It’s that time of the year again; time to go Christmas gift shopping! Whether you’ve been dreading this time of the year or have been making a list for weeks now, you probably have more than a few gifts to buy. And, if you have grandchildren, you may feel inclined to buy more than a few gifts. You might want to think before you buy, though, because constant gifting can do more harm than good, especially when the presents become elaborate and expensive. Jill Garner, grandmother of seven and founder of Manners of the Heart, explains why this can be a problem and how it can be resolved.
Why might a grandparent give too many gifts?
You may not realize it, but excessive gifting can reflect your desire to be closer to your family. Your intentions may be pure, but they send the wrong message to both your children and your grandchildren. “Grandparents want to continue to have a deep relationship with their children, and that often gets lost, especially today when families are not living in close proximity,” says Garner. “Grandchildren are a way to stay connected. That plays into a grandparent wanting to do so much for their grandchildren; to be a part of that family dynamic, they get lost in the gift giving.”
Garner explains “Gift Giving Gas” as another motive behind the gifts. “The gifting is fueled by the fear of your grandchildren not wanting to spend time with you, which every grandparent tends to feel. They try to win over the grandchild, thinking, ‘if I give them stuff, they’ll always want to visit me.’ Of course, if we operate off that fear, we probably won’t make the best decisions.”
Your desire to give your grandchild the newest toy in the market may also be fueled by a need to “outdo” other grandparents. You may also feel guilty for not spending enough time with your grandchildren. These are reasons why gifting etiquette is important.
What is grandparent gifting etiquette?
“Grandparent gifting etiquette is important because it is a way of showing respect to your children and how they choose to parent your grandchildren,” Garner explains. Like any parent, your children are trying to raise their own children to be humble, respectful, and grateful. When you overstep by giving too many gifts, it can create tension while teaching your grandchildren to value your gifts more than they value you. This ultimately confuses your grandchildren, and it may even foster in them a sense of ungratefulness towards their parents, whose gifts may never measure up to yours.
What gifts should I give instead?
The easiest way to avoid over-gifting is to give your grandchildren experiences rather than things. Oftentimes, the best gift a grandparent can give is the gift of themselves. “Teach them the things you know!” Garner says. “Share stories and traditions with them. These are ways in which grandparents stay connected with their grandchildren that are far beyond giving them a gift.”
“I gave my granddaughter a certificate for an afternoon in the kitchen with Gigi so I could teach her how to make homemade bread,” Garner adds. “She’s already asking me what we’ll do for Christmas this year!”
What do I do when I’m told my gifts are “too much?”
If your child tells you the gifts you’re giving your grandchildren are excessive, think back to your days of parenting. You were in their shoes once, obsessing over raising them right, wanting them to be thankful and respectful, and watching your own parents dote on your children. Before you get defensive, think about how it
feels for your child and remember they only want what is best for your grandchildren.
There is nothing wrong with giving your grandchildren gifts for Christmas this year. What’s more valuable, however, is to give them eternal gifts rather than disposable gifts. “Grandparents should create gratitude in their children and build relationships with them by sharing experiences,” Garner says. After all, the true magic of Christmas lies within the people around you.