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Grandparent Gifting: How to Set Appropriate Boundaries


It’s wonderful when our parents and our kids have a strong relationship. And since gifts make kids happy, gifting makes grandparents happy. But grandparent gifting can be both a blessing and a curse.

Some grandparents don’t know when to stop giving gifts to their grandkids. Maybe they love to make your child smile, or they feel bad they don’t get to visit often. Maybe their motives leave a little to be desired if they’re competing or manipulating your kids to “love them more.”

No matter the reason, it’s important to set appropriate boundaries if the gifting is pushing your limits. Here’s how.

Communicate respectfully and honestly 

Grandparents can have a wonderful relationship with their grandchildren. To preserve this bond and the important role many grandparents have, any discussions about new boundaries should be communicated respectfully and honestly. 

No one wins if you hide your frustrations, but you don’t want to hurt any feelings, either. 

Try this strategy: Openly communicate what you observe, why it has become a problem, and how it can be solved.

For example: “We’ve noticed that Blake has a lot of toys. He doesn’t take very good care of them, and we’re worried he is developing a materialistic attitude. We think it would help if he received fewer things for a while.”

With this type of conversation, you avoid pointing fingers or placing blame on the grandparents. In fact, they may feel like you’re inviting them to collaborate with you about decisions related to your children. 

Set limits on grandparent gifting costs or amounts 

Some people need very clear limits. After all, “fewer gifts” could be open for interpretation. 

You might need to set a clear boundary that discusses grandparent gifting in terms of how much, how many, and when. 

Only birthdays and major holidays? Limit to 2 gifts or $50 per child? You can decide what works best for your family. If you’re mostly worried about clutter, the cost of the gift doesn’t matter as much as the number of gifts, how big they are, or how often they’re given. 

However, if you think grandparents are overspending, you’ll need to set a monetary limit. It might be easiest to propose an annual spending amount per child, and let the grandparents decide how many gifts and how often. 

Suggest alternatives 

Popular gifts include toys, games, clothes, and fun accessories. Of course, growing up quickly and changing hobbies or interests are all a part of childhood. 

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to these types of gifts that can make things easier for you and help you set appropriate boundaries for grandparent gifting.

Experiences: Experience gifts include concert or sporting game tickets, memberships to museums or zoos, or gift certificates to places like a bowling alley or mini golf course. They’re great for minimizing clutter and maximizing fun.

Quality time: Encourage bonding time between grandparents and their grandchildren. Wonderful presents might include a “fancy” dinner out or a trip to a local playground. 

Books: Books are tangible gifts, but unlike other “stuff,” they encourage one of the foundational skills for education: reading. Unless you are worried about clutter, books are a great choice for grandparent gifting.

Education fund: If grandparents want to spend a significant amount of money, ask if they can put it toward your child’s future. College isn’t cheap, and an education fund can help.

Lessons and activities: Instead of purchasing items, grandparents can help pay for a season of sports, dance lessons, learning a musical instrument, or cooking classes.

Consumables: Gifts that are used quickly, such as food or fun bath products, can help minimize clutter. While consumables probably still aren’t the most ideal gift, they might be an easy alternative to agree on. 

Encourage gifts for grandma’s and grandpa’s house

There’s no reason grandparents have to buy gifts for your house. They can just as easily purchase toys, games, and activities that your kids can play with at their house. 

This solution can solve many problems, from cluttering to materialism to an overwhelming number of toys. Plus, your kids will look forward to visiting their grandparents, and this enthusiasm and quality time is beneficial for everyone.

Provide a wishlist 

Sometimes, grandparents don’t know what to get for their grandkids. That’s when you end up with a grandparent gifting problem: they buy a lot, hoping one of the gifts is a good one.

Help your child create a wishlist (or, depending on age, make one for them or let them make their own). Giftster is a family wishlist maker for year-round giving, so it’s perfect for grandparents. They’ll know exactly what to purchase, so you can avoid too many gifts or the wrong ones. 

You can also use a wishlist to discourage overspending. If grandparents ask what your child wants for a holiday or birthday, you can share the list and add that you’re sharing the wishlist with all of the party guests, so they have to leave items for others to purchase, too.

Additional tips for grandparent gifting

Let’s face it. Grandparents love giving gifts to their grandchildren. Even if you’ve done your best to suggest alternatives, provide a wishlist, and set limits, there’s a chance the gifts will keep coming.

If this is the case, here are a few additional tips to help you through grandparent gifting.

Return or exchange gifts when necessary: You don’t have to keep every gift someone gets for your children. If your house is too cluttered or your kids are overwhelmed or you think the gifts are a manipulation tactic, you can return or exchange them. Here’s our guide for How to Handle Gift Returns Gracefully.

Teach your children to be thankful: We often assume that an overabundance of gifts will make our kids too materialistic. They’ll have so much that they’ll forget to be appreciative. However, you can use excessive grandparent gifting to reinforce gratitude. Encourage your kids to write a thank you for each gift they receive. You can also try some of our other tips from How to Teach Children the Art of Being Thankful During the Holidays.

Happy gifting!





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