What should a Parent do when a Grandparent Plays Favorites

Grandparents playing favorites is an especially hard pill to swallow for parents. The situation is especially hard when it’s your own parents that are committing the offense. As children, bonded by trust, we were guided through life by our parents; but as parents ourselves, it is our responsibility to protect our children from harm even if the person harming your child is the same people that made you the person that you are.

Children are highly perceptive. When a child recognizes that their grandparents have a favorite sibling, there can be a sense of rejection and diminished self-worth for the child. You may first try to talk to the grandparents explaining to them that they can have a favorite, but they may not demonstrate favoritism in front of your children. Remember, you can’t change how people feel, you can only control much you will allow it to affect your children. Some parents choose to deny the grandparent’s access to all of the children if they can’t treat them all equally although, in the eyes of the favorite, this is equally unfair.

Your children’s exposure to the grandparent’s behavior can be kept to a minimum by allowing the grandparents to take the favorite grandchild away from the other sibling(s). Should you allow the favorite child to continue reaping the benefits of their grandparents playing favorites, you should arrange for fun things to do with the other sibling(s) while the favorite is off visiting the grandparents. The grandparents may find that the favorite grandchild will choose to play favorites of their own by wanting to spend time with their parents and other sibling(s), rather than their grandparents. Life often rewards bad behavior in this way.

When the children are old enough, you should explain that you can love someone and not agree with what they are doing because just like kids, adults make mistakes. Just so your children know that your feelings for all them are equal and in order to minimize the damages, you should try to stress that all children are special and unique in their own right. Explaining that, as parents, when you have a girl and a boy, you have a favorite girl and a favorite boy. If you have two boys and two girls, then you have a favorite eldest boy and a favorite baby boy, the same for the girls. You may also relate it to talents, like a favorite soccer ball player or favorite fashion diva.

With the divorce rate such as it is, many children do not have the same grandparents by blood. This can present special problems in curbing favoritism by grandparents and even more complicated is the question of what to do when there is a vast difference in the financial circumstances of the grandparents and their ability to spoil their grandchildren. As the parents, you should discuss your concerns and take a unified stand about how these matters can be handled fairly for all of your children.

It may also be necessary or even easier on everyone concerned to seek help outside of the family through family counseling services. Some people are just oblivious to the emotional strain that they are causing to all members of their family through their actions and while the child may not be the grandparent’s favorite, they probably don’t intend to do harm. Oftentimes a third party can make all the difference because they are able to offer objective advice and they are trained to guide family members into changing their own behavior.