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Dilemma: I want to spoil my grandchildren

Katharine Whitehorn / 15 January 2016

Agony aunt Katharine Whitehorn hears from a reader whose daughter-in-law is very strict, and wonders whether it is okay to go against her wishes and spoil them.

Grandmother and grandchildren
A reader wonders whether she can go against her daughter-in-law's wishes and spoil her grandchildren

Dilemma: I want to spoil my grandkids

My daughter-in-law is pleasant enough, but she is very “green” and has strict rules about what the children can have – no chocolates, only an hour’s TV a day, no shoes in the house, etc.

But isn’t a grandmother allowed to spoil the children a little? I find myself thinking twice about everything I do, though I do enjoy babysitting, of course.

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

I think it depends a bit what sort of rules we’re talking about. 

It’s perfectly OK to be lax with bedtimes or TV when they’re staying in your house, I’d say; children easily accept that things are different away from home. 

Eating is another matter: there may be health reasons they’re allowed only certain foods, with so many allergies these days. 

I did hear, too, of one grandmother who thought “a little sweetie” couldn’t hurt her grandson before an operation; she didn’t realise that if he’d been sick he might have choked, as the anaesthetic suppresses the coughing mechanism. 

It’s important not to let your daughter-in-law think you are undermining or disapproving of her regime; that would cause trouble.

Read our tips for getting on with a difficult daughter-in-law

Our readers say...

We also asked our Facebook followers for their advice...

"That's what nanna's and granddads do, spoil their grandchildren."

"Speak to your daughter-in-law and work something out that's pleasing to you both. Everyone will be happy then!"

"Talk to your daughter and see what, if anything, is acceptable."

"It depends what you mean by spoil. Taking them out and about and teaching them to cook and do handicrafts is what grandparents do. It is what I do and what my grandparents did."

"What does she mean by spoil...? Can only love them, that doesn't spoil them. If you let them get away with everything, then that's not a good idea... the parents need to set rules..."

"It's nice for grandparents to spoil grandchildren but there must be some pre-agreed boundaries. Grandparents need to think about their own worries and concerns regarding spoiling when they were parents of young children. If it's to do with sweets or no discipline agree the boundaries first. My mum is careful not to overdo it with my kids because my nan used to get on her nerves spoiling us when we were kids. If you want to spoil kids give them your uninterrupted time because it's something parents struggle to do when juggling everything else."

"I love & spoil my grandchildren & my daughters love the way I do it!"

"It ought not to be a problem as long as both sides agree on a 'What happens at grandma's stays at grandma's' rule. When my children were growing up, if they were at their grandparents' house and asked for ice cream for breakfast, or to go to a muddy playground in their party dresses, that was fine and they undestood that the normal rules still applied at home. And now my daughters have come to the same agreement with us and our grandchildren."

"We all spoil our grandchildren in different ways, but I must say it doesn't do anyone any good to over do it. I look after my grandchildren for my daughter to go to work, and yes I am more lenient than their parents on certain things, and we spend a lot of time playing games and painting, but bedtime is bedtime and dinner is always up at the table, otherwise I feel we would be undermining their parents and that's not good, and it wouldn't be good for the children."

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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