A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Spoiling grandkids: Parents, grandparents need to talk

Grandkids helping Grandma frost a cake

Spoiling grandkids is not good reason to start an entire family feud. Communicate with grandparents to discuss guidelines and solutions.

It’s a time-honored tradition, that grandparents spoil grandchildren.

If you’re a grandparent, you likely enjoy every moment of the gift giving, sugary treats and late-night sleepovers. Mom and Dad, though, might feel otherwise.

Parents, don’t put Grandma in a timeout just yet. First, talk.

Parents, communicate

“Spoiling grandkids is really an outpouring of love and affection and is usually a natural sentiment in the relationship,” said Dr. Brady Didion, a Marshfield Clinic family physician and father himself. “It’s been something in our culture for a very long time.”

Before arguing with Memaw, consider the circumstances.

If grandparents only see their grandchildren every three months, consider letting the spoiling slide, he said. Regular visits may require more talks between parents and grandparents to set guidelines and solutions together.

“Health and safety are lines that shouldn’t be crossed, but you know your parents,” he said. “If they are not up-to-date or do not understand certain safety issues, talk about it.”

Parents should also talk with their kids. Explain home rules might be different than Papa’s rules.

“It’s difficult to balance boundaries with understanding, but it needs to happen,” Didion said.

Grandparents, be mindful

Remember, grandparents, you once had rules of your own, too. There are ways to “spoil” kids sensitively and respect parents’ wishes, Didion said.

Asking whether a gift is appropriate when unsure is good.

“Try to be in tune with what parents are teaching their children,” he said. “For instance, parents may not want children to play with toy guns or super heroes. Respect those wishes and buy different gifts instead.”

It’s really important for parents to state their reasons why they have certain rules, Didion said. This helps grandparents understand and avoid bitterness or hurt feelings that can come from miscommunication.

Learn toy safety before buying the next gift.

Repeated gift giving could lead to kids associating every visit with a present. Road trips, baking together or other planned activities might put everyone in a better position.

Health and safety are priorities 

There are times when parents and grandparents should not compromise, but agree completely:

  • All gun cabinets are locked and out of reach of children
  • Car seats are available and used correctly
  • Sun protection, noise protection and safety gear are brought along on day trips
  • Choking hazards are out of reach
  • A child’s allergies and how to care for reactions are understood

Occasional gift giving and an extra homemade cookie or two usually are not reasons to begin a family feud. These are special bonding moments between generations. Don’t ruin the moments if you don’t have to.

“This is just a part of parenting,” Didion said. “It’s important to cherish these relationships. And, if you’re a parent, keep in mind you might be a spoiling grandparent someday, too.”

  1. May 1, 2016
    • May 5, 2016

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