It’s a grandparent’s joy and privilege to spoil the grandkids … right? Many of us love to say, “What happens at Grandma’s stays at Grandma’s.” And some of that is what makes the relationship special and unique. But how do we know if we’re going too far? 

Here are a few good questions to ask:

  1. Does it bother the parents? In most cases, they are ultimately responsible for the kids’ health and well-being, and we need to always honor and cooperate with their wishes. 

Looking at the bigger picture, the parents are the “gatekeepers” in many ways to our grandparenting. If we support them as parents and reinforce their boundaries, then it’s very possible they’ll encourage more and more time for us with our grandchildren. But if they have to “detox” the grandkids after every time they’re around us because of sugary snacks we give them or behavior we allow them to get away with, then we’re only making the parents’ lives more difficult, and they won’t be excited about letting that happen again. But everyone wins when we support and cooperate with the parents.

  1. What’s the focus of our time with the grandkids? Is it mostly about showering them with gifts, treats and fun experiences, or are we really listening and building a relationship? For many of us, it’s rewarding to give gifts to make others happy, and the feeling is multiplied with grandchildren. There’s almost nothing we wouldn’t do to see them smiling and happy. But we have to make sure that “spoiling” isn’t the main way we’re relating to them. 

Kids can quickly pick up on whether we’re really interested in who they are and getting to know them better, or if we’re just kind of going through the motions. And if they get excited about what we give them and do for them, they’ll eventually figure out that the relationship lacks real connection. In effect we’re forfeiting much of the positive influence we could have in their lives through genuine encouragement and affirmation. 

Bottom line, the wrong kind of spoiling can leave kids feeling like we aren’t really interested in knowing who they are. But with genuine involvement and encouragement, we can’t give too much.

How do you “spoil” your grandkids in the right way? Join with other grandparents and share tips on our Facebook page.

This was adapted from Dr. Ken Canfield’s book, The HEART of Grandparenting. Find out more and get your copy here