Dear Fiona: We’re so generous with our grown-up daughter – so why isn’t she more grateful?

03 March 2022

The problem…

“I am feeling so fed up with my daughter and her husband, as they seem to be just so ungrateful. My husband and I have bought them lots of gifts since they got married last year – some of them have been quite expensive too. Although they always thanked us in the beginning, over the last few months or so, they seem to have stopped.

“Last month I bought them a new coffee table, because my daughter mentioned that their old one had got damaged. When I went round there, I could see her husband hasn’t even put it in the sitting room yet – nor has she said anything about it.

“My husband says we should stop buying them things, but that just seems mean as we can afford it and they can’t. My daughter is an only child and we’ve always bought things for her – but surely a ‘thank you’ isn’t too much to ask?”

Fiona says…

“You say you’re fed up with your daughter, but have you not wondered why she and her husband have stopped saying thank-you? Have you not wondered why the new coffee table hasn’t been put in the lounge? Whilst I agree with you that it’s common courtesy to expect people to show appreciation for gifts, I can’t help but wonder if this young couple are feeling just a bit overloaded.

Are you trying to buy their affection?

“Buying them ‘stuff’ might feel like you’re trying to buy their affection and keep them beholden to you, when they should be striking out in life as an independent couple. There may be young people who are happy to live off the largesse of their parents, but many more want to make their own way. Further, you may be giving them things that are your taste, but really aren’t theirs. You aren’t giving them the money to go out and buy a new coffee table – you are giving them something they may not even like!

“Your daughter has grown up with this and may feel more used to it than her husband, but by giving them so much, it may even be causing difficulties in her marriage. Have you considered how her husband may feel? It could be he thinks you’re implying he is inadequate, as he’s not able to provide these things and cannot afford to reciprocate your gifts.

“Have you never been given a really expensive gift that you don’t really like? It is hard to show enthusiasm, and hard to tell the giver you don’t like it, without risking them taking offence. Most people end up saying nothing, and that could be what is happening here.

Have you asked whether they want these items? (Alamy/PA)

“I believe your husband is right to suggest you ease back on the giving. Why don’t you ask your daughter if she’d like you to change that coffee table for another one, and use it as an opportunity to chat with her about your gifts? Perhaps she and her husband would be more comfortable if you could ease back to giving for birthdays and Christmas only in future.

“If you are seriously trying to dispose of your surplus money for tax reasons, then why not talk to an independent financial advisor. You might be able to put money into something like an ISA or a pension scheme in her name – but please talk to her and her husband before doing so. I’m sure the last thing you want is to create a rift between them.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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