Q. I love my mother-in-law very much -- she's very good to my family, and she even babysits frequently for us. But I'm having a problem with the amount of clothes and toys she buys my son. Not only does he not need all of what she buys, but our home is also small, and we simply can't accommodate her buying sprees. I don't want to insult her or appear unappreciative, but I do want to tactfully stop her from these buying binges, especially with Christmas on the horizon. What can I do to get her to stop without hurting her feelings?
A. It sounds like your mother-in-law lives with the notion that the only way to connect with her grandson is by buying him things. So helping Grandma make this connection may be the key to getting her to scale back her shopping sprees.
That said, since she's your husband's mother, have him broach the subject with her. He should express how appreciative you all are of her gifts, but that you're also concerned about how many she purchases. Suggest that instead of buying gifts consistently, she consider these options:
However she ends up choosing to spend money on your son, you and your husband need to communicate to her that the most important commodity she has to offer is her time and attention. Realize that when your husband tells her not to buy so many clothes and toys, she may feel hurt. Therefore, it's important for your family's relationship to show your mother-in-law your true appreciation, whether she reads to your son, sits on the floor and plays with blocks alongside him, or allows him to play in the water at her kitchen sink.
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of two parenting books, Mommy, I Have to Go Potty and Unplugging Power Struggles. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for HealthyKids.com, and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times newspaper. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.
Originally published on HealthyKids.com, December 2004.