What Can Grandparents Do About Overprotected Grandchildren?

Grandparent Denied Opportunity to Care For, Bond With Grandchidren

overprotective parents can spark conflict with grandparents
Most grandparents want nothing more than to get their hands on their grandchildren. Photo © Sappington Todd | Getty Images


A Reader Asks

What Can Grandparents Do About Overprotected Grandchildren?

I am the grandmother of two, one almost two years old and one five months old. I used to babysit my oldest granddaughter when she was younger; however, I was not allowed to take her anywhere. My daughter didn't want my husband or me to take her anywhere in the car. Also, she has never brought either of them to our house, not ever!

Now that the second one has been born, my son-in-law and daughter are taking both of them to work with them six days a week, which means we don't see them. They own a restaurant, and the grandchildren are are in a small room off the kitchen or in their infant or booster seats. If we go there, we are not allowed to take them out of their seats or hold them. My daughter insists they are happy being there, yet I recently read reviews on the place and the person mentioned a screaming or crying baby in the back.

I feel sad that, unless things change, the children are not going to know their grandparents, and we are not going to be around forever. I tried to explain to my daughter how she was making it difficult for us to be grandparents. Her response was, "It's not about you." She became angry and did not talk to me for awhile and wouldn't allow me to see the grandchildren. I adore the oldest one.

She is my first grandchild, and I was there when she was born. I have been unable to develop a bond with the youngest for obvious reasons. Am I crazy, or is this a case of overprotective parents?


It certainly sounds as if your grandchildren are being overprotected. Perhaps your daughter and her husband have developed an unreasonable fear of something happening to their children.

From your description of the children being kept in a confined area and often kept in their infant or booster seats, it sounds as if that could be the case.

Although the idea of harm coming to their children is terrifying for most parents, few of them go to the lengths that your daughter and son-in-law have resorted to. In fact, many parents rely on grandparents for child care. Research indicates that grandchildren may be safer in a grandparent's car than in a parent's. Another study suggests that children suffer fewer injuries when in a grandparent's care than when being cared for by a stay-at-home mom. Obviously every case is different, but children need grandparents, and there is no reason for parents to keep children away from grandparents who are in good health and conscientious about caregiving.

Unfortunately, from my research into grandparents' rights, I can tell you that you have very little legal recourse. The law gives parents the right to make most decisions about their children. If they go to court, grandparents have the burden of proving that contact with them is in the best interest of the child. In some states, they must prove that the child will suffer harm if denied contact with a grandparent.

When grandparents have not been given the opportunity to create a relationship with a grandchild, it is difficult to meet either of these standards. 

The only course of action that I can think of is to have someone intercede on your behalf. Do you know of a trusted adult such as a pastor or other family member who could do this for you? It sounds as if the situation is not only hard for you but also unhealthy for your grandchildren.

Response From Another Reader: This does not sound like a healthy parenting situation at all. It sounds as if they keep the children in a very confined area at the restaurant. Children need room to exercise, and they need new experiences outside of the same four walls. Who better to provide for those needs than grandparents? I hope they wake up soon and realize that they are not making the best choices for their kids.

Adapted from a post in the Grandparents Forum. See more questions from readers.