Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dear Guru Jane: A Case of Too Much Stuff!

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Dear Guru Jane,

I am so pissed! I am married with 3 kids (7, 4 and 2), and I'm having a horrible time trying to keep my sanity when it comes to my in-laws. My in-laws have absolutely no respect for our rules when it comes to what is grandparent gift stuff, and what is parent gift stuff. My in-laws continuously buy my kids stuff, as in all the time - seriously, when did 4th of July become a gift-giving holiday?!?! And when I say gifts, I'm talking like $300 worth of stuff each at Christmas. I mean, I get that they love the kids, but come on! The worst is that they do not ask us in advance when they are buying gifts and have bought gifts that should have come from my husband and me. Or they buy gifts that are completely inappropriate for their age - my 4 year old has absolutely no need for his own iPad mini. I have tried to talk to them, but all I get is "ok dear." I want my kids to be close with their grandparents, but I don't want them to constantly expect things from them and think that's how life is. 


Too Much Stuff

Dear Too Much Stuff,

Ahhhh, the age old dilemma of dealing with the in-laws. It sounds like you are trying to prevent a couple of things here: bratty, entitled kids, grandparents overstepping their place in the family, and lack of respect. It also sounds like you want your kids to love their grandparents for who they are, not what they can/will buy them. Grandparents don't have to buy love! Good for you!

My first thought in this matter is, because these are your in-laws, you AND your husband need to present a united front. This is Team Parent Time (maybe you can get t-shirts). You have to be on the same page. It also means you don't have to be the bitch - again. If your husband is on board (and dude better be!), he really needs to be the one to take the lead. These are HIS parents. That said, you completely need to be together on this, even though he's the one doing the talking. Side note, you might have to do this with your parents too - just sayin'.

First things first, you (and when I say "you," I mean both of you) have to set boundaries here. These are the set of rules you and your husband need to come up with for your family. Let the in-laws know what you both decide is and is not acceptable. From appropriate gifts, to appropriate times to give gifts, to appropriate numbers of gifts, these are all areas it sounds like you need to tackle. 

Next, you have to communicate the boundaries you want to set with the in-laws. The communicating can be the tricky part: 
  • Be simple, straightforward, and kind in your boundary setting. 
  • Use I/we statements: "We are concerned the children will only see you as gift-givers and not the loving grandparents you are." These are not accusatory; you are stating your feelings/thoughts/fears without attacking your in-laws. For more info: Using "I" statements.
  • Talk to your in-laws about gifts you feel are age-appropriate and why for your children. 
  • Also, this is the time to talk to them about things you will be buying your children in the future - as their parents, such as your daughter's first bra (yes, I've seen this happen) or their first computer/iPad/cell phone. 
Then, you will need to, lovingly (even with your teeth clenched), let them know if they are not able to abide by your requests/rules, you will have to take action. You might open all gifts prior to the children receiving them, and, possibly, hold off on giving the gift until a time in the future you feel is appropriate. Just an idea.

Finally, finish the conversation with something along the lines of: "We love and appreciate you and all you do for the kids. Thank you for respecting our wishes. You did a great job raising (insert husband's name), and now it is time to let us raise our kids." Or something like that. Be nice, but don't back down, this is a matter of respect.

With grandparents the key is firm but loving. Let's face it: they love your kids (probably just a tiny bit less than you do) and in the end that is the most important part. They just might need a little help in showing your kids how to love them while still being respectful of your family values.

Don't stress, come up with a plan, execute, and possibly drink heavily after. You will all be much happier!

Good luck!

Guru Jane

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