How to put your foot down as a parent, to your parent.

Many children experience the joy of growing up with grandparents who love to dote on them. However, sometimes grandparents may spoil their grandkids a little too much, perhaps to the point where it strains the relationship between parents and grandparents.

“It can be common for a grandparent to want to bend the rules to ‘spoil’ their grandchild,” says Kasey Davis, PsyD, ABPP, a child psychologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “After all, having the opportunity to do special things outside of your normal routine is one of the best things about having grandparents. However, if those things start to happen at a frequency that becomes problematic, parents will need to step in.”

Speaking Up

It is important for the parent to speak up as early as possible to avoid situations getting out of hand and before frustrations run too high.

“It’s best to be proactive and set clear expectations about your wishes early on,” Dr. Davis says. “However, if grandparents are straying from those expectations, it is important to have a discussion instead of holding it in. Parents should be careful to avoid criticism and be sure the grandparents know their care is appreciated.”

Parents can also offer opportunities for alternatives to toys and snacks in the form of shared experiences.