Grandparents who refuse to respect parenting choices may pay a big price, new research shows

Disagreements between parents and grandparents on how to raise children can have lasting, and negative, impacts

parent and grandparent having a disagreement
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Research has highlighted the big price grandparents who don't respect parenting choices, and who refuse to follow a parent’s rules for a grandchild, may pay - and it's a stark warning to get in line with a parent's wishes. 

Family life seems, on paper, to be massively improved by the support offered by grandparents. With soaring childcare costs, grandparents are often on hand to help out when, even with the 15 hours free childcare scheme and additional wrap around care, government help just isn't enough. In fact, more than half of grandparents look after their grandchildren while their parents are at work. 

It all sounds well and good, but that doesn't mean, in reality, that grandparent support is all smooth sailing. Sure, kids massively benefit from spending time with their grandparents. It's been proven that children who have a good relationship with their grandparents have less behavioural and emotional problems and, in addition, grandparents also set grandkids up with 'habits to last a lifetime' and teach them some pretty important life lessons too. But what about the parent-grandparent relationship? 

Research by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National has found that there are a lot of parenting disagreements between parents and grandparents, with 37 per cent of parents saying they experience minor disagreements with one or more grandparents about their parenting choices, while 6 per cent say their disagreements are 'major.' Not only this, but 15 per cent say these disagreements 'have a negative effect on their child’s relationship with their grandparents'.

The arguments stem mostly from a grandparent's refusal to align their approach with their child's parenting style, showing a lack of respect for the way a parent is choosing to raise their child. The research showed that four in ten parents have been forced to ask a grandparent to change their behaviour to better align with their parenting choices or rules, though many said the grandparent either 'agreed to the request but did not change their behaviour' or said their request to change fell completely on deaf ears. 

This refusal to change can have massive implications. Nearly half of the parents whose own parents refused to change their behaviour limited the time they allowed the grandparent to spend with their child. In addition to this, some parents who disagree with a grandparent's behaviour but do not ask them to change it even limit their time with the child without mentioning why - in this case, it's a good idea to read up on the grandparenting behaviours to try and avoid

So what sort of behaviour is driving these disagreements over parenting approaches? Well, while many grandparents have positive thoughts about today’s most popular parenting trends, it appears to be a general lack of respect for a parent's chosen approach. Those who are raising their kids using gentle parenting say the grandparents are 'too tough' on their kids, while those who take a slightly tougher approach think they're 'too soft.' Some parents even say that their disagreements with a child's grandparents arise from them being both at the same time! 

At the heart of the issue is a lack of communication and a lack of respect during those conversations that do take place. As hard as it can be for a parent to say and for a grandparent to take in, having frank conversations about parenting rules - and the need for grandparents to comply with them - is vital for a child to reap the massive benefit of spending time with their grandparents. 

Parent-grandparent relationships can be difficult no matter how well you do, or don't, see eye to eye. You're often left asking if grandparents love their grandkids more than their own children and, while it's sweet, the nicknames kids call their grandparents as they run off to them for advice instead of their own parents, can leave you feeling left out. If you're really struggling to keep or build a relationship with a grandparent, these are our 10 tips for building relationships with ‘estranged’ grandparents.

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse
Royal News and Entertainment writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is royal news and entertainment writer for She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.