Q: I’m already starting to dread my five-year-old son’s birthday. My mother-in-law enjoys showering him with extravagant gifts. I want to discuss it with her, but my wife says we need to graciously accept them and keep quiet. What should I do?
A: We can appreciate your concerns. As we’ve touched on recently here in this Family Q&A, overindulging our children can block their “gratitude receptors” and breed a sense of entitlement. And as you’ve discovered, the challenges become more difficult when well-intentioned or uncooperative in-laws are involved.
Given the potential long-term negative impact on your son, we’d strongly encourage you and your wife to address the issue with her mum. But before you do, you both need to discuss your individual concerns and work toward getting on the same team. It’s likely your wife is feeling the same as you, but with the added burden of not wanting to confront or alienate her mother. You, on the other hand, might feel that her mum’s benevolence is undermining your family’s goals and values – or that your own efforts to provide aren’t adequate. It’s important that you voice and understand each other’s emotions before moving forward.
When the time is right, it’s best if your wife has this discussion privately with her mum. But however you choose to approach the conversation, unless it’s clear that your mother-in-law is deliberately defying your wishes, her motives and actions ought to be given the benefit of the doubt. Express appreciation for the love she shows your son – and invite her to join in helping develop his character by putting limits on the gifts he receives. You might suggest an amount for the gift, or perhaps alternatives for the excess such as contributions to school expenses or a college fund.
For further help and support, please call our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to email@example.com.
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