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Grandparents - the right to spoil, but not takeover

2 June
Posted by:
Michael Grose

Being a parent is tricky, but it’s made easier if children’s grandparents are supportive of your parenting.

However there are times when the boundaries become blurred between being a grandparent and a parent. There’s usually tension when grandparents overstep their roles and interfere in how parents raise their kids.

The job of grandparents is to stand back and support parents emotionally, give you a break and gently pass on some wisdom when it’s asked for, or when quite obviously it’s needed. In many ways, being a grandparent is like being a parent of a teenager where you have to stand back a little and let them figure out how to do things themselves. You step in when the serious stuff happens but need to stand back and allow them to make some decisions for themselves. It’s how they learn.

I think there is an inherent grandparent right to spoil grandchildren when they are in their company, and hand them back to their parents to do the hard stuff. I remember quite well having to pay tough cop for a day or two when my kids returned from a weekend at grandma’s. I recall saying things like: ‘Yes you may be able to stay up really late at nana’s but now that you are at home we’re back to your usual bedtime. ’ It’s nice for kids to have the rules and routines loosened at times!

Conversely, there can be tension when parents expect grandparents to take on too much of the parenting. I’ve seen instances where grandparents become carers for young children when a parent returns to work, and suddenly grandparents assume the role of primary parents, whether they want this or not. It can be hard for grandparents to revert to being just a nana and pa when they spent most of their interactive time with kids being like a quasi parent.

Working out roles can be hard, but it’s maybe what you need to do. It helps when the relationship is strong, built on the bedrock of respect and admiration. This is not always the case when dealing with in-laws, as there is often an added layer complexity there.
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