Despite the strict upbringing parents might have during their time of childhood, sometimes this does not apply to their own children when grandparents come into the picture. This is often a topic which brings much controversy to many parents.

In a way, it is a little touchy to begin with.

When grandparents coddle and turn a blind eye to bad behaviour, how do parents step in? When adults overly protective to the child, it hinders the child from learning and integrating into their social environment such as school.

When the much dreaded phrase “He is just a child, he will grow out it.” comes into play, how would you handle the situation?

For many parents, this may be a time of dilemma. Filial piety and respect is an unspoken rule across much of Asian culture. Likewise in Asian culture, age is often a factor that contributes to much of our ‘Respect’ factor as with age comes experience and wisdom. During our childhood years, we seldom talk back or challenge their parents’ decisions, but as we mature into adults, we do develop our own sense of thoughts and reasoning. With parenting, sometimes our thoughts may not go in flow with that of our parents (our children’s grandparents). After all, we are different individuals. If we were all wired the same, I would say that new creative ideas will not come up, and we might all live like systematic robots.

The Messages We Give

If parents repetitively turn a blind eye in tune with the grandparents teachings, it translates into the following message to the child.

When Grandpa/Grandma is around, I do not need to follow the rules. Mommy and Daddy are not saying anything too. I can do anything I want!

If a parent should contradict his own parents in front of the child, in an aggressive and non respectful manner, it translates yet into another inappropriate message.

Since mommy and daddy can be like ‘that’ to Grandpa/Grandma, I can do the same.

Children learn their behaviour from their peers, and parents are the natural peers that are involved in their everyday life. The above examples are definitely NOT the desired behaviour or mentality that any parents or grandparents want their child or grandchildren to pick up on.

Some Advice

It is unfair to point the fingers only to the party that turns the blind eye because in educating a child, communication is a critical factor. When it comes to discipline and education, both parents and grandparents have a direct influence and naturally need to assume some form of responsibility in that matter. Parents and grandparents should reach a common understanding and respect for each other is important. A parent should never think that they are always right, and insist upon it. An agreement on how to discipline the child can be implemented and boundaries should be set.

Effective communication is critical.

To credit People photo created by tirachardz –

For parents and grandparents:

Best Intentions First

  • Assume that either parties are doing in the best intention for the child and not simply a matter of questioning your authority.
Positivity, not criticism or being judgemental.

  • Our natural defence mechanism against negativity and criticism is shutting down. We become less receptive to opinions. Instead of assuming the other party is wrong, try offering your assistance. We mean by asking ‘How can I help?’, not ‘You should do it this way’.
Tact & Timing

  • Not taking sides is important. Taking sides would only foster negativity. Choosing the correct time and party to talk to with regards to matters is critical. Likewise, it is not recommended to do this in front of the children.

For Parents:

Speak up nicely when boundaries are crossed.

  • Everyone wants to feel important. Instead of pushing them away, let them be involved, but you need to speak up when boundaries are crossed, such as when your parenting authority is being undermined or ‘questioned’.

Pincus suggests the following phrases:

  • I appreciate your expertise. I will definitely ask you if I need help.”
  • “I know you may see it differently, but I’d appreciate you following the way I do it on this one.”
  • “I appreciate your concern or your worry. I’m comfortable with the way I’m doing it.”

Support from Spouse

  • Communicating boundaries is essential in maintaining a harmonious relationship across generations. This can be achieved by making everyone feel wanted, and respected. Good spouses support each other when it comes to parenting.

For Grandparents:

Not the Middleman

  • Grandchildren may complain to you about their parents, but a respectful. Respond with empathy, but do not take sides or down talk the parents.

Trust & Control

  • As someone who has come through many years of parenting, your role as a parent to your child is to be loving and supportive, and not critical or overly judgmental. If you do not live with your children and grandchildren, it is important to understand that they have established their own lives, and while they enjoy having you over, being over intrusive may not be healthy.

Always keep the communication open in order to work out differences.

  • Trust your child’s ability to be effective parents. They may not do it perfectly but they are trying. Ask about how you can help or if you see them trouble, ask if they would like to talk to you, perhaps you could share your parenting experience. If something is done in a manner that has to be questioned, be respectful and not judgemental when you are communicating.

Debbie Pincus.Grandparents and Parents Disagreeing? 11 Tips for Both of You. Retrieved from:
Nadia Shah. 2013. Should Grandparents Have a Say in Your Parenting? Retrieved from:
Susan Newman. (2014). Solving Parent-Grandparent Conflicts. 8 guidelines for navigating parent-grandparent differences. Retrieved from: