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7 Surprising Conflicts Grandparents Face and How to Tackle Them



It wasn’t that long ago that my seven-year-old grandson got mad at me for not letting him play more video games. In an attempt to get me to change my mind, he said, “Nana, I’m going to hold my breath until you let me play. 

With that, he took a deep breath, puffed out his cheeks, and began his breath-holding standoff. In response, I gave him a big smile, took out my phone and said, “Ok, I’ll time you!”

While grandparenting is super fun and easygoing the majority of the time, sometimes, unexpected conflicts arise. The important thing to remember is, most conflicts can be handled calmly and confidently.

We just need a few tools to help us navigate this wonderful season of grandparenthood.

In this post, we’ll look at 7 conflicts you didn’t expect to face as a grandparent, and how to handle them. Take a look.

1. Conflicts in Discipline

When everyone is on the same page in the area of discipline, things run pretty smoothly. But if there are different standards in the grandchild’s home, grandparents might struggle to know how to discipline when the grandkids come to visit.

This calls for open communication with the parents, to find out what is acceptable to them, and how they would like you to handle disciplinary issues. This article suggests, “Especially in families where the grandparents are close by and will see their grandchild often, its important to clarify what they should do if the child acts in ways they consider inappropriate.”

Ultimately, both parents and grandparents want what is best for the children. And maintaining consistent discipline is always a good idea.

For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 ESV

2. Conflicts in Structure

For grandparents who like structure and prefer to stick to a schedule, having grandkids who aren’t so scheduled might cause a bit of tension. The good thing is, both grandparents and grandkids can learn from each other and reach a healthy compromise.

For example, kids who have never been introduced to “quiet time,” might find themselves looking forward to building a reading nook out of pillows and looking through a basket of books. On the other hand, grandparents who tend to be too structured can learn to relax a little and go with the flow.

Resolving the structure conflict is all about give and take. Grandparents can stick to the agenda that is most important to them, such as nap time, while loosening the reins in other areas. This article makes a great point about structure by saying, “A child thrives when he knows what to expect—even if he doesnt always like it. By creating a structured environment for your child, you can help him feel safe and secure.”

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Ashton Bingham

3. Conflicts at Mealtime

We probably all remember our parents telling us some variation of the expression, “Eat your vegetables because poor people in the world don’t have vegetables to eat.” And while families approach mealtime much differently today, there are still conflicts that arise when it comes to children and food.

Grandparents may expect their grandchildren to sit at the table, use their manners, and eat most of what is on their plate. Their grandkids, however, might be used to eating while watching television and getting to choose exactly what they want to eat.

The thing is, this conflict doesn’t have to become a major battle. There are a few simple things grandparents can do to calm the mealtime madness and promote healthy choices.

  • Prevent snacking before meals.

Snacking is a sure way to get kids to reject a well-balanced meal. When they aren’t hungry, they aren’t going to eat. By limiting snacks in between meals, grandparents will have an easier time getting their grandkids to eat what they’ve prepared.

  • Have positive discussions about healthy foods.

If mealtime becomes a problem, especially in the area of healthy eating, grandparents can use that opportunity to teach their grandkids about healthy food options. In fact, the more children are involved in the mealtime process, the more likely they are to try new things.

Consider taking your grandchildren to the store and allowing them to choose one fruit and one vegetable of their choice. Let them help you make family recipes and teach them new cooking skills.

  • Offer choices.

Kids like to have choices. It gives them a sense of independence and control when they are given the opportunity to decide for themselves. Say things like, “Should we have apples or oranges with our lunch?” Or “What green vegetable would go best with our dinner?” By offering choices, children are less likely to reject the foods you want them to eat.

Then God said, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” Genesis 1:29

4. Conflicts of Appropriate Language

The way kids talk nowadays can be pretty shocking, especially for grandparents who lean on the conservative side. Even the go-to phrase, “OMG,” can cause a grandparent to bristle.

This is one area where grandparents can and should insist on appropriate language in their home. Approach the topic gently and lovingly, but be consistent about it. Before long, your grandkids will catch themselves before saying things that are offensive to you. And, hopefully, your standards will be a strong example for them, and help them make better language choices at school and at home.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 NKJV

Photo Credit: ©Ben Wicks/Unsplash

5. Conflicts in Babysitting Expectations

There’s nothing more enjoyable than spending quality time with your grandkids, and pouring into their little lives. But there can be a conflict of expectations when it comes to babysitting, and that conflict can hinder the grandparent/grandchild relationship.

Many grandparents struggle with feelings of selfishness when they say “no” to babysitting. Even if they don’t have anything particular going on that day, they might not feel like watching the grandkids. And that’s OK. On the other hand, some grandparents struggle to set boundaries at all, and find themselves feeling resentful at how much they are depended upon to babysit.

When it comes to babysitting boundaries, this post offers this piece of advice: Setting limits early-on will help you steer clear of misconceptions and unrealistic expectations. If you say yes’ every time, even when it means changing your schedule, the parents will probably ask you first, every time.”

Have an honest and open discussion with your grown kids. It’s your best chance of overcoming conflict in this sensitive area, and setting a standard you can both live with.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:13-14

6. Conflicts in Holiday Celebrations

I was raised in a home that celebrated every holiday with lots of traditions and fanfare, and I loved every minute. However, as I’ve watched my grown kids start their own family traditions, or dismiss them altogether, I’ve had to reconsider how I celebrate holidays with my grandchildren.

Most conflicts arise when grandparents lavish their grandkids with too many gifts, celebrate a holiday that is not respected by their grown children, or try to enforce family traditions that aren’t enjoyed by everyone.

This article says it this way: “Young parents may want to develop their own traditions. They may feel that celebrating with parents keeps them from developing their own unique family culture.”

Instead of insisting on certain holiday celebrations, grandparents can share their most valued traditions all year round. That way, they are still passing things on to their grandchildren, without the conflict of holiday expectations.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 ESV

7. Conflicts about Media

As the online world has exploded in recent years, grandkids are used to being entertained by smart phones, tablets, video games and televisions. Grandparents may feel like their attempts at non-media related activities are met with resistance and boredom. However, it’s important to maintain a healthy balance in this area by limiting screen time and encouraging creative play.

Here are a few ideas for nixing the constant media conflict:

  • Set a timer with the agreement that your grandchild will maintain a good attitude when their media time is up.
  • Ask your grandchild to teach you how to play their favorite video game. In turn, teach them how to play your favorite card game.
  • Play interactive road-trip games instead of allowing non-stop media as you travel.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

While conflicts in grandparenting will arise, most can be handled with calmness and clarity. Even my unexpected conflict of “I’ll-hold-my-breath-until-you-let-me-play-more-video-games” was a minor conflict that was easily diffused with a sense of humor and a smile. Most of all, communicate clearly with your grown kids and grandkids. In the end, talking things out will solve most every conflict that comes along.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund

Jennifer Waddle considers herself a Kansas girl, married to a Colorado hunk, with a heart to encourage women everywhere. She is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com where you can find her books and sign up for her weekly post, Discouragement Doesn’t Win. She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.

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