7 Shocking Signs You Might Be a Toxic Grandparent

Are you a toxic grandparent? Let’s find out together!

A relationship between adult children and their parents is never easy, especially if your children now have children of their own. You might be getting on your kids’ nerves because you organized their baby gear while they were away, or maybe you slipped the kids a few extra treats before school or after dinner. It’s not a big deal to bicker with your children every once in a while, but what happens if you start being hypercritical or defiant? That will surely cause problems in your family.

In the worst-case scenario, your children might tell you that you’re a toxic grandparent, and it’s best if you stay away for a while. I’m sure that’s not something you want, so we’ve talked to experts about all the signs that indicate you’re a toxic grandparent and how to avoid them. There might be some bumps down the road here and there, but it’s important to learn how to solve a conflict, not accelerate it. You only want what’s best for your family, right? So, let’s not keep this intro any longer because we have important things to talk about. Are you a toxic grandparent? Read these telltale signs to find out!

toxic grandparent
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1. You use emotional manipulation

One of the first indicators of being a toxic grandparent is when you use emotional manipulation to get what you want. Your family might not want or be able to give you something, but you start using different tricks to make them change their mind.

For instance, if you cook something and your family enjoys it but can’t take leftovers home, you start saying things like, “But I’ve made it for you, or “But I worked so hard for this, and now my entire body hurts.”

Understandably, you don’t feel good when they say no. Still, they have a reason, and one way to make the relationship beautiful and honest is by trying to understand one another and respect each other’s decisions.

2. You undermine your children’s authority

Trust me, I understand that you’re the older adult there, and it might be natural for you to say what’s right or wrong, but you should immediately stop it. If you tell your grandchildren not to pay attention to their parents’ rules, don’t respect the household’s rules, or go behind their backs to do things your way, you might be considered a toxic grandparent.

Just because you’re the oldest one there doesn’t mean it’s up to you to decide what’s right or wrong. Your children are capable adults, and they can handle things on their own. They also don’t need someone to undermine their authority, especially not in front of the youngsters.

You should all set some boundaries, be open to each other, and clarify your needs and expectations so there’s no confusion. It might take work, but it will be worth it.

toxic grandparent
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3. You might intimidate or manipulate

The third sign of a toxic grandparent we’ll talk about now is all about manipulation and intimidation. Experts say that adult children often complain about their senior parents for not admitting to making mistakes and not taking responsibility for their behavior.

Talking negatively about your children with your grandkids won’t do your relationship any good either. Another thing that makes you a toxic grandparent is playing favorites with the little ones. This will make the youngsters feel anxious and insecure, and it can interfere with their development.

Experts say that people who turn spouses or kids against each other, who try to turn a situation in their favor, or who always play the victim are toxic grandparents. The good news is that with patience, love, support, and willingness to make things better, this behavior can change. If you want to read more into it and learn how to be a better grandparent, I recommend you check out this book.

4. You don’t respect boundaries

Disrespecting boundaries is another trait of a toxic grandparent, and it can be hard to deal with. As you already know, everyone has their own boundaries, and since your children have kids of their own, they need to set rules.

Toxic grandparents don’t care about these rules, and they’ll show up unannounced; they’ll start moving things around because their way is better; they might tell grandchildren to eat something their parents disapprove of; and they might also have emotional outbursts when something doesn’t go their way.

While setting boundaries is easy, holding them firmly is the tricky part, and you need support and patience to make things work. If you have a hard time respecting your children’s rules, remember that they also have their families now, and if you want to be a part of it, you have to meet them in the middle.

5. Your children are scared to confront you

Confrontation is never easy or enjoyable, but if you have a bit of an attitude, your children might prefer to keep quiet rather than say something, even if it’s not okay for them. As you already know, communication is key in every relationship, and as hard as it might be, it’s always a smart idea to lay all the cards on the table and address any uncomfortable situation.

My daughter told me about her friend’s mother-in-law, and it got me thinking about how a toxic grandparent behaves. As loving and nurturing as that grandmother is, she always complains if one of her grandchildren doesn’t call (she never calls them first because she expects to be respected), she always complains about having pain but doesn’t want to go to the doctor, and her kids got sick of this.

As you can imagine, she was upset because she was avoided, and she kept gossiping about the child who doesn’t call with the child who calls. It might be hard to understand, but she does the same thing to her grandchildren, and in my opinion, that’s toxic grandparent behavior.

toxic grandparent
Photo by Ruslan Huzau from shutterstock.com

6. You don’t want to change

If your children or grandkids keep telling you that what you say or how you act hurts them, and you don’t even listen or take any action to change it, it’s a sign of toxic grandparent behavior. There’s nothing wrong with having different opinions or parenting styles, but if you can’t meet each other in the middle, it can trigger several problems in your family.

Of course, everyone has their own version of the story, and it’s important not to pin the blame but listen, explain what made you feel a specific way or why you acted in a particular manner, and try to change things to improve the relationships in your family.

7. You’re jealous

Did you know that jealousy is another sign of being a toxic grandparent? Everyone feels jealous every once in a while, but if it’s taken to the extreme, it’s not healthy. Here’s an example to help you understand this situation better: you get envious when your grandchildren have deep ties with others, especially relatives. Understandably, you want to feel close to your little ones, but you don’t need to force anything to happen, but rather be happy that they get along with other members of the family as well.

Some toxic grandparents see these relationships as threats to their own, and they might resort to weird behaviors, mainly manipulation tactics, to feel closer to their grandchildren. If that’s your case, take a step back, relax, and analyze the situation. What’s actually bothering you? When you have the answer to your problem, you’ll know how to address it and how to have a happy and fulfilling relationship with your children and grandchildren.

Do you know any other signs that indicate toxic grandparent behavior? Let us know in the comments below! If you enjoyed reading this article and you’d like to check out something else from Psychology Diary, here’s a good article for you: Subtle Signs of Dementia: 6 Important Things You Need to Know




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