How to Stop Relatives from Overbuying for Your Kids

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I recently had a reader reach out with a first-world problem many of us are familiar with. She asked (and I quote):

“How do I get my mother-in-law to stop buying my kid so much crap?!”

I loved this question so much that I actually did a Facebook live video about it. 

But here is my answer in two words:


You can’t control your mother-in-law and you definitely can’t control her buying habits. To try to do so would just result in frustration for her and you.

The only person you can control is yourself, so here are 2 steps I suggest you take to minimize your gift-receiving woes… 

Step 1: Ask for what you want.

It’s as simple as that. If there are particular things you’d like your child to receive, just ask for those things. Possibilities:

  • Experiences: a zoo membership, a pass to an amusement park, a day of baking cookies with grandma, etc.
  • Practical items: pajamas, soccer cleats, new jeans, etc.
  • College fund donations: Those of us who will have three kids in college at once say, yes please!
  • Stuff: You might be surprised, but I actually recommend that you ask your MIL to buy your kid some stuff. In my experience, most grandmas are not going to be happy with a list of just experiences and practical items. Just be specific about the KIND of stuff you would like your child to receive. Board games? Books? One larger toy instead of a bunch of small ones? You’re the parent. You decide. But if your MIL is a shopper, it’s a good idea to throw her a bone and let her buy your kid something.

Which brings us to…

Step 2: Say “THANK YOU” for what you get.

Remember how I said the only person you can control is you? This is where that really comes into play. Because it’s quite possible that your mother-in-law will completely ignore your carefully curated list of suggestions and do whatever she wants.

That’s completely fine.

She’s a grown-up and can do what she wants.

And so are you.

So do the proper thing and say “thank you” for whatever she gets your child. She did it out of love, even if it doesn’t exactly match your vision. (And hey, to be fair, your “don’t buy my kid stuff” policy may not exactly match her vision of a daughter-in-law either, ha!)  

Then move forward with my #1 rule of accepting gifts:

Once you’ve said “thank you,” your obligation to the gift and the giver is done.

It’s now yours and you can decide what to do with it. Do you donate it because it doesn’t match your family’s values or spatial limits? Do you help your child donate an old toy in order to keep it? Do you actually like it and want to keep it?

In other words…

Do whatever you want with the gift. Just say thank you first.

I hope that helps all of you navigate this trickiest of simplicity scenarios with love and respect. 🙂

Cheers to happy holidays… and loving our relatives, no matter what. 

PS Want to simplify your home but not sure where to start?  Grab my FREE simplicity starter guide and let’s get going! 

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