Have you ever been accused of spoiling your grandkids? Many of us have been there.

We treasure those rewarding moments with them, and part of what makes them great is the feeling that those times are “just between us” … “our special secret.” So we talk about Grandma & Grandpa’s house as “Las Vegas,” and what happens there, stays there. The parents come to pick them up and ask what we did together, and we answer, “We had lots of fun” and we share a wink and a mischievous smile with the grandkids.

The idea of spoiling grandchildren has different meanings for different people.

I think we all agree that there’s unhealthy spoiling, where grandparents seem to lose control of all reason. They indulge the grandkids with sugary treats, give them free reign of the television or their own phones or tablets, let them stay up late, and so on.

It makes sense that this bothers the parents because time spent with Nana and Papa usually makes life more difficult for them. Afterward they have to try to restore the kids’ more normal and healthy routines, which they often resist adamantly. So Mom and/or Dad become the “bad guy” when they place boundaries and limits on behavior and privileges.

The parents may feel like the grandparents have little regard for the children’s health and well-being, and don’t appreciate their own daily struggle to raise responsible and well-adjusted kids. It’s easy to see how the parents might view the grandparents as people who are working against them, not teammates who are supporting their efforts with their kids.

It can have negative effects on the grandkids, too. They probably sense that their grandparents’ focus is more on the gifts and treats than on building a strong relationship, knowing who they are, and really doing what’s best for them.

But there’s also a better version of “spoiling.” This is where grandparents might give their grandkids treats and privileges to show how special they are and celebrate that relationship, but Grandpa and Grandma still do what’s best for the children. They know that all the fun and treats are still mostly consistent with the parents’ wishes.

(Mostly consistent because there is still a small element of “just between us,” and part of a grandparent’s role is to focus less on rules and behavior, and just enjoy the relationship. Some of that spoiling—within reason—is part of what makes the grandparent-grandchild relationship so amazing.)

We all need to find the right balance here. We love doing and giving things that make our grandkids’ faces light up with joy, but the treats are special because they aren’t constant or overwhelming, and so they’re more appreciated and remembered.

Maybe the best goal is to spoil our grandkids with unconditional love and care and encouragement. And in that case, we just keep pouring it on.

How do you find the right balance with your grandkids? Please share your insights with other grandparents on our Facebook page.