How To Spot Parental Manipulation About Grandchildren

How To Spot Parental Manipulation About Grandchildren

Many parents look forward to the time in their lives when their children grow up into adults and begin their own families. We’re sure you have had that pressure from your own parents—the whole, “when are you giving us grandchildren” talk. While expanding their family and watching their children become parents is exciting, some parents can blur the line between excited and overbearing. When you begin to have children of your own, there may be some moments in time when you feel as though your own parents are overstepping—sometimes, even manipulating you and your children, too. It’s important to see the red flags so you can stop them before things get pretty messy.

1. They try to make the rules.

When you have your own kids, your parents may try to tell you how to parent and what rules should be in place. They were able to make the rules for you because you were their kid, but they don’t have the right to make the rules for your child (their grandchild). They need to know this—if they don’t, it’s okay to remind them that you are making the rules.

2. They use guilt as a way to get what they want.

Some grandparents feel like they aren’t included enough. When they feel this way, guilt is their go-to method to get what they want. They may say things like, “We’re not going to be around forever,” or “We want to see them before we’re too old to run around with them,” to try to make you feel bad and even worry about the future. Now that you know this is a manipulation, you don’t have to give in.

3. They do not respect your boundaries.

Elderly mother comforts her adult daughter after her quarrel with her husband

Boundaries are important because they are your form of protection for your family. However, not all parents respect boundaries. Your own parents may overstep and say that because they are family, boundaries don’t matter. When this happens, you have to stick to your word and tell them that your boundaries are firm. The last thing you need is someone who doesn’t respect you when you say no.

4. They tell your kids it’s “okay” because grandma/grandpa said so.


You are your child’s first authority, not their grandparents. When you make a rule, they have to respect that rule, even if they disagree with it. It can be something as small as screen time or dessert, or something pretty big like haircuts and ear piercings—but, when you have a rule, they have to stand by that rule. Trying to change them is something that is very toxic and manipulative.

5. They bring gifts even when you ask them not to.

Many parents want to raise their children to be appreciative and grateful, instead of spoiled. Birthdays and holidays are excellent times for kids to receive gifts, but some parents don’t want them getting gifts “just because.” If they did, it sets expectations that they will always get things, no matter the occasion. Some grandparents do not respect this or understand it, bringing four gifts with them every time they show up.

6. They talk badly about you in front of the kids.

Grandparents may think that kids aren’t listening, but kids are always listening. When they talk badly about you and your partner’s parenting styles in front of the kids, it can make them question you and your authority. If your parents feel the need to talk about you, you should ask them to do it when your kids aren’t around.

7. They’re jealous of relationships with others.

mom and daughter at odds

Kids have favorite people in their lives. Sometimes, it’s their parents. Other times, it may be an aunt, uncle, cousin, or even another grandparent. When grandparents see that they’re not the favorite, they can get jealous and rude. They may say things like, “I’m sure you like this toy better because _______ bought it for you,” or “Oh, they don’t want to hug me because I’m not _______.” This is a true sign of manipulation and toxicity.

8. They create awkward family moments.


When your parents are manipulative and hard to deal with, it can be awkward to get together as a whole family. Many adult children want to distance themselves during these times, just to get a better handle on things. But, as we all know, life gets in the way of that “space.” We feel bad leaving our parents out of holidays or birthdays, so when things are hard, it can create some pretty awkward moments.

9. They openly judge your decisions.

When you make choices for your family, you shouldn’t have to worry about someone questioning or judging you—you know what’s best for your kids. But, when our parents are breathing down our necks, saying we’re doing the wrong things, we can start to doubt ourselves. It’s important to tune out the noise and remember that your childcare decisions are yours to make, not your parents.

10. They’re pushy with physical affection.

Grandparents can be pushy when it comes to physical affection with kids. When your children don’t want to hug or kiss their grandparents, it should be something that is understood and respected. However, not all grandparents understand that. It can be inappropriate and cruel to force physical affection with children—everyone should know that, no matter what the relationship is.

11. They’re angry when their grandchildren are busy.

woman being comforted by her mother

Kids get older and they have their own social lives and schedules. Many times, kids are involved in activities such as sports and other types of recreational activities that can take up a huge chunk of time. They are not always available when your parents want to see them. This can create a lot of anger and resentment between you and your parents who may not understand that they are busy.

12. They share inappropriate information with your kids.


Some information is for adults only, like financial information or any disagreements. When your parents share information with your kids, it can create an uncomfortable dynamic for the children. Money and other adult-only topics should stay with the adults, and not be discussed with children.

13. They use your kids to spy on you.


Another sign of manipulation can be using your own children as spies. For example, your parents may ask their grandchildren to report back on things, like what kind of TV shows and movies you allow them to watch, or how often you check their homework—things they may disagree with you on. This is super toxic and wrong—you should never have to worry that your children are reporting back to your own parents.

14. They play favorites.


Whether it’s with you and your own siblings or with all of their grandchildren, one way your parents can show manipulation is by picking and choosing favorites. This can in turn hurt those who are also involved in this—you and your siblings can be pinned against each other, or your own kids may feel badly if they are not the ones who are “chosen” as the favorite. By playing favorites, grandparents can truly make drama and cause a ton of issues.

15. They think they do absolutely nothing wrong.

Despite all of these things going down, parents who see nothing wrong in their behavior and will not change are truly the tell-tale sign of toxic manipulation. If you sit down with them and explain how their behaviors hurt your family, and they cannot see it, that’s a huge red flag. It’s even harder when they feel absolutely no need to ever change how they act and behave.

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