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Grandma Buys Too Much

Dear Jan,

My mother-in-law loves to shop. Up until now, her need to buy items she doesn't need or use has not affected me at all, but since the birth of my now toddler son, he's become the focus of her need to shop. She buys him far too many clothes and toys.

Not only does he not need all of what she buys, our home is small. We simply can't accommodate her buying sprees.

I love her. She's very good to us and him, plus she baby-sits frequently. I don't want to insult her or appear unappreciative. I just want to tactfully stop her from buying all this stuff for my child. With Christmas on the horizon, I fear our house will runneth over.


A Mom Overwhelmed by Stuff

Dear Mom,

Rather than approach her yourself, it’s best to have your husband bring up the topic with her. Your husband, her son, needs to be nice yet come across as the responsible adult and parent that he is. His demeanor needs to be businesslike rather than reverting to any form of the past mother-son relationship. He needs to be matter-of-fact, yet clear and concise.

Here are some options for you and your husband to consider offering her:

- Request that she limit herself to purchasing only one toy or clothing item each month.

- Suggest that if she sees a toy she can't resist, to ahead and buy it but keep it at her house for your son to play with when she takes care of him.

- Give her a play-dough recipe, and ask her to make two batches, one for your house and one for hers.

- Ask her that instead of accumulating more toys and clothes, you'd prefer she put money in a college fund for your son.

- Ask her to save boxes, leftover wrapping paper and empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls for your son to play with, creating his own toys rather than relying on store-bought items.

- Ask her if she’d like to pay for his future preschool tuition.

- Ask her to contribute money for a large outdoor piece of play equipment that you'd like to install in your back yard.

- Tell her that in six months or so your son will be moving from his crib to a single bed. Ask if she'd consider purchasing it for him rather than buying another toy or outfit.

- Ask her if she would take him to the library once a week for story time and to check out a book, therefore teaching him to borrow and return books to the public library, plus nurturing the love of reading.

- Suggest she buy a membership to the Pacific Science Center or Aquarium and take him there monthly.

All grandparents yearn for contact with their grandchildren. Your mother-in-law lives with the notion that the only way to connect with her grandson is through buying him clothes and toys.

She needs you and your husband to offer her other options for making the all-important grandmother connection but in ways that are more in line with your values.

When your husband tells her not to buy so many clothes and toys, she may feel hurt. To protect the relationship with you, your husband, son and grandmother, be sure you voice your approval and appreciation when she reads to him, when she sits on the floor and builds blocks with him or when she allows him to play in the water at her kitchen sink.

Whatever way she ends up choosing to spend her money on your son, communicate to her that the most important commodity she has to offer your son is her time and attention.


Jan Faull, M.Ed

About Jan Faull, M.Ed

JanFaullesizedJan Faull, M.Ed., has taught Parent Education for more than twenty-seven years. Jan's weekly column Parenting for The Seattle Times ran for ten years.

She is a recognized speaker to a wide variety of local and national organizations. Jan is the author of five books: Mommy, I Have to Go Potty (Raefield & Roberts, 1996); Unplugging Parent-Child Power Struggles: Resolving Emotional Battles with Your Kids Ages 2-10 (Parenting Press, 2000); Darn Good Advice-Parenting (Barrons, 2005); and Darn Good Advice-Baby (Barrons, 2005). Her latest book: Amazing Minds: The Science of Nurturing Your Child's Developing Mind was published in August 2010 by Berkley Books a subsidiary of Penguin.

Jan was a board member for PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) and currently serves on the PEPS Advisory Board. The mother of three adults and grandmother to three granddaughters, Emilia, Flora and Violet and one grandson, George, she resides in Seattle.


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