How to Stop Your Family From Buying Too Much Crap for Your Kids (and What to Do When It Happens Anyway)

How to Stop Your Family From Buying Too Much Crap for Your Kids (and What to Do When It Happens Anyway)


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It’s the season of giving, but when it comes to kids who have playrooms already overflowing with toys, books, games, and puzzles, the holidays can bring an unwanted influx of stuff adding to the mess you’re already struggling to contain.

Maybe you just purged an entire shelving unit’s worth of never-played-with toys; maybe you’re trying to turn over a new leaf and minimize the junk in your house; or maybe you find the overconsumption and plastic waste of the holidays problematic. Whatever the reason, if you’d like to communicate the message to family and friends that you’d like fewer presents for your kids this year, here are some gentle, tactful ways to go about it.

Be grateful, not presumptuous

First, don’t assume a friend or family member will be spoiling your child this holiday season (unless you have historical reason to believe they will). But if they’ve reliably overbought for your little ones since birth, it’s safe to predict they’ll continue. When broaching the subject, be sure to start with gratitude. Something like, “He loves the game you got him last year, plays it all the time!” before heading into your request.

Communicate clearly—and early—what you want

For the best chance of success, don’t wait until the week before the holiday to make your wishes known. With supply chain issues plaguing global retailers, there’s no time like the present to discuss it. While it’s tempting to cloak your request in subtlety so as not to offend, it’s more effective to lay it out gently, but clearly. Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman offered this script to the Huffington Post: “We’re up to our ears in toys and just don’t have the space anymore…We would prefer Johnny receive just one small token from you, something he’ll remember.”

Another approach is to reference your child’s experience. “Last year, we noticed Jamie had so many gifts, she got overwhelmed and couldn’t process or appreciate them all. We’d love to have a more relaxed experience with fewer presents this year, so she can enjoy each one.”

Or send an email to family members well in advance that doesn’t single out a single person’s overbuying. “Max is very fortunate to have many wonderful toys already, so this year, we’re asking family and friends to focus on giving ___.” (See options below.)

Provide a list of alternate gift ideas

In lieu of the traditional cacophony of loud, noise-making objects, LEGOs, and toys with 62 tiny plastic pieces, guide your friends and relatives to the type of presents you do want. Popular alternatives include experience gifts, such as a museum membership or concert ticket; a contribution to their 529 educational savings account making a conation to a favorite charity; or asking them to sponsor a less fortunate child or family for the holidays.

Acknowledge where they’re coming from

It’s easy to view someone who habitually goes overboard (especially if you’ve talked them down from overspending in the past), as simply “not getting it.” But it’s important to remember their perspective. For family members that don’t live nearby, the overindulgence likely comes from a place of wanting to make up for lost time. Remember, also, that gift-giving may be their primary love language, the very essence of how they show love and connection. This could add an extra layer of difficulty for them to abstain from giving gifts completely.

Set your gift guidelines

If they simply can’t abide going gift-less, suggest they purchase something tangible to go along with the “memory-making” gift. A new leotard to go with gymnastics lessons, or a new set of colored pencils for art class. Suggest a price limit as well, to hopefully make them think twice about that large $60 ride-on dump truck.

What to do when your kid gets too many toys anyway

There will inevitably be some relatives who flout your requests, no matter how graciously you made them. When it happens, try not to take it personally (They didn’t listen to me!) and remember that ultimately, people do what they want to do. (And this same scenario will be unfolding at many other houses around the country at that very moment.) First, say thank you—and teach your kids to say it, too, even when they’re disappointed. Then consider asking if the toy can remain at the gift-giver’s house to be used whenever your child visits.

Let your kids know that while they can open all the presents in front of the gift-giver to express thankfulness, they shouldn’t unwrap it from the packaging inside the box. That way, when the holiday is over, unwanted or duplicate items can be returned or re-gifted.

 

 



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