Is your toddler more attached to grandmother so much that he clings to 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 more attached to grandmother.
Maybe grandma is his regular caregiver, watching him while you’re at work, or she dotes on him every chance she gets. She may even live in the same house, complicating boundaries even more.
But it still hurts when it feels like he’s rejecting you. Seeing him throw a fit because he’d rather be with her makes you feel like the worst mom in the world.
Toddler more attached to grandmother? Here’s how to cope:
How do you stop feeling terrible about your toddler bonding more with grandma, even borderline being obsessed with her?
Thankfully, you can cope and manage your emotions, despite the bruise on your ego. After all, you love that they have a strong relationship, 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 him, without disrupting their relationship.
1. Avoid giving in to your toddler’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 ready 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 do the job, regardless of the inconvenience.
As tempting as it is to simply have grandma change his diapers just to stop the 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 her stop washing the dishes just so she can change his diapers confirms that this is how it’s done.
Instead, acknowledge his preference (“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”).
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2. Focus on your toddler’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 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: she’s developing a bond with her grandma. Except your ego is tempting you to take it personally, or to strip them of their relationship.
Parenting isn’t always about us. Sometimes, we hold on to what we imagine parenting to be, or how our kids should behave. We take it personally when things don’t go as planned.
Instead, remind yourself that she loves you and, more important, you are and will always be her mom. Her relationship with grandma doesn’t discount her love for you as well.
Kids’ attachment to loving caregivers shows that they’re in capable, loving hands. Her tantrum about leaving grandma’s house isn’t a personal attack on you, but proof of how much she enjoys grandma.
Shift your focus back to your toddler. Be aware of your internal monologue and notice the jealousy stirring inside. Then, replace that with gratitude that she loves her grandma, or how lucky she is to have so many people who love her.
3. Nurture your own relationship with your toddler
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 scold 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 just about surviving the day-to-day, but actually enjoying his company as well.
and if attachment truly is an issue, then perhaps the relationship needs to be reevaluated, regardless of grandma.
Have you been working too much or gone for too long? Do you do too much housework that doesn’t allow you to spend time with him? Are you seen as “the bad guy” who does all the discipline?
Unless grandma is overstepping boundaries, don’t ask her to back down or discourage her from spending time with him. He has a place in his life for the both of you.
4. 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.
Watch the video below to learn three common ways grandma might be overstepping boundaries:
So, what can you do if those warning signs are present?
First, thank her for all she has done for your toddler, and that you value the strong relationship they’ve built. Then, make it clear that, for his benefit, she needs to be consistent with how you’re raising him, and encourage her to defer to you and your rules for the final decisions.
And lastly, let her know that turning discipline and parenting into a competition isn’t helping him in the long run. That he needs the both of you to be one united front to benefit from a stable, consistent upbringing.
5. Make transitions easier
Does your toddler stay at grandma’s house while you work, or does grandma leave your home once you arrive? Transitions can be difficult for all involved, especially when he throws a fit.
To make this part of the day smoother, have grandma “prepare” for pick up time every day. She might do a few calm activities like coloring with crayons or eating a light snack. They might even do the same things every day to signal your arrival.
Have grandma avoid starting anything new or exciting a few minutes before you come to pick him up, especially since he’ll have to leave so soon after. Every few minutes before you arrive, have her give him a “heads up” so he isn’t so shocked that he has to leave.
And finally, remind him that he’ll get to see her again the next day. You can even remind him that he can work on that new puzzle or craft right when he get there the following morning.
It’s never easy seeing your toddler prefer someone else over you, outright throwing a fit because he’d rather be with grandma. It’s enough to question your relationship with him, and even your very own motherhood skills.
Rest assured, friend, he will always love you, even if he has a strong attachment to grandma.
You see, being attached to her is a sign that he has a healthy attachment to you. Only once a child can establish attachment to his primary caregiver (you) do they have the courage to explore other bonds and relationships.
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 his unreasonable demands, as this only cements the idea that grandma should do everything for him.
Think of this as a “good problem” to have: his attachment means he’s in capable hands, and that he’s loved by many.
Get more tips:
- Toddler Not Listening? 10 Things You Need to Do
- 5 Tips to Handle a Clingy Toddler
- How to Tell Grandparents to Stop Spoiling
- 8 Warning Signs You Need to Be a More Patient Mom
- What to Do When Your Child Says No to Everything
Struggling with your toddler’s strong-willed temperament? Download my PDF, 5 Tips to Raising a Strong-Willed Child and discover 5 ways to nurture and work with—not against—his inner spirit and strong personality. Join my newsletter and get it here—at no cost to you.