How to Deal With Grandparents Who Spoil — Before the Damage Is Done

Having grandparents in your child's life is a blessing. Yet, while you should value the time that your little ones have with them, there are some sticky situations that can arise from overeager grandmas and grandpas. If you fear that your parents or in-laws are crossing the line of doting and moving into spoiling territory, it's important to take certain steps in order to preserve their relationship without letting it negatively impact your child's behavior. Check out these tips on how to navigate what to do if your child is becoming a bit bratty thanks to grandparents who refuse to listen to you.

  1. Appreciate it: If your kids are lucky enough to have grandparents who spoil them, to some degree, you should let them. Try to be flexible when it comes to how your parents or in-laws are overindulging — especially if it comes from a place of love — and remember how long they've been looking forward to grandkids.
  2. Be open with your kids about it: From early on, clearly tell your kids that grandparents have different rules. It's OK for grandparents to have special traditions as long as your child doesn't come home with those same expectations. This fosters respect for both ideologies and makes grandparent time feel even more special.
  3. Feel out your comfort level: Many problems begin when grandparents move beyond a parent's comfort level. If your children sense that you're OK with bending the rules for grandparents, they'll still appreciate the special treatment without worrying about getting in trouble with you. If you start feeling uneasy, try not to get upset in front of your child.
  4. Don't let them manipulate you: When you sense that grandparents are deliberately trying to undermine you, it can become a problem. Never let them pit you against the children by saying things like, "Mommy and Daddy won't let you do that, but I will!" If that starts, it's not an indulgence that you should try to get behind for the kids.
  5. Have the difficult talk: Depending on how out of hand things get, you should initiate a serious discussion. This is difficult with parents, but it's also incredibly important — especially if they're around often. If they're doing things to deliberately undermine your parenting capacity, find a time away from your child to go over what's bothering you.
  6. Explain your reasoning: Be sure to discuss the reasoning behind the rules that you'd like your parents to also encourage. Things will go easier during the next visit if they know why something is a major area of concern. This will also make them feel like they're on your team and a part of the solution.
  7. Make a plan ahead of time: If grandparents know what you're trying to enforce ahead of time, everyone will be on the same page before the visit even begins. Keep in mind that grandparents are usually thinking about fun and not about your specific concerns unless you make a point of addressing them.
  8. Set limits: Setting boundaries instead of completely cutting grandparents off can be an effective way to rebuild trust if the discussion doesn't work. When boundaries are broken, it's important to address it that day instead of putting it off so that both grandparents and kids will understand that they can't expect it to happen again.