Parents and grandparents – how to make the dynamic work well

Boy feeding hens in the yard

Boy feeding hens in the yard

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.

Being a grandparent can be, and should be, wonderful. Having grandparents involved in your kids’ lives can be, and should be wonderful too. But over the years I’ve heard niggles from both parents and grandparents – so I know it’s not always Disneyland. But I’ve also seen it work well, so here is just one tip that can iron out a lot of typical problems. The tip is an attitude – respect.

Parents – respect your parents’ and in-laws’ knowledge and experience. They will be acting out of good intentions, even if they are not doing exactly what you would like. Respect that their parenting ideas were formed in another era.

Here’s a big one – respect your partner’s relationship with his or her parents. It is straining on a relationship to grizzle about your in-laws. And perhaps the biggest one – respect your ability and authority with your kids. I know it’s your mum and dad, they are always worth listening to, and you hate offending them, but these are your kids and the buck stops with you. Respect yourself enough not to be upset or offended if your parents try to push in too much or offer advice that sounds like criticism.

Now, grandparent – you’ve been listening to that advice. What do you reckon? I bet you agree and it’s probably the advice you would give any young parent. I know you see faults and problems, I know you want to help, but we of the older generation have to respect their rights as mum and dad. Of course, sometimes sad stuff in families happen around drugs, crime, mental health and then grandparents might need to step in for the sake of their grandkids. But normally, we cheer (loudly) from the sidelines.

One other thing, grandparent – respect your own boundaries. Don’t let your willingness to help be taken advantage of. Help when asked – when you want to and can. If it clashes with your judo classes or mountain biking? Your kids will find someone else to help and it will all work out.


By John Cowan, The Parenting Place

Improving and equipping families to thrive.

Read more from John and The Parenting place here.