When Grandmother Is Trying To Be Mother: Setting Ground Rules Between Moms and Grandmas

You love your mother, and you cherish the role she plays as a grandmother to your child. But what do you do when grandma starts acting more like a second mother, and less like a grandparent?

This article dives deep into navigating the intricate relationship dynamics between mothers, grandmothers, and grandchildren.

You’ll find tips on how to set boundaries, deal with conflicts, and preserve a loving environment for everyone involved.

Why is Grandma Acting Like Mom?

Understanding why a grandmother might begin acting like a mother to her grandchild is essential.

Often, it’s a complex blend of emotional attachment, experience in raising children, and sometimes, unrequested enthusiasm.

Since she was a mother before becoming a grandmother, there’s a wealth of knowledge and habits that are hard to shake off.

However, it’s important to differentiate between the roles to avoid conflict.

How to Set Boundaries with Grandma

Setting boundaries is crucial when grandma starts taking on a more parental role. An open conversation about ground rules, expectations, and even the family’s privacy policy can help make things clear.

It may be a difficult conversation to have, especially if grandma wants or always insists on her way of doing things. However, open dialogue can save a lot of heartache down the line.

Should Grandmothers Criticize Parenting Styles?

Criticism from a grandmother can be tough to take, especially if it negatively impacts your confidence as a mother.

If your mother or mother-in-law begins to criticize your parenting methods, let her know that while you appreciate her experience, you also have your way of doing things.

The grandmother role is different from the mother role, and it’s crucial to remember that.

How Can Mothers and Grandmothers Cooperate?

Cooperation between mothers and grandmothers can bring much joy to a child’s upbringing. One avenue for this is consultation.

For example, if you’ve hit a snag in potty-training your toddler, it might be helpful to consult grandma for advice, especially if she’s had success in that area.

Similarly, a grandma might defer to the mother’s choice of preschool or daycare for the grandchild.

What Should Grandma Do if She Disagrees?

Disagreements are bound to occur. Instead of trying to undermine the mother, grandmothers need to remember that their role is supportive, not parental.

If there’s a strong disagreement, say over whether to let your children watch certain TV shows or not, then it’s a good time for grandma to step back and respect the mother’s decision.

How to Keep the Peace in Times of Conflict

Conflict between a mother and grandmother can be stressful for everyone, especially the grandchild. It makes everyone upset.

To minimize conflict, keep the lines of communication open. Address issues ahead of time, so they don’t escalate.

If grandma oversteps her boundary, it’s important for the mother to let her know in a respectful but firm manner.

Is it Ok to Spoil the Grandkids?

One common issue between mothers and grandmothers is the tendency to spoil the grandkids. While it’s part of grandma’s role to indulge the grandchildren to some extent, there should be limits.

Excessive spoiling can interfere with the child’s schedule and undermine parental authority. It’s okay to spoil, but in moderation.

Do Grandmothers Undermine Parents?

The intention might not always be to undermine, but sometimes it can feel that way, particularly when grandmas buy whatever the child wants or completely disregard the parents’ ground rules.

To avoid this, always discuss these issues ahead of time. That way, everyone knows the expectations, and there’s less room for conflict.

How to Cherish the Time with Grandma

Amidst setting boundaries and handling disagreements, don’t forget to cherish the time your child spends with their grandmother.

Grandmothers provide a different perspective, much love, and a loving environment that should be valued. Encourage your kids to enjoy their time with grandma, as it is a relationship that both should cherish.

Helpful Tips for Navigating the Mother-Grandmother Relationship

Navigating the relationship between a mother and a grandmother can sometimes be tricky but it’s an important endeavor for the sake of family harmony and the well-being of the child involved.

Whether you’re the mother or the grandmother, establishing a positive relationship requires patience, understanding, and good communication.

Below are some helpful tips that can aid both parties in maintaining a healthy relationship.

Establish Clear Boundaries

The first step in maintaining a good relationship between a mother and a grandmother is setting clear boundaries.

These could be related to anything from how much time the grandchild spends at grandma’s house to what kind of snacks are permissible.

It’s important for the mother to make these boundaries clear, but also for the grandmother to respect them. Setting boundaries can prevent situations where the grandmother might overstep her role, which can lead to conflict.

Be Open to Dialogue

Issues and disagreements are bound to arise. Instead of bottling up feelings or letting disagreements escalate, it’s healthier to be open to dialogue.

Make time to sit down and talk about whatever concerns you might have. Both the mother and the grandmother should be willing to listen to the other’s perspective.

Offer and Accept Help Graciously

Grandmothers have a wealth of experience in raising children, which can be invaluable for a new mother. However, there’s a fine line between offering assistance and appearing to undermine the mother’s ability.

Offering help or advice should be done tactfully and accepting help should not be seen as a sign of weakness or incapability.

Pick Your Battles Wisely

Not every disagreement needs to turn into a full-blown conflict. For instance, if grandma lets the kids watch an extra 30 minutes of TV but adheres to all the other ground rules you’ve set, it might be worth letting it slide.

However, bigger issues like a differing stance on discipline methods should be addressed directly and openly.

Show Mutual Respect

This goes without saying, but often needs to be reiterated. The mother should respect the grandmother for her experience and the role she plays in her grandchild’s life, and the grandmother should respect the mother’s wishes and parenting choices.

This mutual respect will form the basis of a harmonious relationship.

Acknowledge Each Other’s Roles

Both the mother and grandmother play unique, irreplaceable roles in a child’s life. While a mother provides direct care and guidance, a grandmother offers additional support, wisdom, and oftentimes, a bit of spoiling.

Acknowledging the importance of each other’s roles can add more love and respect to the relationship.

Make Time for Family

Sometimes the best way to improve a relationship is to spend quality time together.

Planning family outings or dinners where both mother and grandmother are present can provide a neutral setting to build a better relationship and make cherished memories.

Communicate Directly

If you have concerns or something you’re wanting to say, it’s usually better to communicate this directly rather than going through other family members or discussing it on forums like Reddit.

This direct communication minimizes misunderstandings and promotes a healthier relationship.

By following these tips, both mothers and grandmothers can navigate their roles more effectively, ensuring not just a peaceful coexistence but a thriving family dynamic that benefits everyone involved, especially the grandchild.

In Conclusion

Remember, the relationship between a mother, grandmother, and grandchild is one that should be cherished and respected by all parties involved.

By setting clear boundaries, keeping the lines of communication open, and respecting each other’s roles, you can ensure a loving, nurturing environment for your child.

Key Takeaways:

  • Setting boundaries is crucial for a peaceful relationship.
  • Open communication helps prevent conflicts and misunderstandings.
  • Both roles are different but equally important. Cherish the time and the love that grandmothers bring into your child’s life.
  • Pick your battles wisely and know when to step back.
  • Above all, always aim for a loving environment for the grandchild, one that nurtures and respects all relationships.



1: How can I set boundaries with my mother or mother-in-law without offending her?

Answer: Communication is key. Approach the conversation with empathy and a willingness to listen. Start by acknowledging her good intentions and express your own needs respectfully.

The goal isn’t to lay down the law but to find a middle ground that respects both parties.

2: My mother criticizes my parenting style. How should I handle it?

Answer: Criticism can be tough, but try not to take it personally. Let your mother know that while you value her experience and opinion, you have your own parenting style and choices.

It might be a good idea to provide specific examples of where her criticism has crossed the line so she understands your point of view.

3: Is it okay for grandmothers to spoil their grandchildren?

Answer: A little spoiling is generally considered one of the “perks” of being a grandparent. However, it shouldn’t disrupt the child’s schedule or undermine your parental authority.

Make sure to communicate clearly what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to spoiling.

4: How can I maintain peace during disagreements between my mother and me regarding my child?

Answer: Open, respectful communication is crucial. If a disagreement arises, calmly discuss the issue and try to find common ground.

It may also help to establish some general ground rules ahead of time to prevent such conflicts from arising in the first place.

5: My mother tends to overstep her role and acts like she’s the mother to my child. What should I do?

Answer: It’s important to clarify roles. Kindly but firmly let her know where the boundaries lie between a mother and a grandmother.

Remind her that while her input is valuable, the final decisions regarding your child’s upbringing are yours to make.

6: How can I ensure my child cherishes the time spent with their grandmother?

Answer: Encourage a healthy relationship by planning activities that they can do together, or even simply by spending quality time.

Make sure to also communicate the importance of the grandparent-grandchild relationship to your child. A balanced relationship with clear boundaries will more naturally lead to cherished moments.



This post is written and edited by Sandy who is a clinical pharmacist with over 20 years of experience specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.