Is your toddler more attached to grandmother so much that he clings to her? Learn how to cope 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 it hurts to see your toddler more attached to grandmother.
Maybe you’re a working mom and grandma is his regular caregiver, or she spoils him with little gifts too often. She may even live in the same house, complicating boundaries even more.
But the resentment is strong 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.
Here are a few practical steps to help you cope:
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 only 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 her 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 wrong idea that grandma is the preferred person. Going through the trouble of having her stop washing the dishes 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 feel attacked, or to strip them of their close 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’s in a safe place with 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 (a “competition”), focus on nurturing your own relationship with him.
Carve out “mommy and me” time with the two of you, from simple daily tasks to fun weekend adventures. Create a special time like bedtime cuddles 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.
And if attachment truly is an issue, then perhaps the relationship needs adjustments, 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 type of behavior isn’t aligned with how you believe they should.
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. Encourage her to follow your routine and family 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. He needs the both of you to be one united front to benefit from a stable, consistent upbringing.
Read more about how to establish grandparent boundaries.
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 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 returns 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) does he have the courage to explore other 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 Can 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
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and get 5 Tips to Raising a Strong-Willed Child here—at no cost to you.
I have 21 grandchildren. I am a present, involved, hands-on grandma to all of them. But I have a 15-month-old who is absolutely addicted to me. She wants me over everyone including her mother and clings to me when anyone, including her parents or cousins are around. It is been this way since birth., However now that she is able to demonstrate and vocalize what she wants, there is no doubt she wants me grandma only. If she is with me and her parents try to take her to go home she starts screaming, kicking and trying to hit them.. She has complete meltdowns when finally they do take her from my arms into theirs and just sobs. She gets extremely jealous when any of my other grandchildren want me to hold them or play with Them. For a while it was very cute, and I of course was loving it, but now I am very concerned about my daughters feelings and how it is affecting her. She is a very good mother, a much different mother than I am, but nonetheless a good stay at home mother. I don’t know whether to continue this precious relationship I have or to try to wean it just a little bit. I don’t think it’s possible. What can I do to assure my daughter that she’s a good mother and her baby loves her even though she refuses to be anywhere near her when I am around
Nina Garcia says
Hi Becky! It’s definitely a “good” problem to have, but a problem I’m sure you’d rather not have. I don’t think you should discontinue your relationship with your granddaughter, as this will only cause her even more anxiety and hurt. Instead, continue to love her just as you would your other grandchildren, taking care not to cave in to her demands and tantrums. For instance, if another cousin wants to sit on your lap but she insists otherwise, kindly but firmly hold your ground and explain through simple words and body language that it’s cousin’s turn to sit on your lap. Basically, don’t give preferential treatment in response to her meltdowns. Then, when you ARE with her, continue to love her as you always have, so that she knows that your love is constant, even when you’re apart, and never wavers even with several cousins to contend with.
As far as what to do with your daughter, I would continue to support and love her the way you always have. You might even ask her directly if there’s anything specific she’d like you to do to help ease the attachment. And take her cue with what to do when your granddaughter is having a meltdown, so that she knows she has your full support.
Hang in there, Becky! What a wonderful grandma you are, to 21 grandkids at that!
I can definitely tell you this, I have one son who is my entire world. He’s 2 and I stay at home with him, and he most definitely prefers my mom over me and it always stings. My mom enjoys the attention so much it makes it sting even worse. It so commendable that you would take the time to consider your daughters feelings in the situation. Just keep reminding her she’s awesome. At times when you can see it’s hurting her just remind her she’s a great mother and that she should take advantage of the break she’s getting when you’re there haha I think when this happens it’s even harder on us stay at home moms because our kiddos are all we put our time and energy in, it can make us feel like failures in a way.
People may not understand.that their child is gonna habe favoraye people . Why would parents want to take that away ? Kids are their own person. You raise children to be independant. And learn how to make decisions on their own as they become adults.
This sounds exactly like my grandaughter!
Sindhuja Prasad says
My son is turning two. And I have this beautiful problem of over obsessed grandma and granddad. So we live with my in laws. It’s really good for my son to be over poured with love from everywhere around. But I have started realising that my in laws have been differently and unknowingly intentional on my son that he has to prefer them. I have seen very mild gestures of these when he was months baby but ignored as I thought they just loved him so much. But of late, every step or rather I can say a feet I take away from him, they just take him away to their room and indulge him too much (but nothing very bad in terms of habits) just to ensure he likes them a lot over me. This I realised when their faces hurt when he enjoyed few moments with me. These have made it more difficult for me to manage his routine. Like just when I’m getting his food ready and come out of the kitchen to feed him, he is already with them. I know it’s a big deal now to make him understand he has to eat. They will neither say a word to go eat nor leave him down. Which makes it even more easier for him to escape. Similar things happen before bedtime as well. It’s been very tedious and feels like a competition for me to have my son on my side(to be in good mood with me) at least for the meal and bed times. Pls help.
Nina Garcia says
I hear you Sindhuja. It’s hard when good intentions get in the way of what’s best for the baby. I’m not sure what your in-laws’ motives are, but perhaps they tie their identity so much to being loved as grandparents, that if the baby shows preference for you, they take it personally. They see his attention as a zero-sum source, as if it were a limited thing, instead of something infinite and expanding. That love for one person doesn’t mean less love for another.
I would recommend you or your spouse speak to your in-laws about it, in a way that starts with appreciation and gratitude for all they do, but that you do notice behaviors that make it a competition, instead of realizing that there is no competition when it comes to loving a child, or a child loving those around him. You might even point to how this puts him in a bad position, as down the line, he’s given the unfair responsibility of having to “choose sides” among the people he loves the most. And you can also reassure them that you will always support a healthy relationship between child and grandparent so they don’t feel threatened.
Communicating with them is what’s needed here, rather than keeping things bottled up. And if need be, consider big changes in your life, such as moving out on your own as a family, where you’re better able to control the household (it’s especially hard if you live under their roof).
Hang in there, Sindhuja! Know that they come from a place of good intentions, but that there is no place for competition, jealousy, or hurt feelings when it comes to your baby’s affections. It’s not fair to him above all.
I found your article from googling 15 month old too attached to Grandma. I was so surprised to find other families experiencing the same dilemma.
My daughter and her family moved back home for a variety of reasons when she was pregnant with our last granddaughter. She’s a miracle baby that’s here against all odds.
I no longer work outside the home and became her primary caregiver when our daughter returned to work. There was also the fact my daughter has other children, including a special needs 8 year old that requires her attention so often time’s even when my daughter is home, I inadvertently had to step in to take care of the 15 month old when Mommy had other duties requiring her immediate attention. Our son in law is out of state a LOT from April- November.
As her primary caregiver, she’s become fiercely attached and cries for me even when Mommy and Daddy are home. I have tried making myself scarce to facilitate her spending quality time with her parents. I don’t overstep boundaries and have often TOLD them she was becoming too attached.
Only NOW, do they see this has become a serious issue and want to put my granddaughter in daycare a couple days a week. Our son chose to put HIS daughter in daycare, she’s 3 now and has been CONSTANTLY sick from picking up things at daycare.
I’m having really mixed emotions about this. It’s NOT her fault. As a mother to 3 healthy, happy, hard working adult children and a grandmother with almost 12 years experience I DO believe this to be something of a phase she WILL grow out of and doesn’t require the separation which I KNOW will cause my granddaughter a great deal of distress. Just picturing her crying being left behind with virtual strangers is honestly giving me nightmares. I was up ALL night with a horrible recurring nightmare that I could NOT stop.
I’ve never interfered with any of my children’s parenting decisions but feel VERY strongly about this. My husband likens it to giving her a piece of favorite candy for a few minutes but then taking it away because it’s not good for her. Simply saying… don’t give it to her to begin with because you KNOW it’s not good for her. (She never gets candy, it’s just a metaphor in this case).
I should add a disclaimer that my health has become a very complex issue so I’m basically disabled and homebound for the last 7 years. So many of life’s simple pleasures aren’t something I can experience anymore outside of the relationships I have with my grandchildren especially. In fact this year, our oldest will start 6th grade as a homeschooler which will be my primary responsibility.
My mom passed away when my oldest son was just 9 years old. They were very close and that loss changed who he was forever. I have always chosen to appreciate today because tomorrow isn’t promised. Our children AND grandchildren are ours on borrowed time. They grow up SO fast and spread their wings. Is being overly attached to her grandmother REALLY going to harm my granddaughter in the long run ? Our oldest granddaughter and I have always had a special bond. I truly believe having the first few years surrounded by unconditional love and support from her extended family has played a HUGE role in how smart, independent and self confident she is today. She cried for grandma TOO until she was about 4.
Nina Garcia says
Big hugs, Dawn! Your love for your granddaughter is obvious in what you described. I can only imagine how difficult it is not to be able to see her. At this point though, it’s your daughter’s decision to put her in day care. Rather than see it as something bad, try to see the positives in the situation, so that how you feel doesn’t rub off on your granddaughter. If she senses your anxiety and frustration, she might feel a distrust in day care and make her feel worse.
Remind yourself that it’s only a few days a week, that being with other kids and adults will help her develop social skills, and that she’ll learn a ton of things that she may not otherwise at home, even with the best-intentioned adults 🙂
At the end of the day, I always remind parents and caregivers that, despite your differences, you must always think what’s best for the child, even if it means not letting your anxiety or frustration show, or learning to see things from your daughter’s perspective.
That said, I do agree that most of these phases are simply that, and that your granddaughter will always know who her mother is and will never forget that.
I hope this all passes soon Dawn—rest assured that you are an amazing grandmother doing all she can, and that all will work out in the end 🙂
Hi, I am so glad I found this article. My son’s obsession started with my mother (his granny) right after my dad passed away. At first we thought it was her deep sadness that attracted him to her especially because he seems to have a lot of my dads traits. My son is 2 and he was just under the age of 1 when my dad passed away. It gives me great comfort knowing that my son and mom have such a strong bond while it does also make me so sad that when she is around he won’t even talk to me, kiss me or hug me. Instead hits me. I do not want to, as you say in your article “punish” him. But there are times that I have to pick him up and walk away with him. Hold him tight while he screams until he calms down. It breaks my moms heart and my heart. Now my mom is moving in with me and we are very clear about the fact that she has to adhere to the boundaries we putting in place. My oldest son (actually step son) gets left out because his brother is so possessive over granny’s time so because she feels bad she cannot spend time with him she will let him have what he wants which we have also told her she cannot do. I feel like my mom and I are always fighting over this and over the fact that she crosses boundaries. But she really is the most incredible granny and I love her for always being there. Your first 2 boundaries are our exact struggles. There is no competition for love but rather for the fact that bed time is bed time or no more sweets or no more tv means no more. She says she disciplines but really she doesn’t and that’s why both my kids know they can get what they want from her. I am not asking her to be nasty but rather to just lay down limits. The kids will eat their food then still eat hers. I have to constantly fight with her and say stop feeding them more. Especially because my 2 year old suffers from vomiting when he over eats. Yesterday my 2 boys were actually hitting each other because of the attention they want for granny. It feels like we always have to be the bad parents. But as I said, I am so so happy I found this article as it speaks to everything we are going through right now. I hope we will be able to adjust and my mom can stick to the boundaries we set once she has fully moved in.
Nina Garcia says
I’m glad the article resonated with you, Nat! It’s definitely a hard situation, and I can truly empathize with what you feel. I think if I left it up to my mom, my kids would eat sweets all day along 🙂 I have had to be clear about some things, always starting with “thank you” but a firm “no” when it comes to some things. Like yourself, I acknowledge and appreciate all that my mom does and thankfully she abides by my (I’m sure to her) strange rules and boundaries. I’m hoping your mom will also do the same, and I actually think one of the best ways to do this is that after you thank her for her intentions, you then follow it up with research or studies or even “blame” it on the pediatrician. You could say stuff like, “The pediatrician doesn’t want him to eat sweets,” or “The pediatrician only recommends x minutes of screen time a day” etc so that it can come from someone else. Another approach is to share the benefits or what your intentions are for setting these limits, such as giving his brother a chance to be with grandma, or teaching him how to better cope with his tantrums. I hope that helps, Nat!
I love reading all the stories because I am very much in a similar one! My daughter is 2 and is very obsessed with her mimi meaning her grandma who is my mom. I love it ! I love how close they are! But like most of the stories I read she is to obsessed where she doesn’t wanna follow the routines I set up with her bc she rather hang with Mimi who says she’ll follow my rules but doesn’t and gives in to everything my daughter wants. I feel like she becomes more of an emotional baby with my mom but when she goes away or when she’s out of site out of mind n working she is more independent and not so needy but the minute my mom is around she changes and doesn’t wanna listen to me at all! It’s so hard to keep reminding my mom on how I want to raise my child bc my daughter throws tantrums and doesn’t want anything to do w me when my mom is with her bc she knows my moms all fun and games and no rules ;( I just hope my daughter will be okay with how my mom brings her up also bc now since my mom was away for a week she wants to sleep with her bc she missed her so much! But when she was away she slept We’ll and had a healthy bed time routine and I hope it doesn’t affect her to long and she can get back on track soon! I love my moms help but I hate how my way of raising my own Daughter causes me to be angry with what my mom does with my daughter bc I am a SAHM who puts a lot of effort in raising my child up right!
Thank you for this article. My daughter was diagnosed with failure to thrive at 9 months and was put on a feeding tube. Between the stress and her fathers inability to handle it, we split up when she was 1 and I moved in with my parents. Due to the constant tube feedings and other demands of caring for a special needs child, I have not returned to work, though I am considering returning to college soon. To sum up, my daughter has always had a very strong bond with my mother and I could not be grateful enough, especially considering all the extra care it has taken to manage her condition. However, she just turned 3 and in the last 6 months has come to prefer her “mimi “ to me in every thing. Last night she woke up in the night and refused to let me hold her or comfort her (we co-sleep) and even woke up after my mother hadsoothed her back to sleep and I had come back to bed. I ended up sleeping on the couch. My mother insists this will not happen again but it’s breaking my heart to be this rejected. I know it’s my ego, but I have never felt so unloved. I’ve definitely become more of the disciplinarian since becoming a single mother and my mother has almost naturally become the soother, but I don’t feel I can reverse this because I simply have more things I won’t tolerate. I’m glad I read this but I still feel pretty awful and I’m dreading tonight as I suspect she will want to sleep with her Mimi again.
Nina Garcia says
Big hugs, Lesley! It’s a tough situation, and these obstacles don’t make them any easier. It’s good that you appreciate the bond they have (especially considering the opposite of not having one), but I understand how emotionally difficult this can be. Living with her while not having her share in the discipline is likely adding to the issue, since she sees you as the disciplinarian and your mother as the warm adult.
Perhaps talk to your mom about having her support you with disciplining, even just by doing what you would do, and not making exceptions because it’s her. Then on your end, you could spend more one-on-one time with your daughter so that you can both have fun together.
Either way, rest assured that this isn’t irreversible, or impossible. She CAN have a loving relationship with both her mom and grandma 🙂
When I googled this I was crying my eyes out and countined to do so as I read the artical and wrote this. My son is 2 1/2 and prefurers grandma over me, my in-laws moved in with us 5 months ago and things have been great until around Christmas time. My son gos to a day care Monday through Thursday I would drop him off in the morning before I went to work and his aunt would pick him up and keep him until I got off. Well around Christmas time my mother in-law insisted that she would watch my son until he went back to day care. Well things came up and my son won’t be retuning to day care anytine soon.
So my husband agreed to allow his mom to watch our son for the time being, so this week has been the hardest with my son. He won’t listen to me she grandma is around, won’t eat, and when I comes to bed time thats the most stressful time for me. He will throw a fit because I want to put him to bed but he wants grandma instead. I understand that here lately she has been his primary care giver and I appreciate everything she does but its getting really difficult for my relationship with my son.
Tonight my son threw a fit because he wants grandma, we’ll when I stood my ground with him she came into his room and started talking to him. I’m not sure what to do at this point all he want is grandma and I feel like she’s over stepping but she the type of person that once you start discussing an issue with her she will lose her temper and its a full on argument after that. Please help me this is hurting me so bad that I’m crying almost every night.
Nina Garcia says
Big hugs, Selena! It’s hard when you feel a loss of control over the situation. The first place I’d start is with talking to your husband about how you feel, and coming up with solutions together. he could bring up ideas with his mom that she might take to easier at this point. Then, I’d also put my foot down where it’s important to you. This is your son and your home, so while grandma can insist on caring for him, at the end of the day, you decide what’s best for him. She could perhaps care for him after school or put him in there part time, but that has to be based on what you decide, rather than doing things because perhaps you feel pressured or guilty. If you do decide to talk to her, acknowledge the help and love she has for your son, and that she will always have that bond with him, whether he goes to school or not. And finally, get her support for you so that you can be the best mom to your son, including not coming in to “save” him if he happens to throw a fit. I know how complicated it gets, especially with them living with you, but hopefully you’ll find a solution that works for everyone. At the end of the day, you all have the same intention, and that is the well-being of your son, and if you remind yourselves of that, then you can start to see yourselves as being on the same side.
This article touched my heart when I needed a boost. My 3 year old daughter is very mean to me when she’s around her grandmother. She doesn’t acknowledge me, she asks grandma to do everything for her, she hides behind her when I ask her to come over to me… things like that that really hurt my heart and I’m sure make her full. I don’t want to raise a toddler who treats me with disrespect so I try to have little conversations with her but she cries and cries until she can see grandma again. (Mother-in-law) Today, without grandma around, I ask her why she gets upset/mad at momma (not sure if that’s correct to ask her that way) and she told me that she loves daddy. So again, hurts. I do feel like I’m doing something wrong. She always has these little songs her and grandma do together and I’m honestly jealous every time I hear about it. Like your article said, there are sags where I may not be as nurturing since I have an infant as well. Anyway. Thank you for this article.
Nina Garcia says
Hi Jessie, I’m glad the article gave you the boost you needed. You’re definitely not alone, and with a new baby, this is likely a phase she’s going through. One thing you might want to do is to ask your partner’s honest assessment of what could be going on. If you feel like you’re doing something wrong but can’t pinpoint it, sometimes having an outside opinion of what they see and observe can help.
I am currently in a very strained relationship with my son’s/girlfriends son. He has cried and screamed Every time I drop him with her. When I drop him with my son he is fine. Recently my son entered rehab for breakdown and alcohol. I stepped up and offered to take 2yr old GS, Friday and return him to his Mom on Sunday. She works nights as a bartender and is attending Yoga teaching school this involves weekends as well. This last exchange left him calmly sobbing with tears and asking for Grammy while Mom was removing him from my car. Heartbreaking for all. I later get a call from his mother who is trying to figure out why he does this and why he acts out at home large long tantrums. She did not like my advise which was as you pointed out he doesn’t seem to getting enough one on one time with her and that maybe her schedule is too busy for him. Her way of handling this is to no longer allow me to have him. My son will be home from rehab soon and she is a large part of why he ended up there in the first place. Now she will not answer my messages to her. I feel that I am loosing my grandson over this. She will not accept any advise from me or much less anyone else, she has a narsosistic personality. Now what do I do just stay away and hope for the best?
Nina Garcia says
I’m so sorry you’re going through this, Laurie. I’ve learned that we can’t change people, that the only people we can control is ourselves. That being the case, let her know you’re here for her in whatever ways she needs your help the most. And when you’re with your grandson, be the amazing grandma that you are to him. Hopefully once your son is back, they can both work out an arrangement that’s best for the little guy.
I am glad I found this article.. I understand the ego part when my child prefers her grandma(mother-in-law) over me but leaving my ego behind I could realise that she is too much pamperby her mother-in-law is the reason behind.
I moved out to a independent family recently and take my daughter to visit her grandmother weekly twice. I spend more quality time with my daughter everyday. Still she prefers her grandma that even in sleep she calls for her most of the time which hurts me badly.
My husband get angry if I try to explain him the reason and says no kid will hate mother and everything will be alright as she grows which I am unable to accept. I have tried speaking to my in-laws but they aren’t interested in what am saying. I dunno what else will help me out here…
Nina Garcia says
So sorry to hear you’re going through that, Deepika. Thankfully it looks like you’re nurturing your relationship with your daughter with your new arrangement, and hopefully with time, that will grow even more. Also, it might not be too bad of a thing that she calls out for grandma, or that she has a strong bond with her grandma. It’s a “good” problem to have, in that at least she is surrounded by so many who love her. If however you have a problem with the pampering and spoiling, then yes, perhaps talk to your husband about those aspects and how it can be detrimental to your daughter, as opposed to making it about her preference for grandma over you. I hope that helps, Deepika—keep me posted on how it goes.
Nina: Would you please address this issue from another perspective? When do children’s cries to stay with grandparents or caretakers actually a cry for help? Abused or neglected children will beg to stay with caretakers, too. Other than the obvious physical signs of abuse, what additional red flags should caretakers take note of and contact the authorities?
I would love that too
Nina Garcia says
Hi Kimber and Susan! I’m sorry you’re both in that position to even have to ask this question. It’s definitely a tough one to be in. I’d call your local child services and ask them what signs to look for, and whether what you see warrants intervention. Hopefully something positive can come of it!
I am 44 years old, have two boys. One 10 and the other 8.
My mother in law lives with my husband and I. She has been there since day one of my 8 year olds birth.
She has been their only provider while my husband and I work. Both of my boys have a great bond with their mommom.
My 8 year old actually sleeps with her, he’s not transitioned into his own bed yet which we’re starting to work on.
Anyway she does so a lot to help me. Between work, sports with my oldest son, and life in general, she’s been a tremendous help for me. Such as light chores around the house, grocery shopping, some dinners, and helping with the kids.
This mother’s day- well my son gave the Mother’s Day special paper they do in school, well instead of giving it to me, he gave it to her. He gave my mother’s day gift to her. I was so heart broken I sobbed for two days!
Do you have any word of advice or comments? I feel shattered!
Nina Garcia says
Oh Angela, big hugs! That must have been difficult to stomach. However well-meaning the intentions, it must’ve hurt to see that happen. I truly believe that love isn’t something that’s divvied and rationed—that just because he has you, dad, and grandma, doesn’t mean that he loves each of you 1/3, than if grandma weren’t there, he’d love you and dad 1/2. Instead, love is limitless and boundless, which helps put things in perspective: that you aren’t in competition with grandma, or even with dad or any other caregiver.
That said, perhaps this can signal to you ways to build your own unique relationship with him, in addition to the one he has with grandma. It’s not necessarily time, either. (I worked in the office for several years with all three of my kids.) Instead, think of the quality and intention of the time you spend with him.
For instance, when you see him first thing in the morning, how do you greet him? How are your interactions when you’re together—do you feel overwhelmed and stressed, or relaxed and completely focused on him (even if just the first few minutes of being together)? Do you spend one-on-one time together when you can, like on weekends, and do you have special rituals only you both do?
I truly don’t think he loves you any less, but perhaps this can be a good opportunity to take a look at how you’re being with him, and see how you can improve. And obviously we can ALL improve, so it’s not like you’re doing something wrong. But I find that it’s actually in the hardest times that we can learn our biggest lessons.
Big hugs, Angela! You are a good mom 🙂
I thought I was the only one that has this issue:(
Nina Garcia says
You’re definitely not alone, Vidya!
Hi will this ever going to change? I have 3 year old twin girls. One of them is attached to mail and prefers her more than me. Would it be like this even when she grows up.
Nina Garcia says
Hi there, I don’t think so. Continue to nurture your own relationship with her, and you’re bound to have a long-lasting, strong bond when she grows up.
It’s also the same with me. Seemed like I was my 4 year old daughter’s most favorite person until my parents came living with us. Its been a month now and all DD wants is grandma and grandpa during the day to play. She doesn’t want to be with me throughout the day, but she will actively look for me to know where I am in the house. But once she sees me still at home then she will go off to play with her grandparents. She only wants
me when she doesn’t feel well and during night time. I guess with me she feels more pressure since its not just all play, we have more educational sessions everyday? Or she is tired of me? I try to invite her for play but most of the time she would only be okay if grandma is beside. I know I have a place in her heart, but didn’t expect her to not want to be with me at all throughout the day after having not living with grandparents for 2 years.
We lived with my parents when she was born, and when she was around 1.5 years old, we went to a small gathering. Just being a day with my adult friend, she didn’t want to come home with any of us (parents/ grandparents) Is this a normal development for my daughter? Seems like she is more fond of new people?
Thanks for your guidance, it has given me insight to attempt looking at other perspectives.
This is the first thing I have found to be helpful. My son just turned 3 in February and stays with my mother in law while my husband and I work. I was dropping him off at 7 in the morning and not returning until around 530 that evening and my husband was the same. I currently decided that it was time to figure out a way for me to stay home because The guilt of leaving him that long throughout the week was becoming too much. Today’s the second day of staying at home and he mentions going to his nanas house a lot and I’m trying to transition us into a new schedule but it’s hard when he wants to go over there instead of staying at home with me. I’m blessed to have her in both of our lives but I also want me and my son to have a strong enough bond to where to I don’t feel unloved or unwanted when he asks to go over there. I know it’s going to take time but it’s going to be hard on both of us.
Nina Garcia says
Hi Rayven, I’m glad the article was helpful! What can really help is to not tie how you feel with your son’s choices and behavior. There are days where they will do things that hurt us, whether intentionally or not, and it’s important to not take it personally that it leads us to feel bad or make bad choices. Know that you are already amazing as a human being, no matter your son’s preferences 🙂
This is exactly what I needed to hear, thank you! Little did you know when you published this post that I would be living with my MIL. Thank you Nina! Loved your video too. It helps me so much as a reader when I get to put a face to the article. 🙂
Nina Garcia says
I’m glad the post helped! Thank you for letting me know.
I have a 3 year old who has is very attached to my mother, his grandma. We live across the street from each other. Before covid we would see each other at least once a day.
Although I am happy to see this bond grow and develop my son has recently started to cry for her more and more. It’s gotten to the point were every morning, first thing and without fail, he’d ask to go to grannies. If we leave to go for a walk, he wants to go to granny instead. If I suggest the park. He wants to go to granny. If I’m doing an activity at home with him he asks to go to grannies when done. I suggest fun and engaging things to do all the time but he just asks to go to grannies.
I’ve tried to explain the situation and that we can’t visit as much now but he just cries louder. He even started calling out for her in the night. Not wanting to be comforted my me at all. It’s almost as if he doesn’t want to be around me, only grandma. I feel so rejected and unloved by my son at the moment. Its so heartbreaking. What can I do? I don’t want to stop him seeing her but I can’t continue to feel like I do. Please help.
Nina Garcia says
Big hugs, Marie! From what it sounds like, he’s struggling with being apart from grandma, and it has very little if anything to do with his love for you. Yearning for grandma doesn’t mean he loves you any less. More than likely, he’s grappling with these changes, as many of us are. He’s so little that it’s probably hard for him to understand social distancing or covid. He truly misses her, and can’t see why he can’t visit her like he used to do.
Reassure him that grandma loves him, and that we’re staying apart for now so that we don’t get one another sick. Let him know that this isn’t permanent—that there will come a time when he’ll be able to visit her again, but just not now. Maybe you guys can do a socially distant hang out somehow where he can still see grandma from a distance and know that she still loves him. Perhaps they chat every day on a video call. Either way, know that this has more to do with his own confusion about the situation than outright rejecting you.
Hang in there though, mama! I know it’s tough to manage these times, and I’m hopeful that things will look up for us all soon. <3
I’ve experienced this with my daughter (23 months) and my mom. She’s living in the same house as my daughter and me. I’ve been told in therapy that my mom is narcissistic. It hurts because my mom really has no boundaries at all. She’s this sweet person on the surface, but super controlling. She basically disregards any parenting decision I try to make if she wants to do something else. She insisted on sleeping in the same room as my daughter when my daughter was younger so I could “get some sleep,” but I wonder if she did it so that my daughter would actually bond with her more than me and give her that love and attention she probably craves. I know that probably sounds crazy, but I don’t really trust my mom. It hurts so much when my daughter cries when my mom leaves and never does that with me. If I express any of this with my mom, I feel like I must be awful or jealous. I worry that I’m overreacting or that it’s all in my head. I really can’t tell and don’t know what to do.
Nina Garcia says
Hi Sharon, I can imagine it’s really tough to see her cry when grandma leaves, especially knowing that grandma might actually get a boost in seeing that. I think it’s good that you’re curious about why your mom is like this, as it gives you a clearer picture of how she was brought up and how her life has been. This allows you to put a bit of distance so that when she behaves in a way that irks you, you can point to a particular reason why she’s doing that. We can’t change other people, but at least we can get curious about them and the stories they carry, so that we can be more forgiving and take things less personally. Either way, your emotions are totally valid, no matter how your mom behaves <3
My son is very attached to his grandpa. Me and my husband live with my dad and he has been an awesome grandpa. I understand that it is his house and I respect that, but I feel as if he crosses too many boundaries. He is the classic hover parent. His only hobby is the grandkids. If he can’t play with Thomas and “play dad” ( little joke between me and my husband. Acts like my sons dad and tries to take on parental roles, regularly undermines things I try to say and do. I am very frustrated.) he goes upstairs and hides or yells and says everyone picks on him and guilts us that he does so much. It’s not all about him!
He can’t just let us be parents.I don’t want him to be completely cut out when we move! My peanut loves his grandpa but I don’t know what to do. I tried to talk to my dad so many times but he just gets his feelings hurt. He thinks I’m pick on him and being mean. It makes me feel bad. What would you suggest? I could really use your help .
Nina Garcia says
Hi there! It’s always a struggle when you live with your parents or in-laws, as you now have several adults and not just the parents involved in raising your kids. You can also feel “indebted” especially since you’re living with them in ways you may not if you weren’t. Start the conversation with him when you’re calm, and begin by saying how much you appreciate him. Then remind him that, while you’re grateful to be living with him, you need to be the parent of your son, and he needs him to his grandpa. That means that, even if you and him disagree, that you have the final say. And lastly, it’s not about him, and he can’t make it about him all the time and get hurt (like thinking you’re being mean to him). He has to think what’s best for your child.
My granddaughter moved in with us when she was 7 months pregnant. She left a great deal of the child care to us after her baby was born and until she moved 2 years later. We were then the full time babysitters while she worked. She is now married and a stay at home mom. Our great grandson is very bonded to us. Though we no longer babysit we do have him spend 2 nights a week at our house. The problem is when I take him home. Of course he doesn’t want to go but when he gets home he becomes angry and lashes out verbally at a boy his mom babysits. My granddaughter says this is the way he behaves each time I bring him home but he gets over it. What can I do to help my 5 year old great grandson deal with these emotions?
Nina Garcia says
Hi Laurie! One thing that can help is to remind him that you’ll see him again. Give him a date (“I’ll see you next Friday!”) so that he feels reassured that he’ll see you again. I’d also ask him at his level about how he feels and listen. He might not be used to talking about his feelings, but the more he can open up about them, the better he can make sense of them.
I am actually not the grandmother but I am the aunt (so I am the older aunt- turning 22) – My younger sister had a child when she was 16 and due to covid, I went back home and became my niece’s caregiver so I raised her because her mother went back to school. When covid had settled, I went back to varsity and came back home because I am done with uni. Again, I took on the role of being her caregiver because her mother works now. However she is more attached to me than anyone at home, in that she does not even want her grandmother nor her mother to either feed her, bathe her or even change her nappy. She refuses to a point where she fights, throws stuff and cries so I give in as everyone at home knows she simply will not allow anyone else to do it. However, I am getting worried because I feel like her mother feels somehow and that this may create problems for my relationship with me and my younger sister
Nina Garcia says
Hi Annabelle! I can see why your niece is more attached to you than others if she spent a lot of time with you. I would be firm about having others also help, especially if you’re busy. For instance, if you’re washing dishes, she needs to learn that her mom or grandma have to feed her because you’re busy. And unfortunately, caving in to her tantrums only reinforces that, in the end, you’ll give in, so holding your ground is probably best, even if it means upsetting her. I hope that helps!
Hello, I’am a mother of a 6 month old baby girl, I too live with grandma, she is there for everything. I do appreciate her help And all that she does but on the other hand I too feel like she thinks of this as a compation. It hurts me so bad that my child calls grandma mama, honestly it kills me.i tend to get angry at my child for this,even tho I know she don’t know any better. I have tried on many occasions to correct this and talk to grandma. Grandma says she trys to correct it aswell as I have noticed behavior in her that says otherwise. My child throws fits when I am her caregiver instead of grandma. The issue is grandma jumps at her every move and gives me no room to step in and be the mother instead she acts as tho she is mother and I get left out. How to stop this without being hateful. Do I move? Due to serton situations I don’t have the money to move.please help!
Nina Garcia says
Hi Sarah! It’s definitely rough when your little girl seems more attached to grandma, however understandable the reasons may be. Work with grandma so that when you’re there, you’re the primary caregiver. For instance, she shouldn’t stop what she’s doing to feed the baby when you’re free to do it (nor should she act like it pains her to not do it). Treat it as matter of fact, that grandma is busy and mama will feed you. She might cry the first few times, but do this with patience and compassion and things should hopefully change.
Going through a very similar situation here.
I work and my MIL is my son’s primary care giver while I go to work. He prefer his grandma over me.
My son and I Co sleep. Situation is so frustrating that at night he wakes up and wants to sleep with his grandma. He throws an absolute fit if I try to pick him up. My husband doesn’t see a problem in it. He actually encourages this. Says son likes it there.
What should I do without hurting grand ma and my son?
Nina Garcia says
Hi Jay, it helps to show empathy for how he’s feeling when he cries for grandma. You might say, “You miss her, don’t you? It can be hard to be away from her.” That way, he feels heard and understood, and you show that you’re on his side, instead of being upset.
This article made me feel seen. I am a stay at home mom andI have always been my daughter’s strongest attachment up until 20 months, then it became her grandma. My mom is a WONDERFUL woman and is so great with kids. She also lives in town, so she’s been helpful whenever I’ve needed someone to watch my daughter (especially with my husband working long hours)! It’s so hard to pour out all of my time and energy into meeting her needs day in and day out, only to go to grandmas house and feel invisible. She will even go to her if she gets hurt. I feel like what I’m doing to build attachment with her daily isn’t enough. I know this is probably a phase and I love the relationship they have, but it’s still so hurtful because it feels like I’ll never be able to foster our attachment enough.
Nina Garcia says
Hi Sarah, it’s rough when you’re in that moment. Even if you know “intellectually” that this is phase that’ll pass, our emotions take hold when we’re in the thick of it. Try not to take her preference for grandma as a personal attack on you, and instead as a testament that she’s loved by so many and has a great relationship with her.
After stumbling upon this article from Google tonight I couldn’t even finish reading before I was in “ugly cry” mode. I am, however, almost relieved to see I’m not alone.
My issue stems from living at home with my parents after my separation & ultimately, divorce almost 6 years ago. I know that sounds like a long time, and it is…My daughter is now almost 14 and going into 9th grade (high school!) My son, who has the major attachment issues, is 6 going into 1st grade. Due to some health issues of my own (epilepsy- mostly controlled by medication), being here was incredibly convenient and I felt better knowing I had help if needed. At the time we moved in (late 2016), both of my parents were working full time. My son was 9 months old and we had a great routine. 2020/Covid hit and the past 2.5 years have been hellish since. My relationship with my parents is practically nonexistent bc my Mom is unable to admit that what she’s doing regarding my son is wrong. And it’s so incredibly obvious she cares very little about how it affects me (or the household- as constant arguing and tension was a reason I was ok with getting divorced. Now it’s all just transferred to my Mother & me. Even worse, when she feels attacked, she drags my Dad into it and it’s now become a constant state of exhaustion and anxiety.) I know it’s no longer a good situation for any of us. I’ve asked my mom to see a counselor with me so that *maybe* hearing from a professional would help – but she will not agree to go. The craziest part is that she’s a Registered Nurse and I know she is capable of being rational.
There’s something about my son that causes her to be blind to the many inappropriate or unhelpful things she does to only cause/increase his outbursts or whiney, baby-like behavior.
(My ex-husband lives 2 hours away and only sees the kids every 6-8 weeks for a Fri-Sun visit. So bc I don’t have him to help, it felt like a blessing to have my parents be involved in their lives. Now it feels much, much different and I have a hard time viewing it as a blessing anymore.)
PLEASE HELP! ❤️
Beyond moving out (which I’m making arrangements to do by Fall/November at the latest – What can I do in order to stop this and have some semblance of the Mother/Daughter relationship back that was once so great?
Thank you in advance.
My daughter lost her 35 yr old husband due to illness. She and her 21 month old son moved in with us, her parents, since the end of May. She has agreed that her son can stay at his paternal grandparents’ home over the weekends. During the week her son goes to the daycare where she works. My husband and I see him in the mornings when we take him to daycare, and at the end of the day for a couple of hours. My daughter and I are on the same page in terms of parenting, discipline (when needed), and special events. However, he has become very attached to me, and today I left the house to go out with a friend, and he had a major meltdown when he found out I was not home. My daughter said he screamed my name, turned red, and started shaking. We are at a loss as to what to do about this. He has a new Primary Care doctor who he will see in September. Suggestions and/or questions will be appreciated.
Nina Garcia says
Hi Kathy, I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. It’s understandable that your grandson was upset when he didn’t see you home. When so much of his life is upside down, he’s probably relying on the consistency of his day-to-day life, including seeing you at pick up. I think it’s fantastic that you and your daughter are on the same page, so that at least there is that consistency in that regard. And the fact that you usually do drop offs and pick ups. Don’t beat yourself up too much for the occasional outing, because things happen. It sounds like you’re doing all you can to keep his life feeling safe and secure, so your regular routine makes up for it. Big hugs to you and your family <3
Hi Mama Bears: Mama vs mother in law issue. I’ve come here to vent and get some advice and support. I’m a mom to a 18month old son. He spends one on one time with grandma (mother inlaw) once a week at her house, While I go back home and have some me time (stay at home mom). When my husband and I go to grandmas house to spend a few hours with her and take our son back, he doesn’t want me at all. He only wants dad or grandma. He doesn’t say hi or come to me, no kisses or hugs, and only wants grandma to carry him around, won’t let her sit down to eat. When I reach over to take him I say “Come I will play with you, I will feed you or I will change your diaper”. But he only wants her and I’m totally rejected. I love that they have that special bond, but the other day, I was trying to take him home and he was crying clinging to her and she commented with a laugh, “He doesn’t want you. He looks the other way when you say bye to him, he doesn’t care that you are leaving.” I was taken aback and laughed with her but fuming inside. I walked away towards the door saying, “Well if he keeps acting like this, then I won’t bring him anymore,” just to hurt her for hurting my feelings. I told my husband in the car what she said and of course he turned it on me saying I’m over reacting. FYI my father in law has also been saying every time I go there and try to connect with my son, “Ha ha ha, he doesn’t want you.” They are taunting me and here I am crying thinking why doesn’t my son want me or love me. I’ve been very quiet and understanding but I’m hurting inside. What should I do?
A C says
Hi , so my daughter is 5 years old , my mother moved in with my husband and I right before our daughter was born
She’s been an amazing help , and she absolutely brilliant with our daughter
4 years later mum moved away with my other sister to a different country to help her with her new born baby ( I know , she truly is superwomen )
After mum left , I’ve had a really good routine with my daughter who stated J1 , amazing bedtime routine , sleeping in her own bed and no fuss
Mum came to visit for xmas 7 months later
Since then my daughter said she really missed mum ( nana) and she wanted to sleep with her ( she used to do that before )
I was obv ok with it , knowing mum will go away soon and of course I wasn’t gonna take that away from both of them
After my mums leaving my daughter bedtime routine proved to be a little challenging ( as in she will wake up at night and cry and saying she’s scared or she s “got bad dreams ) so I would bring her to my bed
2 months later mum decided to move back with us and since my daughter won’t want to sleep in her bed at all , she’s acting out , not really listening to me and proving to be quite a challenge every day
I feel that I’m loosing all the connections, the love , the cuddles and the 1 millions “I love you “ every day I used to get from her
Literally I feel like I’m invisible and I really struggle, don’t know what to do as I don’t want to hurt my daughters feelings or my mums feeling
Nina Garcia says
Hi there! It can be really tough to see your daughter distraught that her grandma is there sometimes and other times she’s not, so it’s natural that she’s extremely attached because she might not know if grandma will move out once again.
Debra Fremin says
My fiancé recently passed away and my daughter has let me move in with her I also take care of her one year old son but recently he is preferring me over her and it is causing tension on all fronts I am trying to establish boundaries that are good for all concerned but my daughter is extremely hurt because of his rejection I need help
my granddaughter is 3 and when ever I have at my pl we have a really great time doing stuff together painting drawing colouring in taking her out we enjoy our time together n I love her more then anything but when it’s time to take her home to her mum n dad she gets very upset starts crying n screaming wants to stay with me n doesn’t want to go home or whenbher mum n dad come to pick her up she hold on to my hand n wants me to go back to her home with her it really breaks my heart to see her like this please I need you help n advise on what to do thank you.