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How to Handle a Grandmother That Is Mean to Her Grandchildren

by Candice Coleman

Some kids hit the grandma lottery: a grandma who bakes cookies, listens to their stories and actively looks forward to being close to her grandchildren. The reality is that many women do not fit the stereotypical grandma mold. A mean grandmother has the power to influence many negative reactions, including the power to affect your child's self-esteem. Give your mother or mother-in-law a chance: she may not realize how her attitude or words are affecting her grandchildren.

Ask your child how her grandma's words and actions are affecting her. Does she seem depressed or withdrawn while visiting her grandma? If grandma's negativity and cruelty start to rub off on your child, it is important to take note of each effect. Write down any information your child tells you about her grandma's cruelty, as well as changes you notice in your child's behavior after being around her grandma.

Plan out what you intend to say to your child's grandma ahead of time. Pick friendlier ways to bring up the problem, such as saying, "I wanted to talk to you about a problem. Andrew says that when he told you about what he's learning in school, you told him that you didn't care. I wanted to know what happened." Avoid condemning words like "never" or "always." Address the specific problem with your child's grandma.

Speak calmly to your mother or mother-in-law. While your blood may be simmering, keep in mind that confronting your child's grandmother aggressively will likely cause greater damage to the relationship. Adopt a calm tone and speak to your child's grandmother when you are both in a relaxed mood. Listen to each of her explanations and paraphrase it back to her to make sure you understand her correctly.

Explain alternative behaviors to your child's grandma to improve her relationship with your child. While some grandmas may react with hostility and end the conversation, others may be willing to address their behavior. If grandma often criticizes her grandchildren, ask her to say nothing or to issue a compliment. She may mistakenly believe that criticizing her grandchildren will keep them from becoming "arrogant" from too much praise.

Give grandma a few trial runs. Does she seem to be making an effort to change her behavior? If she makes a mistake, ask to speak to her privately to address the matter. If grandma remains uncooperative and her behavior is having a severe impact on your child, you may have to limit your child's contact with her grandma or sever the relationship altogether.

Tips

  • Long-term criticism can impact your child's self-esteem. Offer explanations for his grandma's behavior: make it clear to your son that he is not the reason for his grandma's cruelty.
  • Emotional or physical abuse from a cruel grandma can cause long-term emotional trauma. Contact the authorities and find a counselor who can assist you and your child.
  • Find an elderly neighbor, family member or friend who can fill grandma's shoes for your child if your mother or mother-in-law cannot play nice.

About the Author

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.

Photo Credits

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