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Focus on the Family

What to do about grandparents who spoil your kids

Grandma and Grandpa are spoiling my children. They give them whatever they ask for, sometimes in complete disregard of my wishes. How do I turn this situation around without alienating my parents?

Every grandparent may occasionally have a tendency to overindulge his or her grandchildren. The problem, of course, is that they're usually not around to bear the brunt of the problems created by such indulgence. Kids love visiting grandma's house if it's a place where the word “no” is seldom heard and where treats are dispensed that are normally considered off-limits at home. To a certain extent, there's little harm in this as long as it's understood that such occasions are to be regarded as exceptions to the rules.

Sometimes, however, the situation can be more serious. Your reference to grandma's and grandpa's “complete disregard of your wishes” leads us to suppose that you may be facing something bigger than the mere doting permissiveness of adoring grandparents. As a matter of fact, the circumstances you've described could be symptomatic of much deeper issues.

If your mum and dad are deliberately refuting your authority as a parent, you need to take decisive steps to address the problem, and soon. Naturally, we can appreciate the fact that you want to broach the subject in a loving, respectful way. As you say, you don't want to do anything that would jeopardise the positive relationship you have with your parents.

We'd suggest that you and your wife get a babysitter and schedule a dinner out with your parents. Begin the conversation by letting them know how much you love and appreciate them. Then move on to explain that something's come up that you'd like to discuss.

Tell your parents that you are working hard to raise children well, and that you're trying to help them understand the importance of obedience, discipline, and proper respect for authority. Explain that although you appreciate their kindness and generosity toward your kids, you are beginning to feel that they are undermining your efforts by their actions.

It would help if you can name specific incidents. Relate the details and tell them how this situation made you feel as a parent. Provide reasons for the rules you maintain at home and help them understand why you feel it's important for your children to be held to a consistent standard. If you can provide a word picture they can relate to, it might help them better understand your feelings.

This article was written by Focus on the Family Malaysia (www.family.org.my) and the Questions and Answers are extracted from “Complete Family and Marriage Home Reference Guide” by Dr James Dobson with permission.