Parenting through Grandparent Conflict

Question

We have two boys and two girls, and both sets of grandparents enjoy going overboard in their gift-giving.  It’s almost like they’re in competition with each other as to who can spend the most.  It’s not good for our kids as it creates unhealthy expectations and competition.  They don’t see it as being a problem.  Any suggestions?

Answer

I’ve heard way too many grandparents, with a mixture of pride and arrogance, say that “its our right to spoil our grandkids.”  Really?  Going overboard on gifts can have some profoundly negative effects in the lives of children and it’s a bigger problem than many might think.

Over the years I’ve found several questions related to excessive gift-giving that I’ve encouraged hundreds of grandparents to ponder . . . and God has used them to help them rethink their gift-giving habits.  You can share these with your parents.

The best starting place is, what are some of God’s best gifts to us?  How much of your giving begins with thinking and praying about what’s best for each child, both short-term and long-term?  What messages does it send?  What unhealthy expectations might it feed?

What kind of man or woman would you like to see your grandchildren become.  What kinds of values and character traits would you like them to have?  How are your giving patterns encouraging and reinforcing the healthy values and character traits you want for them?

I always end by asking them to think and pray about the hardest question:  “How much of your gift-giving is about your need to look and feel good about yourself, and perhaps even to out-give and look better than the other grandparents?”

Instead of giving gifts that will lose their thrill once they are opened, you can, in addition to the “fun” gifts, make an real “investment” in them.  I’ve had many grandparents decide to match whatever they spend on fun gifts with a saving bond.  Others choose to make a deposit in their college fund.  Make sure some of your gifts have a future focus.  Don’t just give stuff.  Invest in them and in their future.

When the kids get older, you can help send them on mission trips and other ministry and educational opportunities.  These will increase the probability that they’ll become the kinds of adults you hope and pray they’ll become.  Or better yet, you can go on a mission trip with them.

One of the greatest gifts you’ll ever give your grandkids is to live out the teaching of   Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 in front of them.  Spend time with them. Play with them.  Pray with them.  Let them see the difference that Christ can make in a life lived for Him.  Now that’s a real gift.

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