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Some grandparents spoil their grandchildren. But what if your children's grandparents are too harsh? IMAGE: 123RF

Grandparents Too Strict With Your Children? Here’s How To Deal With It

Parenting is a lifelong job, and for some parents, it doesn’t end even when their child has become an adult and has children of their own. Instead, grandparents take it upon themselves to bring up the ‘second generation’ of children too, but perhaps by becoming even more strict this time around than with their own children, rather than being the doting grandparents they could be.

Try these tips when grandparents are being overly strict with your children:

1. Ask why

If we’re explaining our side of the parenting story, we should be ready for the grandparents’ responses. Accept that your parents can’t change who they are, but asking them why they’re being so strict with their grandchildren might help you understand where they’re coming from and what’s driving the strict code of conduct. Lend an ear here and there to grandparents’ concerns, and try not to take anything personally. Separate the act from the character. They may have good ideas, and at the very least, they present a different perspective. And remember, tone matters and body language matters even more. In reality, your parenting has nothing to do with your parents. This isn’t out of disrespect; the point of parenting isn’t to embrace or reject the way your parents raised you. It’s just figuring out the best way to raise your child.

2. Be honest about their behaviour

Even though you might not want to admit it, sometimes we let grandparents behave the way they do out of a sense of fear, obligation or even hope that things will change, because of the inner conflict that sometimes comes with setting boundaries around that relationship. But in order to protect yourself and your family from a toxic grandparent, talk about it with your partner about what you’ve observed and how the relationship feels, and ask yourself if the experience fits the way you thought grandparents would be. Since it doesn’t, it’s important to talk to the grandparents and tell them what you feel and how to rectify the situation. It should not be emotional, just clearly say what you want and what is not appreciated.

3. Acknowledge their efforts

Always acknowledge grandparents for being so active in the lives of your children, and thank them for all they do. But then respectfully remind them that while they are the senior members of the family, their main role as grandparents is to really just enjoy their grandkids and not worry about being a parent all over again, and that they should leave the strictness to the parents.


4. Strictness might be a good thing

Little ones are more resilient than we give them credit for, and from a young age, they can already differentiate between their parents’ authority and their grandparents’ authority. So even though the grandparents might be overly strict with them, consider it a good thing, if your child can take the behaviour in their stride positively. Your child will benefit from learning to navigate different styles of authority as they weave their way (later) through a life of teachers, coaches, mentors and bosses, so getting a little experience of that (within good measure) in their home environment won’t hurt or break them. Talk to your child about how they feel about their grandparents being too strict and if it is a problem for them, or just something that they accept is part of the grandparents’ nature.

5. If necessary, limit or end contact

However, if the strict conduct is not helping the family and the situation continues to get worse even after you’ve made attempts to improve it, limiting contact with grandparents might be an option to think about. Worst case scenario, you might even have to consider completely cutting them out for a little while if their behaviour causes too much tension and strife in your family unit. But always remember that in the long run, children benefit from having adults in their lives that love them, and they can have a special bond with grandparents, so it would be a shame to limit that relationship, unless it was absolutely the last resort and there was no other option.

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