When Grandparents Interfere with Parenting

By Greg Baer M.D.

January 18, 2024


Grandparents can play an important role in a child’s life.

They supply a kind of unrestrained tenderness and fun that parents have not yet learned.

But sometimes all that attention becomes unproductive. It actually interferes with the way you want to raise your kids.

Yes, grandparents claim to be “helping,” but on occasion they confuse your kids and undermine you.

Let’s look at just one situation where you might learn to deal with this.

Why Grandparents Should Not Interfere

I heard from a mother who had been using the Parenting Training. She said, “This is all seriously so cool to feel the power of loving and teaching my kids. I feel really confident about what I’m doing, but I’ve noticed that many people don’t understand what I’m doing with my kids.”

Greg: On the whole people prefer COMFORT over learning, so they resist you and say negative things about you.

Mom: Yeah, like my mom. She does that. I told my daughter Tracy this morning that she had to put away every single thing—not a trace of her stuff anywhere—before she did anything else after school. But I got home from work to find that she hadn’t put a single thing away. In fact, she wasn’t even home.

An hour later, she walked in the door and acted like there was nothing wrong. I asked her why she hadn’t cleaned up. She said that when she got home from school, my mother was already there, and she told Tracy that she was going to take Tracy shopping for a homecoming dress.

Tracy said that she tried to tell Grandma that she was supposed to clean up first, but Grandma didn’t listen and told her to just get in the car. Tracy said, “What could I do, Mom? It wasn’t my fault.”

Me: She’s undermining you. Does she do this often?

Mom: All the time. Like when Tracy tells her a story about a conflict between Tracy and me, my Mom will say stuff like, “Your mom is just too hard on you. She needs to lighten up.”

She goes out of her way to feed Tracy exactly what she knows I don’t approve of. And Mom knows that we’re doing a trial period of no screens, but she encourages Tracy to watch whatever she wants while she’s at her house.

What To Do When Grandparents Interfere with Parenting

Me: You need to tell her never, ever to do any of this stuff again. It’s not like she does it accidentally.

Mom laughed out loud. “She doesn’t listen to anybody about anything, and she won’t listen to me about this either.”

Me: Oh, I think she will if your instructions come with a cost she doesn’t like. Tell her this:

  1. You are the mother, not her.
  2. She had her chance at being the mother when you were a child. Now it’s your turn. And it’s completely your job. You will not tolerate her stepping in and taking over—or undermining you in any way.
  3. She gets no more warnings, so the next time she contradicts your parenting, or helps Tracy break your rules, or whatever, she’ll be cut off from Tracy completely for a month. No activities for the two of them together.

Mom: Wow, is she going to be mad.

Me: So what? You already live in constant fear of her anger and disapproval. It’s time for you to grow up, stop bowing to her, and instead finally be Tracy’s full-time mother.

Mom: I guess I’m still afraid of her.

Me: You are, but now you have me with you, loving you and teaching you.”

You might wonder what happened after this conversation. No surprise. Grandma just had to do things her way, so the next time Tracy came to visit, Grandma bought her junk food AND encouraged her to watch a movie instead of finishing her schoolwork.

So, Mom kept Tracy away from Grandma for a month, even though Grandma pitched a fit worthy of a four-year-old. Tracy watched all this. She was irritated initially, but grew to feel more respect for her mother than ever. She became more cooperative as Mom loved her and taught her.

You cannot require that your parents teach your children in the same way you do—with loving and consequences and all that—but you CAN require that they NOT do things that contradict what you’re teaching.

Love and teach your children, which sometimes requires taking grandparents out of the picture, at least temporarily.

Want to learn more?

Eliminate confusion and conflict with your children.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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