July 02, 2015

Q: How do I ask my limited-income mother-in-law to stop buying so many toys for my 3-year-old? She watches him for me three days a week and every time she takes him to the store, he comes home with a new toy. My husband and I have joked with her that our son has enough toys, but she keeps spending. We ourselves are on a tight budget and I'm worried we can't save for college while our son keeps coming home with more toys. How should I tell her thanks, but no thanks?

A: It is important that you and your husband recognize that your mother-in-law's choice to buy unnecessary toys is entirely up to her. She has her own reasons--which are probably joyfully innocent. Try pointing out again that her grandson loves her and that he already has plenty of toys.  Tell her that you hope she doesn't feel that she has to keep buying him more, but this is about all that you can do.

As the parents, you do have the right to interfere if she buys your little guy a sharp pocketknife, takes him into an "adult" bookstore, or encourages him to lie. You cannot allow anyone do something dangerous to your son. But saving for his college education is not going to be less of a challenge if you prevent Grandma from loading him up now with new toys that do no harm. So I would relax and let go of the issue.

Answered by Dr. Elizabeth Berger


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