My Child Prefers to Spend Time with Their Grandparents Rather than Me

Grandparents are a source of love and fun for children. But what if your child prefers to spend time with their grandparents rather than you?
My Child Prefers to Spend Time with Their Grandparents Rather than Me

Last update: 01 December, 2022

When our children spend time with their grandparents, everything’s full of fun, tenderness, and gifts. The relationship between older adults and their grandchildren is often imbued with a very special magic. Of course, sometimes little ones prefer to spend time with them instead of with their parents. Should this be a concern? We’ll answer all your questions in the following article.

Nowadays, grandparents play a relevant role in the tasks related to the care and education of their grandchildren, as we, their parents, often leave our kids with them to go to work. This is how their bond grows stronger and stronger. To such an extent that it’s not surprising for a child to become distressed when they have to say goodbye to one of their grandparents or to express their desire to move in with them after having an argument with us.

The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, a quality bond

The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is a source of well-being and unconditional love. Partners in crime, referees between parents and children, playmates, wise counselors, and the best at preparing delicious snacks. That’s what grandparents are for kids, or most of them, which is why they’re such a vital part of childhood.

Research has even been done on this bond. A 2011 study found that one in four Spanish grandparents cares for their grandchildren an average of 7.1 hours a day, including weekends. Both the increase in life expectancy and the incorporation of women into the workforce have led to a more significant role for grandparents, as they can now share several decades with their grandchildren.

A child, mother, and grandmother.
The attitude of the parents will be key in determining the type of relationship the child will have with the grandparents and the amount of time they’ll be able to spend together.

The attitude of the parents

However, the attitude of the parents has a significant influence on the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, as they’re the ones who determine the amount of time they spend together. In this regard, as long as the grandparents’ bond with their own children is close, the bond with their grandchildren is more likely to be strong and intimate.

Values transmitted by grandparents

Those who have grown up close to their grandparents know that their presence has taught them a great deal. One of their most important functions is the transmission of values. Through the narration of their life stories, they speak of kindness, respect, and perseverance. In addition, they’re the main references when it comes to mitigating family tensions, especially when the grandchildren are teenagers.

What do grandparents have that parents don’t?

To begin with, grandparents are exempt from one of the most complex issues of parenthood: The setting of limits. Those responsible for raising and educating the kids are the parents. We know this includes a lot of no’s. “You can’t eat treats every day”, “You can’t go out until whatever time you want”, “I won’t buy you that cell phone”. No’s are a fundamental part of healthy parenting.

“Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes
friends with its grandfathers.”

– Lewis Mumford –

But grandparents are there for something else, they get the better part. They’re not burdened with the pressure of teaching, so their intervention is much more carefree. This makes it easier for the shared moments to be almost always of pure enjoyment. At the expense of the parents, they often spoil their grandchildren.

A boy swimming in the pool with his grandfather.
As they’re not burdened with the responsibility of parenting, the time grandparents share with their grandchildren is usually pure enjoyment.

Why some children prefer to spend time with their grandparents

Any encounter becomes an endless shower of love in the form of hugs, food, and gifts. Some grandparents are more permissive than others, but never less so than the parents. Quite rightly, they want nothing to do with imposing rules or prohibiting questionable behavior. They’ve already done that in their role as parents.

This issue may explain why your child often prefers to spend time with their grandparents rather than with you. It’s valid for you to feel anger, jealousy, or sadness. However, keep in mind that this is natural and in no way means that they don’t love you.

Each bond has its own particularities

It’s tempting to act like grandparents when we’re parents, isn’t it? That way, we’d save ourselves from strong arguments that often bring with them that painful feeling of being rejected by our own children. We might imagine that everything would remain harmonious. However, taking the tolerance that grandparents have for our children and making it our own isn’t exactly the best alternative.

On the contrary, our children need our “no”, and they also need the “yes” of their grandparents (or other significant adults) in order to grow up in a healthy and balanced way.

Finding the perfect balance

While learning to tolerate frustration and overcome obstacles, children discover the value of enjoyment and complicity. Of course, the roles of parents and grandparents may fluctuate. At times, parents will be more permissive and, at times, the older ones will set limits. But, as parents, we shouldn’t be seduced by the characteristics of grandparents.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Badenes, N. &  López, C.V.(2011) Doble dependencia: abuelos que cuidan nietos en España. Zerbitzuan, 49, 107-125. doi:10.5569/1134-7147.49.09
  • García, C. N., & Vega, C. V. (2013). Relaciones abuelos-nietos: una aproximación al rol del abuelo. Sociedad y Utopía. Revista de Ciencias Sociales, 41, 464-482.
  • Rico, C,. Serra, E., Viguer, P. & Meléndez, M. (2000) Las relaciones abuelos-nietos al final del milenio: la visión de los niños. Geriátrika, 16(9), 329-336.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.