by Jay Payleitner
Adapted from his book, Hooray for Grandparents!

For the most part, this website is filled with ideas and encouragement for grandparents about things to do with and for their grandkids, as well as strategies that bring joy, connect generations, and make memories. I know you appreciate those calls to action for grammies and gramps. However, this blogpost does the opposite.

Let’s call it twenty things NOT to do.

Some of these actions to be avoided may not apply to your particular family. Some are mere minor missteps. Some are way worse. The list really should be self-explanatory. If you’re not sure, ask your grandchildren’s mom and dad. I promise they will have opinions.


  1. Post photos of your grandkids on social media without permission.
  2. Indulge grandkids with unlimited junk food.
  3. Offer ancient and outdated parenting advice (unless it’s requested).
  4. Grimace at the name of the new baby.
  5. Let the grandkids get away with murder. (You know what I mean.)
  6. Take a young grandchild to get their hair cut or ears pierced. Or any of life’s firsts.
  7. Ignore the parents’ dietary instructions for the children.
  8. Hint, suggest, or demand they give you another grandchild.
  9. Give more support, encouragement and love to your grandsons than your granddaughters—or vice versa.
  10. Ignore the potty-training regimen established by Mom and Dad.
  11. Permit grandchildren to watch forbidden, graphic, or scary stuff.
  12. Teach them naughty and insensitive words—even inadvertently.
  13. Overlook the car seat mandate.
  14. Serve alcohol or weed to your underage grandkids. Or overserve yourself while they are in your care. (It might seem unthinkable, but it happens.)
  15. Neglect new research regarding infant sleeping and child safety.
  16. Comment negatively on your grandchild’s weight, acne, attention span, clothing choices, prescriptions, or other issues that Mom and Dad are already aware of.
  17. Badmouth relatives (especially your grandchild’s other grandparents!).
  18. Initiate conversations about death, sex, family finances, or estranged family members with your grandchildren—unless the parents are completely aware and on board.
  19. Interrogate your grandchildren about what’s up with their mom and dad.
  20. Give a drum kit, trampoline, iPhone, pet, or some other overwhelming gift without permission.

A little common sense should help you avoid all of these blunders. Or maybe this list doesn’t sit well with you.

Do you regularly find yourself on a completely different page than your grandchildren’s parents?

Take heart; you’re not alone and your instincts are probably exactly right. Still, unless it’s cruel or physically dangerous, Mom and Dad’s rules and expectations take precedence over Grandma and Grandpa’s.

On the other hand, your grandchild’s parents may be struggling in their own way with many of the issues reflected above. You might be the exact right sounding board for your son, daughter, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law. In your own way, let them know they can come to you for nonjudgmental advice on health issues, prescription meds, religious education, childhood obesity, eating disorders, keeping teenagers safe, and other sensitive areas. Once they broach the topic, then feel free to deliver humble wisdom, promising to keep it confidential.

Just to confirm, there are things you may think are no big deal, but might be just about unforgivable to your daughter or daughter-in-law. The best (or worst) example might be taking your toddler grandson on his first trip to the barber for a buzz cut of his beautiful curly hair. Yikes!

Read more from Jay at Grandkids Matter here.

Which of these 20 items is a challenge for you? What would you add? Share your experiences and wisdom on our Facebook page here.


Jay Payleitner is a best-selling author of Hooray for Grandparents! and more than a dozen other books on marriage, family, and doing life right, including 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, 52 Ways to Connect as a Couple, and What If God Wrote Your Bucket List? His weekly podcast is called, “Getting Life Right.” He and his wife, Rita, live near Chicago, where they’ve raised five great kids (and now have eight grandkids) and have loved on ten foster babies. For information on booking Jay to speak at your next event, visit