7 Things Grandparents Shouldn't Do

For a family to function, everyone must assume their role and respect the role of others. Discover some things grandparents shouldn't do.
7 Things Grandparents Shouldn't Do
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 02 August, 2023

Grandparents play a crucial role in their grandchildren’s lives. They provide emotional support, a source of love and fun, and often become confidants and friends to children and adolescents. But when roles in the family aren’t well defined, difficulties can arise. For this reason, today we want to talk to you about some things grandparents shouldn’t do.

The recommendations we’re going to talk about are generalities and it’s important to understand that each family has its own situation. A grandparent who sees their grandchildren once a year plays a different role than another who raises them or takes care of them most of the day.

In any case, and as long as the parents are present and assuming their roles, grandparents should assume other types of roles so that everything flows properly. Let’s see why.

What shouldn’t grandparents do?

Without a doubt, cultivating a close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren has many advantages for little ones. According to an article published in the Journal of Family Issues, their participation is associated with a higher degree of child well-being.

“Grandparents could provide benefits by serving as role models and discussing appropriate behavior, encouraging academic or other success, helping with homework, or providing advice and emotional support.”

Dunifon & Bajracharya, 2012

However, there are times when they overstep their duties or act in inappropriate ways that are detrimental to the family. Knowing what these are can help you avoid them (if you’re a grandparent) or set boundaries (if you’re a parent). Here are the things a grandparent shouldn’t do.

1. Show favoritism toward one of your grandchildren

It’s natural to feel more affinity for some family members than others, and this includes children. However, it can be hard and painful for children to observe favoritism toward their siblings or cousins.

The truth is that grandparents often focus on caring for and pampering the grandchild they feel most needs it. In fact, a study published in the journal Child Development has found that involvement is greater with grandchildren in single-parent families.

Grandparents favoring their granddaughter.

2. Not respecting the family’s parenting style

One of the issues that causes the most friction is when grandparents expect their children to parent the same way they did. They may give unsolicited advice, over-involve themselves in parenting, and judge or criticize the parents. They may even ignore warnings from the children’s parents and continue to act as they see fit.

This behavior may eventually cause parents to decide to restrict grandchildren’s contact with grandparents. This is suggested by the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Survey of Children’s Health. Therefore, it’s wise not to make this mistake.

3. Undermining parents

How many times has a parent denied their child a piece of candy and the grandparent has given it to them anyway? How many times have they let them watch TV behind their parents’ backs or give them that haircut that the parents didn’t allow?

These acts may seem harmless and grandparents usually do them with the intention of pleasing their grandchildren and bonding with them, but it can cause great displeasure and anger in the parents as they’re being directly undermined.

4. Invading the space of the nuclear family

Children need to spend time with their grandparents and both parties enjoy the shared moments. But this doesn’t mean that grandparents have carte blanche to show up at the children’s home or interrupt their daily routine.

Although it depends on the preferences of each family, for some parents, this can be invasive and disrespectful, so it’s best to warn them before coming.

5. Neglecting the digital identity of their grandchildren

For grandparents, it’s a source of pride to show their loved ones how their grandchildren are growing up or the moments they share together. This is what’s reported in an article published in the Journal of Children and Media.

However, when it comes to uploading photos of children to social networks, it’s important to have the consent and approval of the parents. If they don’t want their children to be shown on the internet, grandparents doing so may cause them resentment and distrust. In addition, of course, to the right of minors to preserve their privacy.

6. Imposing beliefs on their grandchildren

Another thing grandparents shouldn’t do is try to instill certain ideologies in their grandchildren. Of course, they can share their views and contribute to the education in values of children and adolescents. But again, it’s important that parents agree with the beliefs to be transmitted and, above all, these shouldn’t be imposed.

Children have the right to be free to form their own criteria without coercion. And this applies, for example, to religious faith or other aspects related to the development of their own personality and identity.

A grandmother reading to her baby granddaughter.

7. Giving important gifts without consulting

Finally, you should be careful when giving certain gifts to your grandchildren. It’s true that these gifts are given from the heart and with the intention of making them happy; but again, we can’t forget that it’s the parents (their adult caregivers) who have the last word.

Therefore, for example, giving a pet when the parents don’t authorize it or buying the child a cell phone before the parents consider it appropriate is inappropriate and can cause major conflicts.

Respect dictates those things grandparents shouldn’t do

We can see that all of the above aspects have one thing in common: Respect for the children’s parents, their parenting style, and what they consider best for their children. Therefore, if a grandparent has doubts about how to proceed, the key will always be to consult, dialogue, and negotiate.

If an open and positive attitude is adopted, it’ll be easy for all parties to reach agreements and avoid situations that may cause discomfort and friction or end up creating a breach in the special bond that grandparents and grandchildren share.

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.

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