6 Kinds of Grandparents Who Aren't So Grand

Most grandparents try hard to be the best grandparents possible. But good intentions don't always translate into doing the right thing. Even the grandparents who try their hardest sometimes overstep their bounds.

When grandparents aren't grand, it may be a result of generational differences. Who knew the world would change so much so fast and leave such a gulf between the generations? Sometimes grandparents have spent a few decades being in charge and have difficulty falling into a new role with different parameters. Sometimes it's just the opposite. Grandparents have been the enforcers for a while, and now they want to be the indulgers.

Whatever lies behind these mistakes, it's good to take an honest look at your grandparenting. Learn about six common missteps that can lead to bad feelings.

1

Grandparents Who Are Stuck in the Good Old Days

Girl Drinking Coffee with Grandmother

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Old-fashioned grandparents have a lot to share with grandchildren. Children can benefit from being exposed to their traditional skills, their knowledge of family history, and their time-honored values.

Still, not everything about the good old days was good. Some of the ways that you used to do things have been replaced by better ways. Grandparents shouldn't expect their grandchildren to meet standards that have been discarded by most parents. Here are a few examples:

  • Expecting kids to be seen but not heard: Parents today want their children to practice speaking up. They want their children to respectful but not be afraid of people in authority.
  • Saying, "because I said so": Parents today value explaining their reasoning to their children. Kids who understand why rules exist may find it easier to comply.
  • Expecting kids to be independent: Parents today are more involved with school and extra-curricular activities and play than their parents were. Playing with children shows kids that they are valued and helps build strong bonds. 
  • Expecting kids to work around the house: Parents today still enlist their kids in household tasks. But chores doled out today may be far less than what was expected of their parent's generation. Chores are still a good way to teach responsibility and contribute to higher self-esteem.

Many children today have more demands on their time than children did a generation ago. Modern parents often prefer that their children have a balanced approach to schoolwork, music, sports, and other responsibilities, like chores.

2

Grandparents Who Don't Want to Share

Senior African-American woman kissing her grandson on the ear.

Arthur Tilley / Getty Images

Some grandparents can't get enough of their children and grandchildren. They want to be included in every family celebration, outing, and vacation. Sometimes the younger generation is all on board. For example, multi-generational vacations have some definite advantages, including having grandparent babysitters

Keep in mind that while your kids and grandkids probably love spending lots of time with you, sometimes, they may also want time alone with their circle of close friends and other grandparents.

It's natural to want to spend special days like holidays with grandchildren, but there are ways to make sure everyone gets their needs met. Sometimes the two sides of the family can be merged into a single celebration, but this doesn't work for every family. Some families choose to alternate years and celebrate early or late rather than on the actual holiday. 

3

Grandparents Who Don't Take Instruction

Boy feeding Christmas cookie to grandfather

Hero Images / Getty Images

Child-rearing has changed tremendously since most grandparents were parents. That means that sometimes you may need to be brought up to speed on new guidelines or ways of doing things.

With newborns, for example, caregivers are instructed not put them to sleep on their tummies because that increases the risk of SIDS. Likewise, more recent research has led to recommendations to avoid baby powder and cribs with wide slats or bumper pads because these can lead to breathing problems or suffocation. Cereal in bottles has also been shown to be too hard for baby's tummies to handle, and it can increase the risk of allergies.

Remember that changes in child-rearing are usually based on the most current research on child health and safety. 

If you want to get up to speed quickly, taking a grandparenting class before your first grandchild arrives can be a great way to do so. Not only do classes help to inform you about best practices, they also demonstrate to your kids that you take your new role seriously.

Check with your local hospital about grandparent classes. If they don't offer them, they may be able to refer you to a local class.

As your grandchildren get older, respect food restrictions, bedtimes, and your kids' rules in general. If you're having a sleepover, and you want to bend something like bedtime rules, be sure to communicate your thoughts with your child. Making sure everyone is on the same page can help you avoid unnecessary conflict or hurt feelings.

4

Grandparents Who Don't Respect Differences

Side view of grandfather and grandson communicating while having coffee

Maskot / Getty Images

When the generations clash, it may be temping to say, "I didn't bring you up that way!" But try to resist.

Adults make their own decisions, and sometimes they change their minds about something they were taught as children. Chances are, you probably did, too. So try not to take it personally if your children or grandchildren choose a different religion, hold differing political views, or parenting philosophies.

5

Grandparents Who Are Judgmental

Grandmother judging daughter's parenting

Stuart Hughs / Getty Images

Being a parent is a hard job, and grown children deserve support as they endeavor to do their best. New parents are especially vulnerable to any suggestion that they should have done something differently.

While sometimes grandparents feel as though their experience has granted them the 20/20 vision of hindsight, remember that grandparents don't always know best. Even if you disagree with some of your children's parenting rules, keep in mind that a grandparent's role is to support the family culture that your child is working to establish.

Flippant remarks or humorous quips may cut a vulnerable parent to the quick. Comparisons can also be really hurtful so avoid comparing your grandchild's performance or development to another child's. 

6

Grandparents Who Can't Say No

Senior woman offering her grandchildren traditional cookies, Head and Shoulders, High Angle View

Inmagineasia / Getty Images 

A grandparent's right to spoil grandchildren is firmly ensconced in our culture, but reasonable grandparents know that there are limits.

Say no when your grandchild asks for something that their parents don't allow, whether it's a sweet treat or an extra hour of television. And, of course, say no when the grandchildren ask for something that could harm their health or safety.

When it comes to purchasing an expensive gift, it's wise to check in with your child. Even though "no" is sometimes the right answer, there will be plenty of times for grandparents to say yes!

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6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Yogman M, Garner A, Hutchinson J, Hirsh-Pasek K, Golinkoff R. The power of play: A pediatric role in enhancing development in young children. Pediatrics. 2018;142(3):e20182058. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2058

  2. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Chores and children. Updated June 2018. 

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Reduce the Risk of SIDS & Suffocation. Updated January 12, 2017.

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Make baby's room safe: Parent checklist. Updated August 14, 2020. 

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics. Cereal in a bottle: Solid food shortcuts to avoid. Updated May 14, 2015.

  6. Stanford Children’s Health. Let Your Children Raise Their Kids.