How to cope with overindulgent grandparents
The overindulgence that grandparents display with their grandchildren is purely out of love. They don’t call them “grand” parents for nothing!
Grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren. Sometimes, they even ignore the rules we have in place to do so. Subsequently, they are rarely around to witness the repercussions of their actions.
There is a healthy type of indulgence when it comes to children. This is emotional love, it makes them feel special. It’s quality time with Grampy or Grammy. It is doing crafts on a Saturday morning or going sledding on a snowy day. It’s reading them their favorite book over and over.
Then there is another kind of spoiling. This type of spoiling is probably the reason why they coined the term “spoiled” in reference to children. It’s disregarding the parents’ rules, it’s feeding a child too much junk food, and buying an overabundance of gifts. Many grandparents are notorious for this type of spoiling.
The former encourages emotional bonding, while the latter encourages bad habits and crosses boundaries. For example, continuously giving a child junk food can have major health consequences. Childhood obesity and diabetes are on the rise. Unfortunately, sugar is in most of our processed food. Giving a child too much sugar is adding to a growing problem and encouraging unhealthy eating habits.
One of the biggest sources of conflict with parents and grandparents is when the grandparent ignores the rules for behavior put in place by the parents. This is especially problematic when they tell the child not to tell the parents when allowing them to do something that is against the rules. The popular memes we have all seen on social media: “What happens at grandma’s stays at grandma’s” make my blood boil. Also, these quotes are not funny to me, just tacky. This attitude is demonstrating a lack of respect for the parent’s judgment.
What do you do when you are dealing with overindulgent grandparents?
- When the children are not present, have an open and honest conversation with your parents. Tell them you love them and appreciate everything they do, while respectfully airing your concerns.
- Discuss gift-giving alternatives with your parents. I would suggest they save some of the money they are using on gifts for a college fund or for a special trip for your child.
- Take the initiative to make sure your parents have lots of quality time with your child. Purchase tickets to a play for them or ask them if they want to take the child to the park while you run errands. If they live far away, make sure you are trying your best to visit them on a regular basis.
- Children have many needs that can be financially daunting to fulfill at times. Instead of purchasing toys, ask the grandparents for help with purchasing school supplies or clothing.
- Have a talk with your children about following the standards you have set for them at home. Make sure they understand that the setting they are in and the people they are around, doesn’t change what is expected of them.¹
For every grandchild that is spoiled, there is another one who doesn’t have that relationship with their grandparents. My nanny had 40 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren! She didn’t have time to spoil any of us. My grandparents on my father’s side were not really involved in my life. When I did spend a day with my granny, she taught me to crochet. I’ll never forget that day and I wish there were more days like that in my childhood. I am thankful that my daughter has grandparents that love her so much. Admittedly, I’m also a little jealous.
Sometimes grandparents overdo it when it comes to spoiling their grandchildren. They do this because they love them so much. However, just like any other relationship, boundaries need to be respected.
If you are a grandparent who does this, it’s never too late to change! You’re allowed to make mistakes and being a grandparent is a new type of parenting.
You are now part of a hierarchy where you are no longer the “top-dog”. It is time to start showing a different kind of love, learn to adjust to the new hierarchy, and respect it.
The best grandparents spend a lot of quality time with their grandchildren while respecting the parent’s boundaries.
Children do not remember the toys and junk food they got from their grandparents, they remember the good times and love they felt from them. Remember, memories are worth more than anything you can buy at a store.
: Ron and Judy Blue & Jeremy White. (2006). DEALING WITH OVERINDULGENT GRANDPARENTS https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-qa/dealing-with-overindulgent-grandparents/