Home / Family Articles / Are grandparents undermining you?

Are grandparents undermining you?

Family babysitters: Are you taking advantage?

Written by:

Are grandparents undermining you as a parent? Grandparents can be a blessing, but when their ideas on child-rearing conflict with yours then you may find sparks flying.  With a wealth of personal experience at their disposal some grandparents just cannot help interfering, and their well-meaning advice can easily rub you up the wrong way.

Our societal expectations of grandparents only serve to compound the problem.  Many grandparents look forward to this time as their reward for all the hard work of parenting you many years before.  They view their new role as an indulgent one, where they can enjoy spoiling the grandchildren without the burden of responsibility for discipline.  Taken too far, this can undermine the efforts of parents to instil a sense of order, limits and routine into their children’s lives, and a clear idea of who is boss.

Problems from Undermining

  • Children become confused and  lose sight of where their boundaries are, resulting in poor behaviour
  • Your own relationship with your parents suffers
  • The children may blame themselves for any negative emotions that they pick up on

When Grandparents are the Childmindersare grandparents undermining you

Good childcare can be hard for working parents to find, and terribly expensive.  Grandparents who are able and willing to help can play an invaluable supporting role for the family in this context.  Yet the role of Grandparent-as-Childminder presents challenges too.

With a third party carer, you hand over your child and generally do not question the way they handle things unless you have an obvious concern.  When grandparents are the carers, there are two key complications:

  • You may feel more able to dictate your own preferences for how your children are managed
  • The grandparents may feel they have free-rein to do things their way, even if it is at odds with yours

Clearly these two issues are ripe for the development of conflict.  Tensions may also arise where your expectations of the availability of the grandparents to help may differ from theirs.  If all this sounds very negative, then do not worry – there are ways in which these issues can be successfully managed.

What you can do

  1. Agree Contact Times – without being too rigid, and acknowledging there will be flexibility, a broad understanding between you and the grandparents about how much time they will spend with your children can help avoid future problems.  This is especially true if the grandparents are to be involved in regular childcare duties.  The children will also benefit as they will understand how often they can see their grandparents and know that when time is up they will be seeing them again soon


  1. Be clear on your own house rules – objectively remind your children of the boundaries that apply at home without criticising the different approach used by the grandparents.  This can help your child to understand what is expected in each place and minimise confusion


  1. Avoid open warfare – if grandparents are consistently interfering and undermining you in front of the children you need to talk with them private.  If necessary, explain why you take a certain line on things and that, whilst you respect their opinion, this is the way you would like for things to be done


  1. Channel the enthusiasm – grandparents can often have a lot more time to give to the children than their busy working parents can.  Making suggestions for how they could use that time with your child can help to avoid situations where conflict may arise.  If too much TV watching with your grandparents is a bone of contention, suggest that they do a creative activity like painting together instead


  1. Compromise – it is easy as a parent to get lost in the limit-setting mindset, and forget that a little indulgence from time to time does no harm.  In fact, your child will probably benefit from it.  So if an extra snack finds its way into your little one’s clutches try to keep it in perspective


  1. Pre-empt Problems – if you know there are certain things that wind you up, then make a pre-emptive strike and talk to the grandparents in advance about the way you would like certain things to be handled.  It takes a bloody-minded carer to actively go against your wishes


  1. Limit Contact – this last resort is a shame for all concerned but if, after trying to address the situation, the grandparents are simply ignoring your wishes, then the only answer is reduce the amount of time your children spend with them – if possible.  If not, then you need to keep trying, and be more assertive and blunt with your parents and hope that they finally get the message




About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

View all posts by