Opinions re: gift giving and "thanks" expected/desired?

In the past, I realize that I have differed with some (may?) of you regarding the “response” I have expected/desired regarding gifts I have given. Your responses have been useful in helping me modify my gifting and my expectations. I’d appreciate thoughts about a couple of situations.

  1. We annually give one SIL a check for $50 on his birthday. He NEVER expresses a thank you either in person or so much as a text. Would you continue sending a check? My daughter has said that he looks forward to receiving it, and gets pleasure out of spending it (their finances are somewhat tight, so I imagine $50 to just spend is appreciated.) I believe my wife favors sending the gift, in part, because HIS mother gifts a similar amount to my daughter on her b-day. My preference would be to stop sending the check. I simple texted “Thx” would be plenty for me. Thoughts?

  2. My son recently got married. We gave them what I consider to be a rather large check - 5 figures. The check is cashed, and they are back from their honeymoon. How soon do you expect to receive thanks for such a gift? I realize that general expectations for wedding gift thanks is quite long, and I understand they have TONS to do. But I was just wondering what you think. If I received a check that size, I’d be sure to send a thank you card sooner than later. If it affects your response, AFAIK, the couple paid for the wedding themselves, with no funds from her family. We offered to front them the gift, but they said it wasn’t necessary.

If you want your SIL to express gratitude directly, you need to let your daughter know this so she can remind him to do better. Not everyone was raised to send thank you notes or make thank you calls. (BTW, I was raised to send “thank you” expressions, so I get why you’re peeved.) Just tell her something like, “In the future, it would be nice if SIL could let us know he got the gift and that he appreciates it. A text or email or something is fine.”

In the case of your son, internet sources say that thank-you cards should be sent out within three months of the wedding. So if you haven’t heard back from him within that time frame, you are well within your right to asking about it. You could say something like, “Hey, I don’t want to be a nag, but have you guys sent out thank-you notes to everyone? It’s an easy thing to forget but people care about stuff like this.”

I could see someone (not necessarily an ingrate) thinking that “thank you” notes are appropriate for people you don’t have a close relationship with, who are not socially obligated to give you things. So your son (and SIL, for that matter) may be thinking that you don’t need a card, while someone they only see once a year would.

Yeah, I understand the general expectation is quite long (much longer than I think appropriate - unless there were hundreds of gifts from a mega-wedding. And I also sorta thought if it were I, I would send thanks to my immediate family before more distant relations or more casual acquaintances.

Thanks for the feedback.

I’m pretty sure we’ve told our dtr in the past that we’d like some response from her husband. We really don’t feel we ought to tell these adults how to conduct themselves. The only thing we can control is ourselves. So if he just is the kind of person who doesn’t express thanks, maybe we’re just the kinda people who don’t send him birthday checks.

What’s your relationship with him in general?

I mean, I get why you’re peeved. My mother gives me birthday gifts ranging from $2 bracelets from Krogers to whatever dollar amount equates to my age (I can’t wait till I turn a million-years-old!) Doesn’t matter how random the gift is, I will call her up and thank her. I can’t imagine not at least sending someone a “ty” text if they have gone through the trouble of remembering my special day.

However, I think gifts should be giving out of love, not obligation. If you don’t have any love for SIL, then you shouldn’t have been giving him a gift in the first place. If his lack of social etiquette is enough to make you stop giving him a gift, then that makes me think there wasn’t a whole lot of love there to begin with. But if you do have warm feelings for the guy, I think you owe it to the both of you to call him up directly and tell him what’s going on. Because it could be that the problem isn’t him, but your daughter. I mean, if I were your daughter and you had told me that you’d appreciate a “thank you” note from my husband, I would make sure my husband knew this and I would make sure he sent you a thank you. And then I would follow up with you to make sure you received it. If your daughter hasn’t done this at least once, then who knows what she has told her husband? I think it is best to use an intermediary when it comes to in-law drama, but if you can’t trust the intermediary with basic follow-thru, then you’d be best to go straight to the source. As long as the relationship with the “source” is a close one.

Here’s what I do, and it pretty much eliminates my anxiety around this issue.

I only give gifts when it makes me feel good to do so. Thanks, although appreciated, aren’t expected. It’s kind of like loaning money to a friend or relative – in your mind treat it as a gift that won’t be repaid, and you won’t worry about it. If it is repaid, it’s a pleasant surprise. So with a gift – in your mind, don’t expect thanks, and you won’t worry about it. If thanks are given, it’s a pleasant surprise.

I learned this lesson by watching my father attempt to buy peoples’ affection with gifts that were generous in amount but not in spirit. He expected his great-grandchildren to write thank-you notes, and then critiqued the grammar and spelling. He cut off his grand-daughter because she wasn’t sufficiently appreciative of the gifts he gave. And he wondered why people only seemed to like him for his money. It was very sad to watch, and I made up my mind that I would do my best not to be like that.

Has your son informally said thank you? Did he express appreciation for you and your wife at the wedding, at least?

If he hasn’t said anything remotely like “thank you” since the day you sent him the check, then I think feeling pissed off is completely understandable. But if he has said something nice and appreciative but it just wasn’t memoralized in a card, then maybe cut him some slack.

I actually think distant relations and casual acquaintances would be the most sensitive to this than close immediate family. Presumably you and your son have a good enough relationship where you can call him on the phone at any time and catch up on things without it being weird. And that would be when your son could say, “Thanks for your help with everything, Dad. We really appreciated it.” With some rando cousin or family friend, it is more awkward to casually express gratitude, so that’s why a formal thank-you is called for. If your son and you don’t have a close enough relationship where you can call him up and say “What’s the dealio?”, then you should expect the formal-thank-you-card-within-three-months treatment.

I mean, I totally agree that the son should be calling you. And it is totally unacceptable if he hasn’t expressed any gratitude to you and your wife. But if you want to see how appreciative he is, it isn’t that hard for you to reach out to him and find out. There’s no need to stew in bitterness waiting for a card that may take weeks to arrive. Just call him up.

I cannot agree with this. That’s what you do for children, not spouses. Especially since (in our culture) it always seems to be on the wife who’s supposed to do this (I know in this case, it’s her parents, but I often see such duties ascribed to wives/moms regardless).

That said, I don’t care for or do thank you notes much. Haven’t done any since high school graduation (though I’m not married and don’t have kids, so never had wedding/baby showers and didn’t do the college graduation ceremony) and sadly don’t think I got all done then (really not positive if I got them done but took a long time or didn’t get them all done, either of which was rude, I admit). I say thank you in person to gifts I’m given sometimes, and sometimes people say it back, but it just doesn’t register with me. Even if it did, thank you notes (or I guess, calls or texts) are something unreciprocated, so far as I’m concerned. Christmas doesn’t count if I both give and receive a gift from a person. Birthdays don’t if I also give them gifts. Only events we don’t all have (at same regularity) like graduation or wedding/baby shower gifts count. And frankly, I’m still slightly surprised when I get a thank you note for those if I gave the gift in person and got a verbal thanks then.

But we are talking about income coming into the household. It’s a small amount, but it still represents a benefit that they could theoretically both share in. Thus, the daughter has a vested interest in keeping things peaceful between her husband and Dinsdale.

And it really isn’t that hard to tell one’s spouse, “Hey, did you remember to let my dad know you got the gift he sent you?” It also isn’t that hard to ask one’s own father, “Hey, did you get the note that Husband sent?” If two simple sentences are too much trouble for a person to handle, then something is wrong with them.

Yes, I agree that shit like this frequently falls on the wife. But husbands are also on the hook for making sure their parents and wives get along and mutually respect one another. If someone is unintentionally disrespecting their in-laws, it really is their spouse’s job to let them know and help them be better since–as a couple–both of them could be sanctioned if the disrespect isn’t remedied. If someone expects their spouse to be viewed as a separate individual from them, they don’t know what marriage means.


I had a friend who would complain if someone didn’t thank him for buying them dinner or doing something for them. I’ve had some strong arguments with him about it.

Him: “They didn’t thank me for dinner. It’s common courtesy!”
Me: “The act of kindness should be thanks enough.”

One time while we were having dinner together, he saw another friend and his family walk in. He went and greeted them and later paid their check (they were still eating). He then walked up to his friend’s table to tell him he paid for their dinner. Uhhh…Maybe guess he thought they wouldn’t be able to figure it out? SIGH Wishful thinking. :rolleyes:

BTW, his friend’s family owned a fairly large company and he was in charge of it, so it wasn’t like he could barely afford to pay for his own meal.

No, but mainly because it wouldn’t occur to me to give money every year to another adult. The only people I do that for are my nieces and nephew, and all except one is currently in college. If my in laws gave me money every birthday, I would thank them but then strongly insist that they not continue to do so. Maybe it’s my pride talking but I would see it as an infantilizing gesture and be annoyed that they think I need to be financially helped.

That tangent aside, not only do I think it’s poor form that he never thanks you, but I think it says something about him that he keeps taking this money without any apparent reservation. How old is he?

I personally wouldn’t be concerned with not receiving a thank you card, which makes any expectations about timeliness moot for me. But there are other ways to communicate thanks besides formal mechanisms, and I would be fine as long as I received some acknowledgment of gratitude. Did your son and DIL not thank you verbally? How did the money pass hands? If it came across as a impersonal transfer of funds rather than a gift gift, this could explain some things.

There’s an odd expectation of the level of gratitude equaling the value of the gift.

Buy a cup of coffee - Thanks is enough
Buy dinner - Thank You
Buy someone a suit- Thank you very much
Give $1000 for wedding gift - Sincerely thank you so very much and a note
Give $10000 for a wedding gift - A sincere thank you, to you and any offspring you may have and a handbound leather covered tablet with an embossed letter???

Part of this is ingrained because of my upbringing, but I base my expression of gratitude on the level of sincerity of the giver and meaning of the gift to me. I once broke into tears when I received a movie lobby card as a gift from an eBay seller. As I wrote to him in my email: I broke into tears when I saw your gift. As it’s when Joey [the actress] was at her most beautiful in my favorite scene in this movie! I can’t express my appreciation enough for this gift!

I always keep in mind the woman who by giving two coppers gave more than all the others because it was it all she had.

When I buy things from eBay, I appreciate (and keep) the little handwritten notes of thanks far more than the generic, Thank You for Your Purchase, here’s 10% off your next one!

I think you’re entitled to feel this way, but pump your brakes on shaming people who feel otherwise. I got a check for $41 dollars this past birthday from our mother and I cashed it as soon as it arrived. She didn’t give me that money because she thought I needed it. She knows good and well I don’t. She gave me that money because she knows I don’t have anyone else who will treat me special on my birthday. She gave me that money because she knows I’m a big cheapskate who sometimes can be weird about spending money just for fun. She gave me that money because she knows that I will get some benefit it from it, as opposed to some of the other things she has gotten me through the years (like plastic bracelets from Krogers). She gave me that money because she loves and cares about me and knowing that I cashed the check makes her feel like she’s a good mother. And since I love her too, I called her up and made her like the best mother in the world for thinking about me. It might be a little infantalizing to get money for your birthday, but if you can’t be infantalized on your own birthday, by the woman who carried you for eight months (and almost died!), then we need to change the law. I spend 364 days out of the year being “grown”. It’s nice having one day out of the year where I can feel like a little kid.

It doesn’t sound like Dinsdale is giving his SIL a birthday present for the right reasons, but there’s nothing untoward about a parent giving an adult child money for their birthday.

I’m not saying it’s bad to give (or receive) money from someone as a gift…it’s just doing it on an annual, automatic basis seems like less like a heartfelt gesture of caring and more like a recurring charitable donation that you set up through your bank. I think the OP should consider this viewpoint when mulling over the interactions he has with his kids and their SO’s, because it’s not the first time money has figured into hurt feelings or disappointment.

It doesn’t seem like SIL has any issues with accepting Dinsdale’s gift but I do wonder if he might be too embarrassed to say thanks. People can be weird like that.

Thanks all.

Part of why we do it, is because our parents both did it. I’d get a shirt, tie, or belt from my MIL (often picked out by my wife). And my mom gave all 4 S-DILs birthday gifts. Maybe we were being lazy, just cutting a check. But we were happy to do it. Just generally think “Thanks” is appropriate. Remember trying to drill into our kids’ heads the importance of saying thanks for gifts - verbally if given in person, or in writing if not.

Think from now on, we’ll just send cards to all 3 S-DILs. We like recognizing the birthdays of people important to us and our children, and wouldn’t think twice about not having a card acknowledged.

And yeah, lingyi, I recall one time we took that coupe out for a nice dinner, and were somewhat peeved that they didn’t even say thanks. I guess we disagree on that.

And no, I don’t think embarrassment figures in. My dtr has commented in the past that he is happy to have a dollop of “extra” money that he can just spend however he wishes.

I love getting thank you notes, and think that at very least some sort of acknowledge of the gift is supposed to be given (text, verbal, email or written), but when you just stop gifting, most people aren’t going to understand that its a cause and effect sort of thing. I also only give gifts when I genuinely want to give a gift…if I don’t want to give you a gift, I don’t like you enough to show up at your wedding/grad party/baby shower/other required gift occasion. So while I think acknowledgement is required (along with thanks), I don’t thing giving is dependent on getting the thank you.

(I also think birthday gifts of money to grown-ass adults is weird.)

My ex’s sister had a best friend who never thanked her sister’s parents even when they took them (my ex’s sister and her best friend) on an all expense paid trip (several times). My ex’s parents would complain about it, but would continue to take the two of them out to dinner and trips because it made their daughter happy. If they took the attitude of some here, they would have rightfully stopped “gifting” their daughter.

Are you reading a different thread than I am? Seems like everyone who has commented has said gifts should not be contingent on receiving thanks.

As far as your anecdote, your ex’s parents were well within their rights to be bothered by your ex’s BF’s failure to communicate appreciation. Do you disagree? No one wants to feel taken for granted and that’s what withholding a simple “thanks” causes.

My wife pays attention to how both our grown kids and one of their SO’s (the only likely near term marriage partner among them so far) react to our gifts. Kids generally get a passing grade, but are graded on a curve. Our oldest is just by nature less into that kind of stuff. It if were a matter of writing a note, forget it he never would. He would and does express thanks when given something in person (thinking about it, you’ve got to be pretty intensely oblivious to social convention to not say thank you when handed something, the idea of the later written note requires a little more indoctrination). There’s tension though between my wife and one kid’s SO about thank you’s though (not only gifts but invites to family dinners etc). And the SO is graded much more sternly. The SO and my wife were both born in countries with fairly different cultures than the US (and one another) but that could as easily be a way to put it aside, ‘oh they do it differently there, I guess’.

My policy is to not worry about stuff like that, and try to tamp those disputes down, limited by avoiding me becoming the one my wife is pissed at. As was said above, I give the gift because I want to, or frankly if I feel obliged to by social convention. Once I’ve fulfilled either my genuine desire to give, or I’ve deferred to social convention to give, I honestly don’t GAS what the recipient does. If they aren’t actively insulting me or something (‘this gift sucks!’), but that’s never been an issue.

I don’t think Dinsdale is giving his SIL a birthday present just to make his daughter happy. He’s doing it because he feels obligated to give his SIL a birthday present. So it’s not really the same thing.