Is your toddler attached to grandma so much that he prefers her over you? Learn how to cope with your emotions and discover the REAL issues to focus on.
It’s the feeling that stings every mom: the sight of her child pushing her away in favor of someone else. Even if that someone else is grandma.
At every opportunity, your toddler dives into her arms. He has a meltdown when she leaves the room, even if you’re right next to him.
Meanwhile, you’re struggling to put on a brave face, even though inside it hurts to see your toddler attached to grandma.
Maybe grandma is his regular caregiver, watching him while you’re at work. Or perhaps she loves to dote on him every chance she gets. She may even live in the same house, complicating boundaries even more.
But it still stings when it feels like your child is rejecting you. Seeing him throw a fit because he’d rather be with grandma makes you feel like the worst mom in the world.
Toddler attached to grandma? What to do
How do you stop feeling terrible and perhaps even rekindle the same kind of bond they have with your child?
Thankfully there are ways to cope and manage your emotions. After all, you love the relationship they have and appreciate grandma’s help. And you definitely don’t want to deny either one of each other’s company.
But you can find ways to ease your feelings and develop your own bond with your toddler, without disrupting his relationship with grandma.
1. Ease your ego by focusing on your child’s well-being
Each time your toddler clings to grandma or runs into her arms instead of yours, your ego feels threatened. It’s screaming inside, wanting you to put it in the forefront.
But often, parenting toddlers is about doing what’s best for our kids, even if doing so can hurt us and our egos.
Take a look at what’s happening without your ego playing a part: your child is developing a bond with his grandma. Your ego is tempting you to take it personally or to strip them of their relationship.
Instead, remind yourself that your son loves you and, more importantly, that you are and will always be his mom. He has a relationship with grandma that at this point is dear to him for whatever reason he may have. That doesn’t discount his love for you as well.
Be aware of your internal monologue and notice the jealousy stirring inside. Then, replace that with gratitude that he loves his grandma, or how lucky he is to have so many people who love him.
2. Nurture your own relationship with your child
It’s easy to see your toddler’s attachment to grandma as a competition. You might feel driven to outdo what she does, or even to scold him or react in a way that might “punish” him for preferring her.
Instead of thinking of his love as a finite, limited source (AKA a competition), focus on nurturing your own relationship with him.
Carve out one-on-one time with just the two of you, from simple daily tasks to fun weekend adventures. Create special rituals like bedtime snuggles or reading books together.
Use regular moments in your day to connect with him, so that it’s not simply about surviving the day-to-day, but actually enjoying your child as well.
And unless grandma is overstepping boundaries, don’t ask her to back down or discourage her from spending time with your child. He has a place in his life for the both of you.
3. Discuss and establish boundaries with grandma
Speaking of which, let’s talk boundaries.
So far I’ve shared tips on how to manage your own feelings, assuming that grandma hasn’t done anything that might step on toes. But perhaps you do notice that her behavior and intentions aren’t aligned with how you believe they should.
Take a look at three common ways grandma might be overstepping boundaries:
- She disregards your rules and parenting methods. Maybe you’re adamant about not letting the kids watch television, but she continues to allow it, especially since doing so seems to win favor with your child. Make it clear that, for your child’s benefit, she needs to be consistent with how you’re raising him.
- She calls the shots even when you’re present. On the flip side, maybe grandma has taken it upon herself to discipline your child and call the shots, even though you’re in the same room. It can be hard for her to “turn off” the discipline mode, but she also needs to defer to you to make decisions once you’re home.
- She competes for your child’s attention and preference. Feeling stung by jealousy is made worse if grandma is encouraging your child’s preference for her. Let her know that as much as you appreciate all she has done and their relationship, turning it into a competition isn’t helping your child.
4. Avoid giving in to your child’s unreasonable demands
Let’s say your toddler needs a diaper change. He’s clamoring for grandma to change him, but she’s busy in the kitchen washing dishes. Meanwhile, you’re available and more than willing to do the job.
Except… he throws a fit. He wants grandma to do it, not you. It’s not just diaper changes, either. For nearly every task, he prefers grandma to mom do the job, regardless of how convenient it may be.
As tempting as it is to simply have grandma change his diapers just to stop his tantrums, don’t. For one thing, having grandma do everything may not be convenient or possible. In our example, she was busy doing the dishes while you had your hands free.
And second, agreeing to his unreasonable demands only cements the idea that grandma is the preferred person after all. Going through the trouble of having grandma stop washing the dishes just so she can change his diapers confirms that this is how it’s done.
Instead, acknowledge your child’s preference for grandma (“I know you like it when grandma changes your diapers…”). Then gently but firmly explain the reason (“…but grandma is washing dishes right now, so I’ll change your diapers”).
Struggling with your toddler’s strong-willed temperament? Join my newsletter and download my PDF, 5 Tips to Raising a Strong-Willed Child and discover 5 ways to nurture and work with—not against—your child’s inner spirit and strong personality. Get it here—at no cost to you:
It’s never easy seeing your child prefer someone else over you. And not just prefer, but outright throw a fit because he’d rather be with grandma. It’s enough to question your relationship with your child, and even your very own motherhood skills.
Rest assured, friend, your child will always love you, even if he has a strong attachment to grandma. Be more aware of the feelings that stir inside and how your ego is making you feel threatened. Rather than trying to undo their relationship, focus on how you can nurture your own with him.
If you find that grandma is overstepping boundaries, have a clear discussion on your expectations while hearing her out as well. And avoid giving in to your toddler’s unreasonable demands, as this only cements the idea that grandma should do everything for him.
Think of it as a “good problem” to have: his attachment means he’s in capable, loving hands, and his fussiness is proof he enjoys spending time with grandma.
Get more tips:
- 5 Tips to Handle a Clingy Toddler
- How to Tell Grandparents to Stop Spoiling
- What to Do When Your Child Says No to Everything
- What to Do with Grandparents Trying to Parent Your Kids
- 5 Tips to Raising a Strong-Willed Child
Tell me in the comments: Is your toddler attached to grandma? What are the feelings that come up? What are your tips for coping with them?
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