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9 Mistakes That Grandparents Make & Why You Should Avoid Them

grandparents

Thinking back to my first few years of motherhood, I don’t know how I would have gotten through them without my own parents’ support. We even lived with them for a short time after moving to California when my oldest Erik was just a baby.

And although I will be forever appreciative of all their help during that time, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. In fact, those years taught me a lot about all the different ways that parents and grandparents (i.e. their own parents) can butt heads!

And we’ll be exploring many of those in today’s blog post, where I’ll be sharing 9 behaviors and habits that grandparents should avoid. And I think you’ll see that for the most part, these tips are simply reminders of the things that every young parent swore they would never do when they became a grandparent! ;-)

9 Things You Shouldn’t Do As A Grandparent

grandparents

1. Break The Rules

Setting reasonable boundaries and enforcing rules is an important part of parenting. And it certainly isn’t made any easier when grandparents disregard those rules whenever you have your back turned!

For grandparents, flouting Mom and Dad’s rules with your grandkids may seem like innocent fun. But in reality, you could be undermining their authority as parents and contributing to future conflict, so you may want to think twice before letting the grandkids stay up late again!

grandparents

2. Surprise Your Grandkids With Major Gifts

Surprises can be great, but it’s not always a good idea to surprise your grandchildren with big gifts (both in terms of size and value!) Whether it’s a puppy or an iPad, big gifts should be given thoughtfully and considerately, which means talking with their parents to make sure they’re on board.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to give up the element of surprise altogether! Just stick to smaller, less expensive gifts.

grandparents

3. Focus Too Much On Appearances

True, your granddaughter may actually be the cutest little girl in the whole wide world. But grandparents can easily get carried away with those types of compliments and forget to balance them out with other types of comments.

If your granddaughter only hears you say how cute she is, she might be getting the message that her looks are her only positive quality. But if she also hears you say how good she is at solving problems, or how helpful she is to her siblings, that could very well benefit her self-esteem in the long run.

grandparents

4. Bring Up The Baby Weight

As a grandma, bonding with your daughter about motherhood can bring you both even closer together. But there are some things your daughter doesn’t need to hear from you, and that includes pretty much anything related to baby weight!

If she brings it up or asks for advice, that’s one thing. But otherwise, it’s safe to assume that she won’t necessarily appreciate unsolicited comments regarding her weight!

grandparents

5. Ignore Dietary Rules & Restrictions

Not everyone emulates their own parents when they have kids of their own, and it’s important for grandparents to make room for those differences. You may not understand why your grandkids can eat organic cheese puffs while Cheetos are off-limits, but that’s okay!

In order to have a healthy relationship with both your child and grandchild, it’s important to respect that decisions about food and diet aren’t necessarily yours to make.

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6. Request More Grandchildren

I would absolutely love to be a grandmother myself one day, but I also recognize that I don’t get to decide if or when that happens! So as much as you may desperately want another grandchild, it’s not fair to pin those hopes on your child.

There are many reasons why your child may not be ready to have a baby (first, or otherwise) from fertility or finances, to mental health or personal preference. By repeatedly hounding them about giving you another grandchild, you could be doing more harm than good.

grandparents

7. Post Photos Without Permission

Before you post those 27 new photos of your grandkids on Facebook, do you know how Mom and Dad feel about it? If you haven’t had one yet, it’s time to have a conversation with your kids about how they feel about social media.

Some parents love posting photos of their kids online, while others may have concerns about privacy and other issues. You won’t know how your kids feel until you ask, so it’s worth having that conversation so you can get on the same page.

grandparents

8. Demand Clean Plates

No parent or grandparent wants to see good food go to waste, but forcing your grandkids to eat everything on their plate isn’t necessarily a better option! According to a 2014 study on childhood obesity, it doesn’t just come down to what a child is fed—how they’re fed is just as important.

In order to maintain a healthy weight, kids need to learn to listen to their own bodies for cues about hunger and fullness. If you insist that your grandkids clean their plates before leaving the table, you may be teaching them that it’s more important to eat everything than it is to stop eating when you’re full.

grandparents

9. Provide Endless Treats

Receiving (or sneaking) treats from Grandma and Grandpa is a time-honored human tradition, and I would never suggest that it’s wrong or bad! But like most things, it’s best in moderation. :-)

It’s all about making smart choices about the amount and variety of treats you give to your grandkids. Instead of allowing them unlimited access to your ice cream stash when they visit, keep mini ice cream bars on hand and set a limit of one per visit.

Being responsible with treats isn’t just about health or eating habits (although those are important!) It’s also a way to support your child’s parenting efforts, because if their kids are getting tons of treats at Grandma’s, it can be harder to enforce healthy eating habits at home.

Grandparents, what’s one piece of advice you would share with other grandparents?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Bright Ideas

  • My parents raised 5 kids so when they said “you should do ….” when it came to my son, I listened. As a single Mom, they did everything they could to help me and I will forever be grateful to them. To this day, my Son and I say “what would Gma do?”. What would Grandpa do?” They’ve been gone for 10 years now and I would give up everything I own in life just to give them a hug one last time.

  • My son actually told me it was ok to spoil my grandson. It was at their house and my grandson was not doing something my son told him. The one rule I didn’t follow was when I am at their house, I should not “discipline” my grandson when the parents are right there. The issue was a minor one.

  • My mom has her favorites but she still loves her grandkids so much. They just make her so happy. When my daughter had her first I asked her and (now ex-husband) I want to know their rules because my parents didn’t follow ours. They were both shocked when I asked but gave them to me and thanked me for asking. When my daughter divorced her husband both of them still followed those rules even though they haven’t gotten along since they divorced. They are civil around the girls. When they come over here both of them said don’t worry about bedtimes or snacks because we were able to have that when we stayed with our grandparents. Now the girls are 18, 19 and 20 and they don’t want anything to do with their dad because when they became teens he decided he didn’t need to do much with them. Sad but they still do love him.

  • I’d like to add one more thing to your excellent list.

    Don’t let your grandkids “tattle” to you about their parents! If a child starts, gently but firmly tell them that, while you love them to bits, you fully support their parents. Let them know that you don’t think it’s any of your business what their parents say or do. Doing this can head off some sticky situations in the future.

    Of course, if your grandchild has a problem and they want to talk it through with you, be receptive, but don’t throw the parents under the bus, either.

  • Excellent points ‼️
    Grandparents should be the BEST examples of good health ~ it’s never the slim, fit, active grandparents who give sugary/fattening treats it’s always the fat couch potato types !

    • Don’t agree with that comment at all and I’m actually a little insulted. I’m on the chubby side and have five grandchildren I do not have sugary treats available all the time! I’m a strong believer that children need to develop good eating habits. I don’t expect them to eat stuff they don’t like but if something is served I expect everyone to try it.

  • When I was newly married, my MIL would constantly ask when we were having children. At this point, she already had five grandchildren. We were not ready for a family, we lived in an apartment and wanted a house first.

    We wanted to have our finances in order first. We both worked and saved until we were able to buy a house then start a family. That was our plan. Her plan for us was to have children first, then a house.

    Tired of hearing this question too many times, I finally said we wanted puppies and kittens instead. She never asked me again. I think she finally understood that it was really none of her business since we would know when it was our time to start a family.

  • I have three wonderful kids and it was my mother’s mission in life to break every rule we had set forth for them. This wasn’t done in error or by mistake. It was purposely done. If she could make others feel inadequate about their abilities then she was certain it would elevate her in their estimation. What she didn’t know was that most everyone had her number.

    When she continued to refuse to follow any rules for them I began pulling myself and them away from her because not only did she not follow the rules but she would put them down, shame them, talk badly about me and include sexually explicit talk around them etc.

    It was a battle that I feel I won because after counseling and advice from our minister, who explained the permanent damage she was doing to all of us, I knew I needed to not just pull away but to make a final break. Then I found out that she had been spreading vicious lies about me, my husband and all three kids…horrible things. Unbelievable things.

    This isn’t nice to say but the last four years without her in our lives has been the most peaceful years I have been alive.

    • I am so sorry that happened to you and your family. Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to distance ourselves from the toxic people in our lives.

    • It’s sad when distance is the only answer. I wonder how she would have reacted if you had found a nice way to confront her? Maybe you did! I get it. My mom and her mother-in-law (my grandma) had some big problems, too. Years late I explained some of the awful things I saw in their relationship to a therapist. I concluded by saying, “Wouldn’t you agree that my grandma should not have said those things?” It seemed obvious to me. The therapist said something I’ve never forgotten, “At that stage in your mother’s life she did not have the skills to cope with someone like your grandmother.”
      wow. Think about that. Surely grandma was a major challenge. But it also means that we can develop skills that help us stay engaged but in a more healthy way. That’s not to say there aren’t times when you have to pull away. But it gave me hope that with increased skills I could manage, on my terms, keep communicating, and maybe have a positive effect on others.

  • Being an encouragement to the parents who are raising your grandchildren is so important. Beyond supporting the parents by enforcing their parenting rules, and building up their parents in the eyes of the children, a wise grandparent is sparing with parenting advice and criticism. It is best to wait until you are asked!

  • I am not a grandparent, but I am a grandchild and a parent. My advice is to never play favorites, do not do for one grandchild what you would not do for the other, and never make negative comments where your grandchild may hear no matter what age they are. One of my children is my mother in law’s favorite and she is not shy about letting everyone know it. It is so bad that the older grandchildren will not even come spend time with her because all she can do is talk about her favorite, and those older grandchildren have let that reason be known. It makes me feel so bad for them, because I was the grandchild that was made to feel the same way. What I learned from my grandmother was that the other granddaughter was the favorite and I was made to feel like I was not worthy of her attention. She taught me that it did not matter if I asked for a $3 pair of flip flops her answer would be no, while in the very next breath the other granddaughter was told that of course she could have the expensive pair of shoes she asked for, and no her parents had not given my grandmother spending money for their daughter my parents asked her later when they asked me why I was upset. My cousin picked up really quick on the differences in how we were treated and she would give me a sly smile and then ask for whatever she wanted. Even at Thanksgiving when we were asked to make lists for Christmas gifts we would sit down together and talk about it and have fun making our lists. When Christmas came I got nothing from my list every year, while my grandmother gave the cousin several of the things off her list. As adults we were having a family meal at the assisted living place my grandmother lived at and the entire family was all in a family room eating when one of my grandmother’s friends stopped by. My family was sitting around a table eating across the room from the door and we all turned to wave at the friend. My grandmother went table by table around the room introducing her family to this friend loud enough for everyone to hear. When she got to the table my cousin was sitting at she gave this lavish explanation of all the great and positive things about her beautiful granddaughter loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, and her friend talked about how beautiful the cousin was. Then she made it to my table and introduced me as the other one. She seriously said, “And there’s the other one” & proceeded to tell the friend how I needed to lose weight, but just never seemed to do anything about it. She had no clue there was a medical reason for the weight issues. I wanted to get under the table. Actually, I wanted to collect my little family and leave, but I did not. I guess it is plain from these comments that hurts like that run deep and are never forgotten, so just do not inflict them on your grandchildren. It has made me wonder all my life why I was never good enough for my grandmother. If you have to pick a favorite or you have to make those kind of comments, let your friends know about later when the grandchildren are not there and treat the children the same when they are with you no matter if they are children or adults. Do not let that be the kind of memories that stick out in the minds of your grandchildren’s after you are gone. Mine has been gone for many, many years and the hurt is still very real when I think of her.

  • WE’re immigrants so my husband and I raised our kids without family help. When we became grandparents I wanted to give my kids more help than we’d had. I decided that the best thing we could do was to give the parents a break. We often have the kids to stay during school vacation.

  • My grandmother used to nag me all the time, “When are you going to give me a great grandchild?” Even though my cousin and my brother were older than me. She started in with this when I was 15! So I heartily agree with the rule of requesting they have more (or any) grandchildren.

    • I can’t imagine asking a 15 year old that! I would suggest not ever asking anyone when they are going to have kids because we do not know what is going on in a relationship. Someone once asked me when I was going to give my husband children when she saw him playing with a child. She didn’t know we’d been trying for years and going through fertility treatments.

  • Even though they are children, respect their dignity! My MIL came to the NICU when I had a 1 lb. 14 oz. baby and took pictures to show her neighbors and family against my wishes. The baby had tubes and wires and only a diaper on inside the incubator and was in danger of dying. I broke down crying telling her no pictures and she said I should have them, too. My husband did take some photos for us, privately. None of her nosy neighbors’ business! They wanted to see what the baby looked like.

  • What a great topic!! The best teacher in my life was my MIL. She broke every rule imaginable and didn’t care either! My favorite saying is to live my life and let my kids live theirs the way they see fit. My kids are doing a great job with my granddaughter and don’t need my input! It works well :)

  • All of these Commandments of Grandparents are great, both from Jillee and readers. I will add that, as a child, I overheard my grandmother and her elderly neighbor talking. The neighbor said that I was the pretty one. I was the youngest of 3 girls and I needed that.

  • Don’t compare your grandchildren. My mother-in-law did this when I was potty training my children. According to her, my sister-in-law’s children decided to potty train and were dry from day one. I asked my sister-in-law about it later and she laughed and said, “I don’t know where she got that idea from!” Also, try to be equitable when it comes to gifts. My in-laws gave their old car to one of the grandsons and it caused hurt feelings among the other children. Unless you can do it for all, don’t do it.

  • A great list, but it does need one more item. NEVER say negative things to your grandchild about either of his/her parents, or try to get private info from them about what goes on at home.

  • Your list is great. I’m a Mentor Mom for a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group at my church. So I’ve heard all kinds of complaints about grand parents–which has helped me a great deal to avoid a lot of the pitfalls you mention. Here’s another: Don’t give medical advice or, especially, don’t contradict what your grand kids’ doctors are telling their moms and dads. A lot has changed since we were young moms and we need to be supportive.

    Also, you may not realize how many expectations you have about grand parenting until you find yourself disappointed about some decision the young parents are making. Keep your expectations for others low and expectations for yourself high. Work on your own behavior, reactions, choices, words, etc. instead of criticizing others (inwardly or overtly.)

    • Great advice. When my granddaughter was born , I asked my daughter what advice her doctor gave her so I could meet her wishes. I told her that I knew that things like sleeping positions for infants have changed over the years. When I bought a car seat for my car, I asked her to make the choice. I wanted to be sure that was following her wishes for her child.

  • I would add to the list to never ever say anything “bad” about the parents to your grandchild. It doesn’t need to be a real “bad”, even an innocent remark can carry too far in a toddler’s mind! And a second tip : if your grandchild is with you and asking for his parents, don’t ignore that question. Just repeat, and repeat again, that they’re at work (or shopping, or whatever is explainable) and will come for him “after he’s had his sandwich”. Adding this last one because my grandson (nearly 3) has become much more insecure due to the covid19 lock-down. He had not seen us for nearly 3 months, and now any absence (his parents, us) has to be explained.

  • I’m not a Grandparent. One thing that has been very difficult is 2 of my siblings families don’t like having their kids pictures on fb..One of them had a fit once because I mentioned they had a new baby.They think it was advertising that they have children. My other sibling I’ve noticed they are fine if you like a picture of their kids on fb. I think it’s more of a safety issue for the kids.

    • I would add definitely don’t nag about Grandchildren. One of my sisters and husband adopted their 2 girls .They had tried medical help to get pregnant and had failed. Also another sister would love to have more kids and is trying to decide after having back problems with her 2nd. So we will see -but also understand if they decide not have more kids.

      • I actually due to unfortunate circumstances grew up with only 1 Grandparents. My moms parents both died young- Grandpa when she was a preteen and Grandma when I was 3. My Dads father died when I was 4. The only actual living Grandparent I had was my Dads mom. She actually died when I was 24 . I didn’t really feel close to her because she had a ton of other Grandkids and we didn’t live close enough to visit very often. When I got old enough to get to know her better she was almost blind and frail. My siblings and I always felt we got gyped in the Grandparent dept. Luckily my mom has made up for it with my nephews and nieces.

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