Toxic grandparenting

Toxic grandparents don’t just become toxic, they’re usually toxic parents long before they become toxic grandparents.

When parents become grandparents, they sometimes find it hard to adjust into their new roles. But where there are conflicts between grandparents and parents, there is usually an issue with control, roles and choices.

But when it comes to parents’ making their own decisions for their children, it’s not up to the grandparents to question their children. They must accept their children have the authority to make their choices about how they choose to raise their own children.

A grandparent’s role is to support, love their grandchildren and children unconditionally, helping them in any way they can, otherwise everything else becomes toxic. They must understand their role.

There are grandparents who seem to think they are entitled to say and do as they please, without taking their children’s views into consideration. Grandparents may sometimes undermine parental authority, without giving their authority consideration. It’s particularly true when children aren’t with their parents, but with their grandparents.

In some instances, Grandparents may encourage their grandchildren to disobey their parents. They may also refuse to follow their children’s rules and do as they please. And whilst they may think flouting the odd rule is okay, it becomes damaging when it happens all the time and their grandchildren take away mixed messages from their parents and grandparents.

And where grandparents haven’t had the best of relationships with their children, they may put their grandchildren on a pedestal. It’s easy for grandparents to fall into the trap of using their grandchildren to meet their emotional needs, where they may have failed with their own children.

The grandparents may also risk placing expectations on their grandchildren who are made to live up to expectations and become responsible for meeting their grandparents’ emotional needs.


17 Feb, 2019

4 thoughts on “Toxic grandparenting

  1. I don’t think there is enough room on your website for me to write about my experiences of toxic grandparenting.

    I enjoyed spending time with one set of grandparents, they were a change to the madness at home, which was made worse as my other grandmother lived with us. Not something I would recommend.

    Grandparents are just that. They are not parents and they need to understand it is not their job to interfere with their grandchildren’s parenting.

    I have seen the consequences first-hand within my extended family and it is very damaging both to the child and the child’s relationship with his/her own parents.

    As you say, bad parenting sets the foundations for bad grand-parenting.

    1. Stories like yours are all too common. When it comes to families, your experiences aren’t unique. Yes, bad parenting sets the foundation for bad grand-parenting.

      But the tragedy is that families could do things differently and it’s easily rectifiable. We must want to do things unconditionally for our children and grandchildren.

      Not everyone will be a grandparent, either because their children don’t have children, or they become ill and don’t make it to grandparenthood.

      But every effort must be made for families to get along, for parents to be model examples to both their children and grandchildren.

  2. My mother’s parents would definitely have been considered toxic, seeing as they were always telling her what to do, like leaving my dad and taking us with her.

    They were always talking to her about it, but also gave us the impression that they didn’t want much to do with us, at the same time.

    If they had really been that interested in saving us from the nightmare that we were living in, they could have very easily done it seeing as they had plenty of money.

    It only served to make us feel even worse about ourselves, because they couldn’t be bothered enough to rescue their own grandchildren.

    In reality, we would have been better off if they ignored us completely, which would have made our lives a lot easier.

    1. Thanks Randy. From what you’ve said about your parents Randy, perhaps your grandparents saw what you saw.

      Grandparents see things and they do talk, but it would have been up to your mum to make a decision about her relationship with your father. Perhaps it’s not that they didn’t want to help, but they weren’t in control of that.

      From what you say, it’s clear the advice was there. It may be that your mum wasn’t emotionally strong enough to break away.

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