Grandparents as parents—It’s a fine line

There is a very fine line that many grandparents who are parenting their grandchildren have to toe. Being a grandparent/parent is not as simple as it probably sounds. Yes, we have had the experience of parenting our children, but our grandchildren are not “our” children and things are different, especially if it has been a while since you’ve had a child or teen in your home.

How are they different? Read on!

1. You can’t spoil them and then send them home

It is an unwritten rule, but our job as grandparents is to spoil our grandchildren—and then send them home!

As a grandparent with whom your grandchild lives, when you send them “home,” they are home. And a spoiled child or grandchild is not a lot of joy.

The fine line comes into play because as a grandparent, you want to spoil your grandchildren. You want to give them gifts and things they may not normally get at home. But when they live with you, it really makes it difficult. You still want to spoil them, but you also know that you have to live with them at the end of the day.

Because in most cases you are providing everything for your grandchild(ren)—from food, to clothing, to shelter, to toys—it can be difficult for you and them to understand where the line is.

I must admit that my granddaughter is probably more spoiled than most, but because I am providing for her every need, I have a difficult time knowing when to say “no” when she wants something. I know that if I don’t get her the thing she wants (not needs, those things that are needed are a given), she doesn’t have grandparents to get the thing for her to spoil her—I have to do it.

It is a fine line and it has been a learning experience for both my spouse and I and our granddaughter to see what we will and can do without making her insufferable!

2. Discipline can be a tricky topic

Within guidelines, we all know what we “can” do to discipline our children. When it comes to grandchildren that we are parenting, it can be a tricky time.

I grew up in a time when it was perfectly acceptable to get a spanking on the rear-end when I was naughty or did something that wasn’t acceptable, but lying or stealing.

But in the past 30 years or so, spanking has been frowned upon, and not just frowned upon, but has actually been a basis for children being taken from their parents.

I hated getting spankings, but I learned very quickly what was acceptable behavior and what wasn’t. I think the quickest way to the brain of a child or teenager is through a swat on the rear!

When you are a grandparent, though, you may not feel comfortable disciplining the child. You may throw your hands up in frustration because “time out” doesn’t work.

Like I said, discipline can be tricky. We usually talk with our granddaughter because we don’t spank her. We don’t do time out, either, but we do take TV or tablet time away. We need her to understand that what she did was wrong.

3. Other grandchildren may not understand

Sometimes our other grandchildren are not sure where they stand. They know that they are all our grandchildren, but they see the things that we get for the granddaughter that lives with us. They question why they can’t have the same things from us.

We try to explain that it is because she doesn’t have her mommy and daddy living with her, and we have to get those things for her, but it is still a difficult conversation to have because they are young (our oldest grandson is 10). He probably gets it better than the other grandchildren, but it is still an extremely difficult thing to explain.

4. You can’t take them to grandma’s house if you want a night out

My spouse and I did not have children living with us for several years before our granddaughter came to live with us. We were used to being able to take off at almost any time and stay out as late as we wanted.

When our granddaughter moved in with us, those days were gone. We were now tasked with finding daycare and a babysitter when we wanted to go out. (Click here for our article about daycare and babysitting!)

We don’t have the luxury of taking her to grandma’s house to spend the night—she’s at grandma’s house all the time!

The fine line finish

Don’t misunderstand us, I have said this many, many times, I would not change a thing with having our granddaughter living with us. Her being here has changed our lives in many beautiful ways. But as a grandparent, we do have unique sets of problems that many “parents” don’t have to deal with. We do our best to “parent” our granddaughter the best we can. We need to teach her just as if we were her parents, but we also have to keep in mind that we are still her grandparents, too.

As you can tell, it’s a difficult subject to even write about. There is no real “finish line” here, either. We are in this for the duration! And we wouldn’t have it any other way!

We would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave questions or comments below and we will get back to you very soon!

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  1. Another great article Karin. I think my wife and I are lucky when It comes to the grandparents. It can be tough also on the parents if grandparents only spoil them. With ours it’s different they spoil to a certain point but at the same time they will tell them no. They also have rules to follow when they are over there for a visit.
    Thank you again,

    • Thanks for commenting, David. It is fun being a grandparent and also being a parent, but that fine line does make it hard sometimes. Sometimes I feel like we might have too many rules for our granddaughter and it can be a little confusing for her, too, but at the end of the day, I would not change it for anything!

  2. Hey Karin! Very interesting and well-written post! I just had my first baby a little over a year ago but I am now 39 years old. I’ve gotten a lot of slack from people with the attitude that I am a bit too old to be having children. I can only imagine what it must be like to raise a grandchild! I don’t think either of my parents could keep up with her. I barely can! They are sweet and special little creatures though. Good luck to you!

    • Don’t listen to the nay-sayers! I think these young ones keep us younger! They can run us ragged, but we figure it out and find the strength! I wouldn’t change my life for anything!
      Best wishes and keep raising your precious little one with your head high!

  3. Karin, fine article that you have here. You acknowledge the difficulties of being a grandparent (I will keep that in mind for sure when I’m an old man!) and how to navigate them. I would recommend to you a book though called How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a book that details what to do in any situation when it comes to handling people. About the spanking part, there is a way around that that Carnegie explains in there. What is it? You’ll have to read and find out! Thank you very much.

    • Thanks for you comments, Evan. It’s funny that you mention the book by Carnegie—I read that when I was in high school! I think I will have to check it out again as high school was a few years ago!
      Best wishes to you!

  4. Hi Karin,
    You made me remember my grandmother, God bless her soul..
    But more than that, it makes me to better understand the grandma’s of my own children. How sometimes they have a conflict between giving their all and best to the grandchildren, but always staying loyal to the children (us). Probably it’s harder that we can see..
    Thank you

  5. Hi Karin. you are doing an amazing job loving and caring for your granddaughter. I have a friend who is doing the same as you with her grandson and there are times when she gets so tired but out of nowhere she finds the strength and love to give this young man and I wish you love and hugs on your journey

    • That is the amazing thing about doing this—energy or strength just seems to appear out of nowhere! Every day with her is a gift —even the bad days!

  6. The hardest part of raising my kid’s kid is definitely the discipline side of things. Things have simply changed so much since I was a parent and I find that I need to constantly read about what is now acceptable versus not.

    While you of course want your kids to respect you as a grandparent/parent you also need to ensure that they love you and confide in you as well. The discipline part is most difficult because I always feel I run the risk of alienating them.

    Have you found any good books/resources on the best way to discipline kids that aren’t yours? I imagine step parents run into this too..

    • I have been reading a book called, “You Can’t Make Me, but I Can be Persuaded” by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias. It’s about raising strong-willed children and how to work with them on things you would like them to do! We’re trying.

  7. I agree that discipline can be a bone of contention, especially between grandparents and parents. I am fairly young dad and am still not sure where I sit on the corporal punishment front. I am a bit of a traditionalist on most things, but I also understand that violence breeds violence.

    I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this topic in future. Keep up the fine work.

    • Thanks Tony. I go back and forth on this issue, but I, too, agree that violence breeds violence. I will be writing more about this soon.

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