Handling grandparents and teaching the kids who's boss

Handling grandparents and teaching the kids who's boss

Even if your child's grandparents are his main caregivers when your husband and you are at work, as parents, the both of you are still the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to what your child can and cannot do. This premise needs to be established from the get-go, so that the little ones understand that 'no means no' and running to 'Nanna' isn't going to change that.

Who's boss

Kids need to realise that ‘no means no’ and running to Grandma doesn’t change that

Grandparents are one of a child’s greatest blessings. Grandparents are a comfortable bridge between generations. They have time for an extra story, enough change in their pocket for the bubble gum machine and understand that milkshakes in the afternoon are just what a kid (and grandparent) needs. Grandparents are a wonderful thing!

As long as they know their place

If at all possible, grandparents should be a part of your child’s life, but there are limits. Grandparents need to understand and respect the fact that they are NOT the parent and that they should NOT override decisions you make for your child.

In the event the grandparents live far away, this will likely not be an issue. After all, it’s not easy for them to ignore your rules and guidelines if they live far away. But if you see each other on a regular basis, there needs to be a clear and distinct understanding between you, the parent, and your child’s grandparents as to what is acceptable.

When the grandparents are the caregivers

From the time my oldest granddaughter was five weeks old, she has spent her days with me (Nanna) while Mom and Dad are at work. Because I work from home, I am able to work and care for her (and her sister, too); playing, teaching and disciplining.

Yes, that’s right. As the Nanna and the caregiver, I don’t have the luxury of the traditional ‘spoiling’ grandparents are so famous for. She spends her days with me. If I did that, I’d be the one that had to live with the results.


In cases such as this, parents need to be willing and able to relinquish the discipline of their child to the grandparent–just as they would with any other caregiver. You and your child’s grandparents just need to understand that when you are together as a family, it is your job to care for, discipline and give permission to do things. Children need to see your roles as clearly defined.

If you use grandparents as caregivers, it is important for all of you to discuss your roles and how they differ when your child is in their care from when you are all together as a family. Not doing so can lead to hurt feelings, rifts in family relationships and confused children.

When grandparents live far away

When grandparents live far away and visits are few and far between, it’s important to extend a bit of grace to your child’s grandparents. Ask yourself:

  • Will it really hurt for your child to have an extra scoop of ice cream?
  • Will it really hurt if they stay up later than usual?
  • Will it change their chances for college scholarships if they watch a few more cartoons than you’d like them to?
  • And what are a few extra toys?

Grandparents who don’t see their grandchildren as often as they would like, tend to try to cram a lot of love and attention into a short amount of time. So be it! As long as they aren’t endangering the health and welfare of your child, let it go. It’s only for a few days a year. Your parents deserve the chance to lavish love on your children and your children deserve the extra attention.

‘Everybody Loves Raymond’

Have you seen the show? Oh, my! One particular episode shows the grandparents (who come and go from Ray and Debra’s house as they please) waking the children up to play with them, loading them full of sugar and then leaving Ray and Debra to settle the chaos.

If your parents live near enough that you see them on a regular basis, you may need to set some clear and even rigid boundaries. Your parents need to know that while you are thankful for their love and attention toward your child, they must respect your home and its guidelines and expectations.


Most of the time, you can do this through the course of conversation. But on those occasions when Grandpa and Grandma just don’t seem to be getting the message (or don’t care to get the message), any or all of the following may help make things better for everyone:

  • Take Grandpa and Grandma out for coffee and share your concerns in a non-accusatory way. Ask them to help you build the home you wish to have by…
  • Don’t address the issues in front of your children. Doing so puts your children in the middle, exposes them to unnecessary discord and shows disrespect for your parents.
  • Don’t let your parents guilt you into backing down. Be resolute in your decisions.
  • Talk to your parents as a couple. Presenting a united front is a visual affirmation of your commitment.

If these ‘tactics’ fail…

  • Require grandparents to call before coming to make sure it’s a ‘good tie’.
  • Limit the number of visits and the length of their visits.
  • Require their time with your children to be ‘supervised’. If you can’t trust your parents to abide by your rules, it’s best to not give them an opportunity to break them.

Grandparents–you want your kids to love them

Grandparents can and should be a treasured as part a child’s life. Whether it’s on a daily basis (as it is for me) or on a yearly basis with letters, pictures and emails in between, do everything within your power to give your children and your parents the relationship you all deserve.

We hope this article was beneficial to you. If you have friend struggling with a similar issue, do pass this on. 


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Written by

Darla Noble

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