'Undermined': Almost half of parents clash with grandparents about raising kids

Nearly half of the parents surveyed reported disagreeing over parenting styles with grandparents.
Nearly half of the parents surveyed reported disagreeing over parenting styles with grandparents.  Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Going to grandma and grandpa's house is always a bit exciting - extra dessert, oodles of TV and maybe even a later bedtime.

Harmless enough, right? Not if the results of a new study are anything to go by. 

Nearly half of all parents revealed they have disagreements with grandparents about their parenting styles and decisions -  with one in seven going so far as to limit the amount of time their child sees certain grandparents.

The poll was led by researchers at the C.S Mott Children's Hospital, which questioned over 2000 parents of children aged 18 and younger in the United States.

Participants are surveyed three times a year on various topics, with the latest survey honing in on disagreements with grandparents.  

Researchers found that 57 per cent of the disputes were over discipline issues - with 40 per cent indicating grandparents were too soft on children, while 14 per cent were noted as being overly harsh. 

Other common disagreements revolved around what to feed children (44 per cent) and of course the thorny issues of screen time (35 per cent) and bedtime (21 per cent).

The main disagreements were over discipline.

The main disagreements were over discipline. Photo: Getty Images

The report also showed that almost 90 per cent of children see at least one grandparent often or occasionally - with 15 per cent admitting all these arguments were having a negative effect on their child's relationship with grandparents.


Sarah Clark, the director of the Mott Poll at the University of Michigan said although grandparents play a special role in children's lives, having different ideas on how to raise kids can cause tension.

"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," she said.

"Or when grandparents are too strict in forbidding children to do things that parents have okayed."

In many cases, parents have tried to get grandparents to be more respectful of their parenting choices and household rules. These requests have mixed results - with about half of grandparents making a distinct change in their behaviour t and 17 per cent refusing. 

"If grandparents contradict or interfere with parenting choices, it can have a serious strain on the relationship," Clark said. "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."