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Gift Extravagance Out of Hand

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

My husband and I agree that our children, ages 3 and 5, are being spoiled by his parents. They overindulge them, giving them whatever they ask for. My husband and I have been having hard times with money, so cannot buy extravagant gifts for our kids. How can we compete with the tons of gifts that their grandparents heap on them?



Dear Ashamed,

Do not feel ashamed at not giving lots of gifts to your children. The emotional needs of the child that are more important, not the materialistic demonstrations.

Since both you and your husband agree on the situation, but just don't know what to do about your in-laws' extravagance, the best steps are the following:

1. Since it's your husband's family, he should have a private talk with them and nicely explain that there must to be a limit on gift-giving, such as not spending over $20 (or whatever amount you choose).

2. If they feel that they must spend a lot on each child, suggest that instead of toys, which a child grows out of or becomes bored with, they could set up a trust fund for the children for their future college tuition.

3. Explain to your in-laws that always giving and doing what the child wants is not healthy for the child. Children want and need limits. Children must learn about self-control and will respect adults who set limits.

4. Do not even try to compete with the gift-giving-mania of your in-laws. Instead, give one small gift, and "coupons" to exchange for such things as unlimited hugs, playing at the park, play basketball, or other activities that do not cost anything but your time.

5. Try to be more understanding of your in-laws. While your in-laws obviously love your children, their excessive display of affection via gifts suggests that they place imbalanced attention on material demonstrations and feel they must buy their affection. This may be how they were brought up and do not know any better.