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Parents and grandparents often clash over raising children

The results of a national survey from Michigan Medicine show that about half of parents clash with grandparents over parenting choices and rules. The research suggests that disagreements over discipline, meals, and screen time are commonly disputed.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll found that one in seven parents limits a child’s visitation with certain grandparents, and discipline was the most frequently reported source of tension. 

“Grandparents play a special role in children’s lives and can be an important resource for parents through support, advice and babysitting. But they may have different ideas about the best way to raise the child and that can cause tension,” said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark.

“If grandparents contradict or interfere with parenting choices, it can have a serious strain on the relationship.”

The survey collected more than 2,000 responses from parents on issues ranging from manners to social media. 

While 40 percent of parents said that a grandparent was too easy on a child, 14 percent reported that a grandparent was too tough.

Meanwhile, nearly half of parents said that disagreements arise from grandmother or grandfather being both too lenient and overly harsh.

“Parents may feel that their parental authority is undermined when grandparents are too lenient in allowing children to do things that are against family rules, or when grandparents are too strict in forbidding children to do things that parents have okayed,” said Clark.

She added that some disagreements may stem from intergenerational differences. For example, older adults may insist on doing things the way they used to be done, such as not using a booster seat.

Many survey respondents reported that they have tried to get grandparents to be more respectful of their parenting choices. As a result, about half of grandmothers or grandfathers made a noticeable change in their behavior, while 17 percent outright objected.

“Whether grandparents cooperated with a request or not was strongly linked to parents’ description of disagreements as major or minor,” said Clark. “The bigger the conflict, the less likely grandparents were to budge.”

“Parents who reported major disagreements with grandparents were also likely to feel that the conflicts had a negative impact on the relationship between the child and the grandparent.”

“These findings indicate that grandparents should strive to understand and comply with parent requests to be more consistent with parenting choices – not only to support parents in the difficult job of raising children, but to avoid escalating the conflict to the point that they risk losing special time with grandchildren.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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