Can a Grandparent Over-Spoil a Child?

grandparents and granddaughter
Image via iStock

Here’s an interesting dilemma I’ve (luckily) never thought about!

A friend of mine recently confided she feels uncomfortable with the amount of spoiling her parents do when it comes to her child.

Now, I understand what one person considers ‘spoiled’ might be another person’s norm, so I suppose it is all relative and dependent upon your situation. That said, in my friend’s case, she believes one set of grandparents over-spend on gifts for her child. 

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She compares the overspending to the amount she and her husband and the other set of grandparents spend for holidays and birthdays and just everyday items.

For instance, my friend’s daughter received a Kindle from her grandparents for her birthday, along with a variety of other expensive gifts. These gifts were much more expensive than the ones my friend had given her daughter. She felt uncomfortable in the situation, as though it were over the top. She feels as many of us do – she wants her daughter to appreciate what she gets and not get everything she wants, which, she fears, will turn into a bad outlook on life down the road.

Grandparents typically want to be able to lavish their grandchildren with special things, whether its presents or goodies. And they want to do special things for their grandchildren. My kids LOVE the fact that when grandma comes to visit and makes pancakes she coats them with a layer of whipped cream! And I LOVE the fact that these little things she does, like letting them watch more TV or play more computer or eat more candy than I allow, are things my children will remember and cherish forever. I still recall my granddad letting me stay home from school once. Did he drive me to school? No! He took me out for breakfast!

On the other hand, I’m certain this type of problem could cause issues if the parent believes the grandparent is breaking boundaries. I suggested my friend talk to her parents about this but she said she doesn't want to hurt their feelings. She has mentioned to them they don't need to go ‘over the top.' She has given examples. She knows they are doing this out of love and wonders if she should let it go, but she's afraid if she does let it go her daughter will begin to expect things rather than appreciate things. 

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I told her I'd bring the question here! What do you think? Is there such a thing as a grandparent over-spoiling a grandchild? Should we let grandparents enjoy giving what and when they can? What's your experience with this situation?


What do you think?

Can a Grandparent Over-Spoil a Child?

Kathy Murdock works as a full time writer and web designer. Recently planted in the middle of the deep south from the busy streets of Los Angeles, when she's not coding Wordpress websites or writing about women in business and thrifty motherhood, Kathy spends time photographing alligators, playing with her family, and running. ... More

Tell us what you think!


  1. Kath says:

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  2. rgmommy says:

    If your fried feels uncomfortable with what the grandparents are doing she is in the right. Yes it is the grandparents "job" to spoil their grand kids and it is something special that most of us will remember but they also have to respect how the parents feel. It is just the grandparents not caring how it makes their children feel and I’m sure if they had this issue when raising their kids they would be more understanding. Try to tell them how you feel nicely and I that doesn’t work tell them that there are rules and then enforce them with your parents as well it seems harsh but you are raising the family not them at this point

  3. Kathy says:

    I really love your idea for hiding little toys! That’s great! I love things like this, which are things they will remember forever.

  4. Sally says:

    I agree it shouldnt be a competition!!!! The little things count more the material things that they will not want to play with in 6 months from now or the clothes that wont fit in a couple months.

  5. Sally says:

    I have 2 toddlers and 2 nieces (oldest being 6) My inlaws way over spend on holidays and birthdays. My husband and I and my parents spend more then enough but my inlaws spend at least triple what we spend. The first few times it upset me that my parents were upset by this. But over the last couple of years I have seen that they do it to be the "favorite" grandparents and try to brag that they bought this or that. My parents come to visit my kids every couple of weeks at least, my inlaws NEVER come to visit, the only time they come to our house is for birthdays and they expect us to go to their house at least once a week so they can see my kids. Sorry, if you want to see my kids, then you need to make the effort! The inlaws also tell the kids that they need to stay at their house over night and think that it is going to happen, I have yet to let my kids stay anywhere over night! I feel comfortable with my parents watching them but I dont the inlaws because I dont feel like they would respect our rules. We run a strict bedtime routine and they dont agree. That is not my problem that they dont agree, these are my kids and I will do as I please, I am not raising them to please anyone else. My nieces do stay at my inlaws and are there all the time, always have been, but I want MY family time/life so I am not like that. But I do believe that you can go a little over board and it is unnecessary for the fact that the children are going to expect these nice gifts all the time, my 6 year old niece just got a kindle from them, so what is next year going to be to top this year and it is going to be that they expect more and more. Unrealistic for their adulthood. I agree it is very kind, but a $50-$75 gift is MORE then enough. I have also asked the inlaws to give the kids money to go to their savings for college fund and they will not do that because they want to invest in a cd for each grandchild and have the control over it and I will not allow someone else to have control over something of MY child’s! I guess it is a learning experience for me when I become a grandparent to not concentrate on the material items and keep the gifts within reason. 🙂

  6. Lauren says:

    It should never be a competition between both sets of GrandParents…The one set of Grandparents do what they do…The other set of Grandparents should not feel insecure…Just Taking the Grandchildren out for Lunch,play games Do a Craft…Is Very valued by the Children…Just enjoy both sets of Grandparents…It’s not Spoiling it’s Love…Different ways.I always Have my Almost 2 First Grandchild Little Toys hidden for him to find…So much Fun…And sometimes I go over the Top…But you know,we won’t be around forever…It’s My Joy in Life….

  7. When my kids were growing up, we didn’t have much money and I looked forward to the grandparents buying for my children. Now I have 9 grandchildren and my husband and I spend $100. each on them at Christmas. My x husband also spends $100. each so we pool together and get them a nice gift every year. We purchased 7 Kindles last year, but I think the parents love it. I love the fact that I can do for my grandchildren what I couldn’t do for my kids. I’m not sure what I would do if any of my kids asked me to stop, because it would be difficult to not do for some and to do for the rest. The rest of the year we give them plenty of quality time. We love them so much!!

  8. i’m assuming they’re well-off (if not there’s a whole other problem of them wasting their retirement income) so they’re actually probably spending the same percentage of discretionary spending on presents as anyone does. maybe the parents could ask them to spend half of money they’re spending on presents for funding her college. if they do that they can still feel like they’re sharing with their family without making her used to getting huge gifts when her parents (and probably other family) can’t afford it.

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