harm to the child. Just my $.02

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