If your kids are fortunate enough to have their grandparents in their lives, that’s great.
But it doesn’t mean they get to spoil their grandkids or behave in a way that causes issues within your family dynamic.
As tough as it might be, you need to set some boundaries with your parents and in-laws to ensure that there is a healthy, and productive harmony there.
To help you out, here is a list of boundaries for grandparents that will help you do exactly that – establish healthy rules!
List of Boundaries for Grandparents
1. Run All Gifts and Surprises Past You First
No matter how well-intentioned they are, grandparents should not be buying your kids whatever they want or springing surprises on them without running it by you first.
This is especially important when it comes to larger, lavish gifts, especially if they require your approval and supervision to ensure safety.
It’s normal for grandparents to want to spoil their grandkids, but this can easily escalate into family disputes and issues if they’re left to gift whatever they want to.
2. Don’t Just Turn up Unannounced
I’m sure your kids love seeing their grandparents, but that doesn’t mean they should turn up unannounced all the time.
Not only is it disruptive for you and your plans, but it can also be confusing for younger children who might not understand why grandma and grandpa are suddenly there.
If your parents or in-laws live close by, it’s important to set up a mutually agreed-upon schedule for visits so that everyone knows when to expect them.
3. They Don’t Get to Overrule You
Just because they’re your or your partner’s parents, that doesn’t mean they get to overrule you on everything or parent for you.
It can be easy for them to try and take charge, especially if they think you’re not doing things the ‘right’ way, but it’s important to assert yourself early on.
This also means that they shouldn’t be trying to undermine your authority in front of your kids, encourage your kids to do things you wouldn’t allow, or do anything similar.
4. They Don’t Tell Your Kids Things They Know You Wouldn’t Approve Of
This is a big one.
Grandparents often think that because they’re senior in the family, they can get away with telling kids what they think is best for them.
However, what they think is best, isn’t always best for them in your eyes – and it’s up to you what your kids get to know about.
What we expose our kids to is very sensitive, it’s perfectly reasonable to make it clear to your parents what they can or can’t talk to your kids about.
5. They Don’t Get to Parent You in Front of Your Kids
This is another tricky situation that can potentially be confusing for your kids.
Your parents are still your parents, that never changes. I’m sure you welcome any constructive advice, no matter how old you are.
But your kids do not need to see your parents being overbearing on you, this will be confusing for them.
It’s also not helpful for you, as it can make you feel like a child again in front of your kids.
6. Letting Your Kids Down Will Not Be Accepted
This is a boundary that you should try and set with your kids with anyone they look up to, but it’s worth reiterating to your parents.
If they say they’re going to do something for your kids or with your kids, they need to follow through on their promise.
Sure, things come up that can’t be avoided, that’s fine. But if they’re making a habit of letting you and your children down, something needs to be done to protect your kids.
7. They Can’t Talk About Personal Family Matters in Front of Your Kids
There are some things that are just not appropriate to discuss in front of kids, no matter how old they are.
Your parents might think it’s okay to talk about family matters in front of them, but that doesn’t make it right.
There are a couple of reasons why grandparents are often guilty of this; one is that they’re ‘stuck’ in a different time where social norms were different.
The other is that their relationship with your kids is not the same as their relationship with you, so they tend to behave differently.
Whatever the reason, your parents need to respect that you have the final say on what personal matters they can hear or know about.
8. They Have to Treat All of Their Grandkids Equally
This is one that I know a lot of my friends struggle with when it comes to setting boundaries with their parents.
Your parents might have their favorite grandchild, or the one they get on best with and that’s okay.
But they need to make sure they’re not showing favoritism in front of the other grandchildren.
Favoritism can lead to jealousy and resentment between siblings, and it’s something you want to avoid.
If your parents are guilty of this, you need to have a conversation with them about it and stamp it out as soon as possible.
9. Jealousy or Competition with Other Grandparents Is Not Acceptable
This is another one that can potentially cause much more serious problems between siblings than grandparents realize.
If your parents are jealous or competitive with your partner’s parents, it’s not healthy for anyone.
Your kids should feel like they have two sets of grandparents who love them equally, and who they can go to regardless of which parent they’re with.
Petty competition and picking favorites is actually a very toxic behavior and can cause divides in families.
10. They Need to Respect that You Are Bringing up Your Kids Your Way, Not Theirs
This is the most important boundary of all, and one that you need to make very clear from the start.
Your parents might not agree with the way you’re bringing up your kids, and you may choose to do things very differently from how they did.
But they need to respect that you are doing things your way and trust that you know what’s best for your family.
If they can’t do that, then it’s going to be very difficult for you to have a healthy relationship with them.
If your parents keep crossing the line and doing things they shouldn’t, you’ll need to make the painful decision to distance them from your kids.
It’s more important you do that and give them the space to think about how they’re behaving than potentially cause your kids any emotional distress.
How Do You Set Ground Rules for Grandparents?
Now you know what kind of boundaries to set for your parents, but how do you actually go about setting them?
It can be a difficult conversation to have, but it’s one that needs to be had if you want to protect your kids.
Here are a few tips on how to set ground rules for grandparents:
- Talk to them about your concerns and explain why you feel the need to set boundaries.
- Avoid using ‘you’ statements and instead focus on how their behavior is affecting your family.
- Be clear and concise with what you expect from them.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for their help in enforcing the boundaries you’ve set.
- Let them know that you still want them to be a big part of your kids’ lives, but that you need to do things differently.
- If they don’t respect the boundaries you’ve set, don’t hesitate to distance yourself from them.
You’ll know your parents or your partner’s parents better than anyone, I’m sure you’ll be able to navigate how they think and react.
What if Grandparents Keep on Overstepping Boundaries?
If your parents or in-laws keep on overstepping boundaries, it might be time to distance yourself from them.
It’s a difficult decision to make, but if they’re not respecting your wishes then you have no other choice.
You can try talking to them about it again and see if they’re willing to change their behavior, but if they’re not then you need to put your foot down.
It’s important to remember that you have a right to set boundaries in your family, and just because someone is older or they’re your parent, it doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want.
If you have any other tips or advice on setting boundaries for grandparents, please share them in the comments below!
Image credits – Photo by Johnny Cohen on Unsplash
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.