If you are anything like me, you think parenting comes with plenty of its own drama. Grandparents undermining parents is just another bit of trouble we don’t need. So, how do you deal?
There is something fierce that comes over a mother when grandparents undermine parents. Let me tell you a little story.
It was Halloween. My son was not quite two and heading out with the family for his first Trick-Or-Treat. He refused to eat more than a couple of bites for dinner. Our house rule is no dinner = no treats.
This also happened to be the first trick-or-treat outing we spent with my husband’s family in a few years. When my daughter was younger, we did it once and I didn’t want to return. Her cousins were running wild through the streets while the parents let them load up on candy all night and act like hooligans.
I get stressed out around kids with no manners or discipline, so I vowed never to do it again. But, here we were among the madness at my husband’s request.
The first home we stopped at had a popcorn bar full of treats to load into a cup. My Mother-in-Law asked if my son could have a cup of M&Ms to which I responded, “This is the first house we stopped at, and he didn’t want to eat dinner. He doesn’t need the junk right now.”
Knowing we had a long night ahead of us, I wanted to save some of the junk to help curb the toddler’s crankiness later in the evening. It wanted to use candy bribery as my backup plan to help us finish the night with some peace.
I walked away to help my daughter fill her cup so we could move on. When I returned to my son and husband, I was disappointed to see the toddler sitting in the stroller stuffing his face with m&ms.
This wasn’t the first time I’d had issues with one of the grandparents undermining our authority. Sadly, I also know it won’t be the last, but that doesn’t mean I simply take it.
Here is what I recommend for dealing with inappropriate grandparent behavior.
Why Do Grandparents Undermine Parents?
Sometimes, it might seem like grandparents are doing things that drive parents a bit crazy. But guess what? There are reasons behind it! Let’s break it down:
Different Parenting Styles: Grandparents grew up in a different time, and they might have their own way of doing things. They might not fully understand modern parenting techniques or believe their way is better.
Overprotectiveness: Sometimes, grandparents just want to spoil their grandkids and protect them from any hardships. This can lead to disagreements if they’re too lenient or indulgent.
Lack of Awareness: In some cases, they might not even realize they’re undermining parents. It’s not always intentional; it could be due to a lack of awareness about the rules or boundaries parents have set.
Desire to Connect: Grandparents may try to connect with their grandkids by bending the rules or being more lenient. They just want to create a strong bond, but it can sometimes clash with the parents’ wishes.
Understanding these reasons can help parents approach the situation with empathy and find common ground with their well-meaning but sometimes challenging grandparents.
What Grandparents Should Never Do and How to Fix it
While some may not even realize the damage they’re doing to their relationships, it’s important to recognize the signs of toxic grandparents and deal with it quickly.
So, what are the 3 top inappropriate grandparent behaviors?
Parents have rules about screen time, bedtimes, and food choices for a reason. Some parents have food allergies to contend with or mild cases of food intolerances that they know make kids uncomfortable.
Grandparents who don’t follow some of the major rules are really disrespecting parents, even if they’re thinking they’re just doting on their grandchildren.
When grandparents interfere with parenting, it can send the wrong signals to children!
Being Critical of Your Child
Even a simple statement like “I love your hair when it’s long” after your kiddo has chosen a short hairstyle can have a poor effect on a child’s self-esteem. Imagine anything any more critical and the damage it can cause.
This is really selfish and inappropriate for a grandparent.
Buying Grandkids’ Love with Gifts
Grandparents should understand that love cannot be bought. And sure, the grandkids will think they “love” a grandparent more if they’re constantly receiving gifts, but it’s not a lasting or sustainable way to get and keep a child’s attention.
What To Do About Grandparents Undermining Parents
Dealing with grandparents who cross boundaries can be a tough situation. And, when you’re married, you have to take extra precautions so as not to cause drama within your marriage as well.
These are my best tips for dealing with grandparents overstepping boundaries and those who undermine parents.
Ask Yourself: “Is This a Safety Issue?”
If your child could be seriously harmed in a situation in which you were being undermined, speak up.
Safety issues are my number one concern as a parent. This is the one area where I am not concerned with backlash from speaking up about inappropriate grandparent behaviors.
Unfortunately, I did have this happen once when I went outside one of the grandparents’ home to find my children playing in the streets of a busy neighborhood while said grandparent watched. Supervised or not, that got shut down quick. I know little ones aren’t aware enough of the dangers. And there are too many distracted drivers and speeders for this to ever be okay, in my mind.
If you feel your children are in danger, speak up immediately. Whatever drama or “consequences” come from it can be handled after the fact.
Bite Your Tongue
When you’re dealing with your spouse’s parents, dealing with grandparents undermining parents gets more complicated. Utilize restraint and know it’s important to remain calm and collected so that you can voice your concerns with your spouse to handle (see next section: Ask Your Spouse to Handle It). Never speak out in the heat of the moment because you can do more harm than good.
Of course, if your child’s safety were in question, this doesn’t apply in my opinion.
Ask Your Spouse to Handle It
This point is applicable when it’s his parent doing the undermining. Explain the situation and why you felt you were undermined. Ask him to handle the situation in a way that he feels will be both appropriate and effective for his parent(s).
Talk to the Grandparent As Soon As Possible
Once you have both come to an agreement (and you’ve simmered down), talk to the offending grandparent as soon as possible about the situation. One really good suggestion is to mention that when parents are around, they are the authority.
When Grandma is in charge, doing things her way is okay so long as the kids are safe and she has their best interests at heart. If it’s your parent, this is your job.
Remind Them You’re the Parent
When grandparents and parents disagree on parenting, which is quite common, it’s okay to remind them that it’s your turn. You’re raising kids under your rules, trying to teach them life lessons you value, and in a way that works for you.
Don’t Let Them Undermine the Other Parent
If you know your mom or dad is undermining your spouse, show them that you’re united. Parenting teamwork goes a long way in raising good kids, so grandparents need to know you’re seriously a team. Standing up for each other will go far in strengthening your marriage, too.
Give Them Rules
If you notice a regular pattern, don’t be afraid to share rules for grandparents to follow.
Remember Grandparents Are Important
Sometimes we need to re-frame our thoughts to feel better about the people in our lives. Remember that grandparents are important to your kids for many reasons. Try to focus on some of the benefits your kids receive from having Grandparents in their lives if you’re dealing with difficult feelings.
Though I wish we could all be lucky enough not to have to deal with it, it hurts when grandparents undermine parents. It has the potential to degrade relationships and could seriously affect how a child views their parents.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a tired mom of two kids. I’m desperately trying to raise them to be well-disciplined, mild-mannered, good citizens.
Parenting is hard work on its own without dealing with grandparents who cross boundaries.
What do you do when a child’s grandparents interfere with parenting?
FAQs About Grandparents Undermining Parents
What does “grandparents undermining parents” mean?
This refers to a situation where grandparents act in a way that goes against the wishes or authority of the parents, causing tension and potential conflict within the family.
How do grandparents undermine parents?
Grandparents may undermine parents in various ways, such as disregarding rules or routines set by parents, spoiling or indulging grandchildren, criticizing parenting decisions, or contradicting parents’ disciplinary actions.
Why do grandparents undermine parents?
There can be many reasons why grandparents undermine parents, including a desire to assert their own authority or parenting style, a belief that the parents are too strict, a belief that their prior experience makes them more wise, a desire to spoil their grandchildren, or simply a lack of awareness or understanding of the parents’ wishes.
What are the consequences of grandparents undermining parents?
The consequences of grandparents undermining parents can be significant and may include tension and conflict within the family, confusion and anxiety for children, and a breakdown in trust and communication between parents and grandparents.
How can parents address the issue of grandparents undermining them?
Parents can address the issue of grandparents undermining them by setting clear boundaries and expectations, communicating openly and honestly with grandparents about their concerns, and seeking support and guidance from a therapist or counselor if necessary. It is important to approach the issue with empathy and respect for all parties involved.
This post originally appeared in 2020 on sahmplus.com and has been updated.