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Grandparents Play Favorites

Jim Daly on

Q: My parents are clearly partial to my daughter -- their first grandchild -- over her little brother. He obviously notices but doesn't say much. How do we address it when Grandma and Grandpa play favorites?

Jim: I'd suggest that your first priority is to affirm your son (the youngest child). Reassure him that you've seen the signs of favoritism, as well, and that it's not a reflection of his worth or identity. Avoid blaming the grandparents, but let your son know you're working on it.

Hopefully you can address this issue through a good-natured, non-defensive discussion with your parents. Start by emphasizing how much you appreciate their interest and involvement in your kids' lives. Highlight positive contributions they've made to the children's upbringing. Once you've set the right tone, explain your concerns. Communicate that while you're certain they've always acted from the best of intentions, some of their actions and words have been hurtful to your younger child. Ask them to help you find a way to counteract this (hopefully) unintended effect.

If they deny the charge of favoritism, just thank them for listening and let the matter drop. It's possible that after some sober reflection they'll see the sense of your words and quietly make the necessary changes.

However, if they react in anger there may be deeper boundary issues below the surface. If so, you may want to invite them to discuss the problem with you in the presence of an objective third party -- a good friend, a disinterested relative, a pastor or even a qualified family therapist.

Finally, in extreme cases where grandparents refuse to cooperate, it may be necessary to limit the amount of time they spend with your children -- at least until they begin to take some positive steps in the right direction.


If you'd like to discuss this situation with our counselors, call 855-771-HELP (4357).

Q: I spend time with my kids, go to all their activities and make sure they're taken care of. I'm trying to be a good dad, but my wife says I'm not very loving in how I talk to them. How much do my words really affect my kids?

Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Words can encourage or tear down, connect or divide. Think about the words you commonly use -- are they life-giving, or critical and damaging?

Ask yourself the following questions when considering how your words impact your children:


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