Difficult Grandparents. How to Cope With Relations Who are a Bad Influence on your Child

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Difficult Grandparents How to Cope With Relations

Difficult grandparents can come in many shapes and sizes. They undermine you or have no interest at all. They can judge or they can overwhelm. Over the years, there has been tons of research on the importance of grandparents to their grandchildren’s development. The study by Research Professor James G. Herndon threw some more light on the Grandmother Hypothesis and resulting theories. One of them implies that, through shared resources such as babysitting and other caregiving duties, grandparents help increase the survival of grandchildren. Research backs this up. Based on a National Institute on Aging survey, a University of Chicago study found that 8 percent of grandparents live with their grandchildren. While 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for most of their grandchildren’s needs.

Grandchildren benefit greatly from their grandparents. Stories and a deep love that always seems to have time to listen and make the child feel like the center of the world. Able to do things at a slower pace and teach things like sewing or woodwork. However, not all of it is always good. Difficult grandparents also influence their grandchildren in less desirable ways. Stephanie Chambers and her colleagues investigated how grandparents influenced their grandchildren’s sun exposure, diets, alcohol consumption, exercise, tobacco use, and weight gain. They looked at 56 studies across 18 countries, including the U.S., UK., Japan, and China. The study found that indulgent grandparents impacted their grandchildren’s diets, weight gain, and exercise negatively. Some grandparents have no problem smoking in front of their grandchildren or giving them sugary sweets and snacks. Also, they are likely to be from a generation where food was limited. Therefore they might insist on overeating due to their upbringing.

Negative Effects Difficult Grandparents can Have on Children

While grandparents are often dependable when it comes to babysitting, there can be unintended consequences. Below are some of the negative effects grandparents can have on children. Any issue is likely to be dependent on the amount of time they spend with them.

  • They May Not Get Enough Physical Activities. Most parents are relatively young. They can almost match the physical energy of their boisterous children. They can run around a park, play hide and seek, ride tricycles together, and hula-hoop with their children. But grandparents don’t have the energy for all that. And more often than not, children need partners to play with. If their grandparents can’t partner with them and no other children are in sight, the only option left is to just take to a more sedentary lifestyle.
  • They Overeat. Grandparents want to keep their grandchildren as happy as possible. Where a parent might be firm, a grandparent is indulgent. Their grandparents let them eat to their satisfaction whatever they can find. They are welcome to food, sweets, treats, snacks, and candies. This increases the likelihood of obesity and cancer.
  • Poor Development of Social Skills. Grandparents will often feel uncomfortable taking children on play dates with other parents. Or to take them to swimming lessons etc. Therefore they could end up just coming back to grandma’s and sitting in front of the TV.
  • They Can Become Indisciplined. Instilling discipline in children is a continuous process. You may have done an excellent job of instilling discipline in your child so far. But all that could be derailed when they start spending a lot of time with grandparents. As research has shown, grandparents indulge children. Discipline suffers when a child is allowed to take liberties with boundaries and clear expectations.

What to do When Difficult Grandparents are a Bad Influence on Your Child

Most relatives don’t set out to influence their nephews, nieces, and grandchildren negatively. They sometimes have no idea the effect their behavior might have on the little ones. But the fact remains, intentions and all, that they’re influencing your child in negative ways. As a parent, how do you deal with this? Below are a few ways to go about it.

  • Recognize their Intentions. The first thing to remember is that your relatives indulge your child out of love. And from where they’re standing, they would hardly think they’re doing anything harmful. There’s no point coming down hard on them. Doing that would leave them hurt. Rather, thank them for the gifts and all they’ve done for your child. Then go on to make your point.
  • Make them part of the Solution, Not the Problem. It takes self-awareness and a lot of restraint not to get defensive when an individual is told that they’re a problem. So instead of going the direct route, ask for that relative’s help in finding a solution. This should come after letting them know that you appreciate and understand why they like to indulge your child. Then point to the effects of their overindulgence and ask for advice on dealing with the effects. This way, your relative would feel they’re part of the solution. It might also get them to change their approach.
  • Communicate Your Expectations Clearly. You need to communicate your expectations clearly to avoid misunderstanding. Confronting your relatives doesn’t mean you want them to stop visiting your home or bring gifts altogether. You just want them to mind how they go about these things. Give them other options. You might tell them to only give your child gifts on special occasions. Or tell them the maximum they’re allowed to spend on your child. If they’re hell-bent on spending big, suggest that they put the money into your child’s college fund.
  • Show Them Some Expert Advice. Your relatives might not know the effect of what they’re doing on your child. But simply telling grandpa that chocolate is bad for your child’s health might not work. To get grandpa or grandma to listen, look for articles in medical magazines and share them with them. This is more likely to get through to them than it is coming from you. Grandparents are more likely to listen to advice and recommendations from experts than from their adult children.
  • Highlight the Lack of Space in Your Home. If you happen to live in a small house, consider telling your relatives that you have no more space for gifts. This might just solve the problem. Often, relatives have no idea the number of gifts they’ve been buying. Invite them over to come and see the pile. This might be the first sign they get that they’ve been going overboard.
  • Highlight the Difference in Rules. Another way to protect your child to an extent is to tell them that the rules in your home are different from the ones at your relatives. This way, your child would see spending time with their relatives as a special occasion. They’d know not to normalize whatever they do or see at their relative’s
  • Put Your Foot Down. Unfortunately, you might take all the steps above and your relatives would simply not get it. The only thing to do next is to put your foot down. Your child’s development is at stake here. If you’re dealing with your parents, remind them how they raised you, the rules and the boundaries they set. Tell them that it’s now your place to do the same for your child. If it’s any other relative, tell them that they muddle things after each visit and that it’s getting difficult to recalibrate your child afterward.

Final Thoughts on Difficult Grandparents

You may have to pick your battles. Don’t swoop in to shut every little thing down. Sometimes what your relatives do is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Maybe they live far away, visit once in two months and bring some goodies for your child. You can ignore this as long as they aren’t spoiling your child in other ways that affect their health or development. We all aspire to a strong relationship between our children and our parents. Here we have further details about how to try and fulfill that.