Helping family members with compulsive buying behaviour

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TwinkleTootsies
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Helping family members with compulsive buying behaviour

Postby TwinkleTootsies » Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:12 pm

I’m using a different profile for this question, and it’s a complicated one, so bear with me. The short version is whether anyone has experience of helping family members with compulsive behaviour, particularly if it has affected more than one generation? 

I’m growing increasingly concerned about my in-laws’ uncontrollable urge to buy stuff, literally any time they go out anywhere. It used to be just about on the high-end of ‘normal’  – they’ve always had way too much stuff in their own house, and always turned up with a couple of presents for our kids every time we saw them, which I wasn’t particularly keen on, especially given the issues my husband has had with over-spending (more on that later). However, over the last couple of years it has ballooned, to the point where when we last saw them, they gave each of our 3 kids the same amount of stuff that the average kid would be happy to receive in total at Xmas - we’re talking 12+ presents each, and we are generally receiving a few random things each too. 

We’ve tried many times over the years to discuss the over-buying for the kids; it’s usually brushed off with the comment that they think of them all the time as they’re their only grandchildren, and just pick ‘bits and bobs’ up as they see them, so if we haven’t seen them for a while it piles up, and that most of it is second-hand so didn’t cost much. To give an idea of ‘a while’, it was a 5-week gap between the last time we saw them, and the 12 presents each… 

We’ve tried flat-out declining gifts if we are at their house, saying we’ll have to leave those there as we don’t have any more space in our house, or saying that we are now on a ‘one in, one out’ system due to lack of space. We’ve also tried to limit the damage by suggesting one book each would be a great and sufficient present, our kids being massive bookworms; this worked for a short time, but they are now buying piles of huge Lego or Disney encyclopaedias, some of which they’ve already bought for them 1 or 2 times before. 

On a personal level, I’m getting fairly fed up with having to spend so much of my time tidying, sorting, or getting rid of stuff that we didn't need in the first place. And I also feel sorry for my own parents, who have kindly followed our request not to try and compete by getting the kids any presents outside of birthdays/Christmas, while knowing it makes them runner-up grandparents. 

But more importantly, the kids are now an age where they’re starting to realise just how much one set of grandparents buys them (but young enough to still think this is all good), and I’m worried that behaviour patterns are going to pass down another generation, especially as I’ve read it can be genetic as well as learned behaviour. My husband was deeply in debt when we met, as he also had a shopping problem, but with high-end items, and also struggled with weight all his life, as his parents have done - eating being another outlet for, I assume, the same compulsive tendencies. After a lot of CBT, he is now better with both spending and food, but not great with either, and they will always be an issue. 

My husband recognises that the gift-giving and over-feeding are his parents’ way of expressing love, as they both came from deprived backgrounds, and he visited them on his own last year to talk through this and its impact on the family. He also focused quite heavily on their own safety, as their house is now so crowded it’s a health and trip hazard. He thought he’d got somewhere; they both agreed there was an issue, although each thought the other one did most of the buying. However, the very next morning they came back from an outing with….. more presents for us and a few things for themselves. 

The obvious answer is that they need professional counselling, but I’m sure they will be highly resistant to this. They are also both absolutely LOVELY, and I don’t want to cause any sort of family rift, or upset/embarrass them, but neither can I stand back and watch our kids thinking this is normal. Any advice??
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citygal101
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Re: Helping family members with compulsive buying behaviour

Postby citygal101 » Wed Jun 05, 2019 9:23 am

I literally could have written your post, I had the exact same problem with my in-laws. In the end, I took the hard line and just told them bluntly I wouldn't be accepting anymore toys or gifts. I was fed up clearing and sorting it all as we live in a small space and don't have any storage. I tried to go via my husband but he was all for keeping the peace and did nothing significant to help. It's a tricky situation as I didn't want to cause upset either, but they were just not listening and kept buying (selfishly) so I found it best to make myself the bad guy and tell them straight. They've stopped buying for now, but I know these people have short memories and they'll find some excuse to start up again. Ultimately they're your kids and you have to pick up ALL the pieces, so do what's best for them. 
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HannahStockwell
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Re: Helping family members with compulsive buying behaviour

Postby HannahStockwell » Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:10 am

This is horrific.
First of all i am so sorry you are having to go through this. But I agree with what the other members has said. You need to just end it A you’ve been too nice and the soft approach hasn’t worked. You need to install hard boundaries now. It’s a simple, no more gifts outside of birthdays and Christmas. Full stop. And before you next see them, remind them of this rule and if they haven’t followed it be prepared to just walk away. They need to understand and respect your parenting ans your marriage. Yes you might be the meanie for a time but they will soon realise you mean business.
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dudette
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Re: Helping family members with compulsive buying behaviour

Postby dudette » Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:47 am

I think you should write them a good old-fashioned letter. Speaking to them obviously doesn’t get the message across. Word it nicely (you could say it’s spoiling Christmas and birthdays as the kids are so used to presents that getting them that it doesn’t feel special any more) and get your husband to sign it. Make it plain that any gifts from now on outside birthdays and Xmas will go straight to the charity shop. They clearly haven’t understood how much it is upsetting you. You can’t do much about their compulsive shopping but you can do something about it affecting you.
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