My House, My Rules: Disciplining Your Grandchildren

The words discipline love and time spelled out with scrabble tiles

What’s your role as a grandparent in disciplining your grandchildren?

Do you feel you have permission to discipline your grandchildren when you’re in charge?

Do you feel like your kids think you are somehow not even qualified to discipline these days?

Do you feel frustrated about this subject?


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Welcome to the club of disciplining your grandchildren!

We grandparents walk a fine line when it comes to this kind of stuff. We want our grandchildren to mind when we discipline and our children NOT to mind when we do. See what I mean? Fine line!

If you’ve read anything else on this blog, you probably already know that one of my favorite movies is Parental Guidance. If you haven’t seen it, I HIGHLY recommend you do! It really emphasizes the generation gap that you may be feeling when it comes to disciplining your grandchildren. . .or even relating to them!

In the movie, Bette Midler (grandma) and Billy Crystal (Artie – instead of grandpa) find themselves in charge of their grandchildren who live in another state. As they begin this week-long adventure, they realize that their daughter disapproves of their parenting skills and that these grandchildren are a bit “high maintenance.” Their daughter tries to quickly educate them on the “new, more accepted” way to deal with children. She also throws in some advice about conflict management. The daughter also points out that they should tell the kids to “use their words” and allow the children freedom of choice. . .and of course, this means catering to their every command – no matter how outrageous.

Needless to say, this movie is a comedy so all of this comes off very funny. However, I don’t think I was laughing just because it was funny; I was laughing because it was TRUE!!!

The Generation Gap When Disciplining Your Grandchildren

There seems to be such a gap in the way we used to deal with our children and the way parents deal with their children these days. Well, I’m not going to mince words here – it’s garbage!! There is a lack of respect and a lack of courage to actually discipline at all sometimes. Discipline is nothing more than teaching people (in this case, little people) to obey rules and understand proper behavior. What’s wrong with that???

On the whole, we are turning out a generation of disrespectful, entitled little divas. (Again, watch Parental Guidance. . .you’ll see what I mean.) So, what’s the solution?


People who remember what it was like not to be a short-order cook and everyone ate their meal anyway. People who understand that not giving in to a child’s every whim means “I love you enough to make sure you understand that life is a give and take proposition.” People who get the idea that a little well-placed discipline turns out pretty well-behaved children who grow up to be pretty great adults.

So, there are two aspects to this here. There is what happens when your grandchildren are visiting with their parents. Then there are times when you are solely in charge of the Littles when the parents aren’t there. These may differ a bit because when the parents are present, they should be the ones disciplining your grandchildren (but respecting the rules of your home while doing it). However, when you are in charge, then you have to take charge.


Girl sitting in corner pouting - Disciplining your grandchildren - Adventures in NanaLand

5 Rules to Follow When Disciplining Your Grandchildren

While I am no expert, experience has taught me a few things. Let me share my top 5 pieces of advice:

  1. Talk It Over With Your Children (a.k.a. The Parents)

Communicate with your children ahead of using any discipline. After all, they are your grandchildren’s parents and have the ultimate say on how to deal with their children. Decide together what gives the most consistency and support to them as parents and their rules at home.

Remember that your in-law children did not grow up in your home and may have a different idea of how to deal with children. Talk it out, but most of all. . .LISTEN! If you listen with the intent to understand and develop a plan, you leave out all the guess work and hurt feelings. You don’t want to alienate your children over this! And. . .trust me, you WILL if you don’t work together on this one.

  1. My House, My Rules!

So, this may seem a little contrary to the first one I gave you. However, we are now talking specifically about your home. You have the right to set up rules in your own home that must be obeyed. These are likely the same rules your children grew up with. So there shouldn’t be any big surprises.

For instance, if your children allow their children to stand or jump on furniture in their home, but that is not allowed in your home, you have the right to expect that rule to be obeyed in your home. The best advice I can give you about this is to set CLEAR expectations up front. It will save a lot of heartache on the back end when disciplining your grandchildren. That leads us to the next one. . .

  1. Set Expectations and Consequences

Now that you have talked to your children and have understood their point of view, set up the expectations and consequences for the grandchildren. (Let me interrupt for just a second. . .I am going to assume at this point that you and your spouse are already on the same page. This presents a bit of a problem for those who weren’t on the same page when their own kids were growing up. However, that is a whole other topic that needs more than just a good blog post. . .it might need some therapy. 😉 )

I think you get the point. Everyone needs to be on the same page so there isn’t contention there either. Then, make it clear that the expectations and consequences are set up and you WILL enforce both.

  1. Follow Through and Be Consistent

Are you ready for this next part? Be sure you are prepared to follow through. If you aren’t true to your word, no one will obey your rules and you will be frustrated.  If you are consistent, you should have no problem with either group – your children or grandchildren.

However, this does come with one word of warning:  It’s hard!  (Okay. . .so that was two words.) There was no harder thing for me than when I had to discipline one of my Littles that first time. It broke my heart. But that child (and all the ones after) still love me and LOVE being in our home. They have each told us how much they love being with us. . .rules and all! As a matter of fact, I believe that because we have structure in our home, the Littles feel secure when they are with us.

The words discipline, love, talk, clean, and time spelled out with scrabble tiles - Disciplining your grandchildren - Adventures in NanaLand

  1. Love! Love! Love!

I have heard that although we may need to discipline with sharpness at times, we should show an increase of love to that person afterward. It sounds like good advice to me! I can tell you from experience that it works. If your grandchildren understand that the discipline is a consequence of their actions and not a reflection of your love or approval of them as a person, then your relationship will be strengthened.

So, that’s my best advice about disciplining your grandchildren. Good communication is the key! Be clear, consistent and loving. It will go a long way to build and strengthen those family relationships.

Do you have some other advice to add to this? We would love to hear it! We’re always looking for ways to improve our relationships with our family.

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6 thoughts on “My House, My Rules: Disciplining Your Grandchildren”

  1. When either of my grandchildren (cousins, a boy aged 3 1/2 and a girl aged 4 1/2) is with us without their parents, they seem to be able to understand the rules of the household just fine. They eat what’s put in front of them (although I definitely keep in mind their preferences), they don’t jump on the furniture, they seldom whine. When they’re here with their parents, it’s an entirely different story. Our granddaughter turns into a drama queen at the most soft-spoken, mild criticism; our grandson refuses to eat things he’s enjoyed before, whines or repeats the same demand endlessly, and jumps on the furniture. It’s getting to the point where I dread family get-togethers because my children’s indulgence of their kids’ behaviour bothers me so much. A recent example: during a gathering at my daughter’s house, my son actually went out to the store because his son asked for a food not in the house (there were lots of other things on offer), but as I predicted, then refused to eat it. If that had been just us alone with the child at our house, I would have said, sorry, we don’t have any, and offered an alternative.

    1. Pat, I can really relate to this. I’m not sure if you have brought up the behavior change to your son/daughter. I have pointed it out to my children. I don’t know how your children would respond though. My children were surprised at first to hear it, but now we talk openly about the behavior differences when they are around versus when they are not. I’ve even talked to my grandchildren about it and asked them why they act so differently around their parents. They don’t seem to understand why they do it. All I know is that we stick to our rules in our home and our children seem to respect that. I don’t discipline their children when they are within range so I don’t overstep those boundaries. However, I don’t hesitate to remind the grandkids about the rules of Nana’s house. . .and that includes the fact that I am NOT a short-order cook. They eat what we’re all having or they can go hungry. I make sure they know it’s their choice. I’m sorry you’re struggling. Feel it out and see if having an open conversation would help the situation.

  2. Our grandchildren expect to use our home as a demolition site: Picking up and breaking every object they see, some which are sentimental items from our parents; using the inside of our home to play hide and seek, prowling through private areas of our bedrooms, snooping. Our daughter gave me her ‘rules’ for the treatment of her children. Don’t tell them no, don’t yell when they break something. Let them have permission to do anything they want. She told me my granddaughter is reluctant to come over because I don’t let them do as they please. I am not giving in to her whims, I told her “it’s my house, my rules, or hit the road”. And, as we were talking, my granddaughter broke a treasured item on the coffee table. She said, “it’s okay, it can be fixed”.

    1. Pat, I’m sorry to hear that your grandchildren cause chaos in your home. I’m even more sorry that your daughter condones their actions. It’s tough for many parents to stand up to their adult children for fear of losing privileges to see their grandchildren. Even still, they all need to respect you and your home. My advice would be to keep trying to reach an agreement with them, but don’t back down from requiring some respect especially in your own home.

      1. Jill, I have spoken to my son about it because he’s the main problem. He listens, but his indulgence toward his son doesn’t change. Because the little boy is only 3 1/2, and a young 3 1/2 at that, I see no point in talking to him about it, but he certainly has figured out that daddy is a soft touch. Both of my kids had their children very late (my son is 50 and my daughter is 47 with a 4 1/2-year-old) so perhaps that’s part of the problem. I was in my 20s and had no patience for kids who expected to be catered to.

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