Grandparent Gripes (And How To Overcome Them)

14/08/2014 17:03 | Updated 20 May 2015

Playful grandparents

Your children adore them (sweets, presents, undivided attention – what's not to love?) and their childcare support is your lifeline. So why is it, a seemingly pleasant and innocent visit from Grandma and Grandad can leave you simmering with resentment and frustration?

In many ways, having a baby can bring you closer to your parents. For one, you have a new common interest – your bundle of joy.

For another, you finally get a taste of all the hard work and sacrifices they have made for you over the years, which can be a wonderful and humbling experience.

But throw childcare arrangements, differing opinions about parenting techniques, strong personalities and, in many cases, a sudden increase in the amount of time spent together, and that idyllic Waltons-like fantasy can soon lose its rosy glow.

Navigating this new family dynamic can be a tricky operation for you, as parents. But it's an equally challenging time for grandparents, too.

So, next time you're on the verge of blowing a gasket at Grandma or Grandad, try to see the situation from their point of view.

After all, you could find yourself standing in their shoes one day.

"They're always judging me!"

Whether it's constant criticism, sneaky remarks or simply that roll of the eyes that says it all, having your parents or in-laws judge your parenting techniques can be infuriating and undermining.

Sure, they have a lifetime of experience, but attitudes to parenting have changed over the years and only you know how you want your child to be raised.

Ultimately, you're the boss, and if you feel they've overstepped the mark, it's your job to let them know that – in the most diplomatic way possible, of course.

But before you do, it might be worth considering this: Are they really trying to undermine you and make you unhappy or are they just genuinely trying to help? And are they the ones judging you here or is your biggest critic to be found right there in the mirror?

As for their 'well meaning' advice – don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Children are children, whatever decade they were born in – and your folks have been there, done that and worn the sick-and-snot-stained T-shirt, so they may well have some valuable knowledge to impart.

They did raise you, after all – and look how you turned out!

"They don't babysit"

Soaring childcare costs and an increasing number of women returning to work after having a baby, has led to the meteoric rise of the hands-on grandparent.

In fact, according to a recent study, almost two million grandparents in Britain have given up their job or reduced their hours so they can help their children with childcare. So when there are so many grandparents around willing to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in, it can be disheartening when your parents never offer to babysit.

There are numerous reasons why they may be taking the hands-off approach to grandparenting.

Perhaps, they don't want to appear pushy and are waiting to be asked first. Or maybe they're genuinely nervous about being left in charge of a child after all these years.

The only way you're going to clear the air is by asking them straight. But be prepared for an answer you might not like.


It is not uncommon for grandparents to take a stand against babysitting. After all, they put in all the hard work raising you.


Try to embrace the qualities they do bring to the role of grandparent and know that you are by no means alone in this. Even the grandparents that do babysit are not always happy about it.

You only have to Google 'grandparents' to find a plethora of grandparenting forums full of grandparents bemoaning their children taking them for granted – and you don't want to be one of them.

"They spoil them"

When you've worked hard to carve out some vague semblance of a routine for your children, it can be testing when it all gets turned upside down the moment Grandma's on the scene.

For instance, you know that if Charlie doesn't go to bed before 8pm, he will be in a foul mood the next day – or that if he eats a sugary snack in the late afternoon, he'll be bouncing off the walls at bedtime.

So when, on Grandma's watch, he's stuffed full of E-numbers and allowed to stay up late, watching Pixar movies, you're the one that has to pick up the pieces.

And when you try to reinstate the rules once Grandma's left, you're suddenly the bad guy.

The same goes for grandparents who love to lavish their little darlings with gifts on every visit. Whether you're making a concerted effort to ensure your child doesn't grow up spoilt or you simply don't have the room to store the damn things, it doesn't help when their grandparents treat every visit like it's Christmas.

Agreeing a few basic ground rules ('Okay, I suppose one ice-cream won't do any harm. But three? Really?') will help to give your parents some parameters to work to. But be prepared to compromise, such as suggesting they spoil the children with fun activities instead of material gifts.

And cut them a little slack - they've waited years for this moment and they want to make a fuss of their grandchildren just like their own grandparents did of them.

It is not their job to be an extra set of parents – they're done with that role. So let them have their turn at playing Mary Poppins.

"They're never here!" v "They're never away!"

If they visit too often, they're accused of taking over or interfering. If they visit too little, they're accused of not being committed to the children. It's not surprising many grandparents feel they're damned if they do, damned if they don't.

There's a big chance their primary objective is not, as you might think, to get on your wick and tear your family apart, but simply to spend some quality time with their grandchildren without doing the wrong thing by you.

A bit of open communication can go a long way in this situation. But remember, this is not a question of them meeting your specific expectations and requirements but about working out a mutually agreeable set-up that places their needs in equal place with yours and the children's.

However tricky navigating this minefield might seem, you and your children are lucky to have grandparents on the scene so don't forget to enjoy them.

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