My wife and I have always had a strained relationship with her parents. From the beginning, they have been overbearing, judgmental, and manipulative. We tolerated it at first, not wanting to rock the boat. But once we had kids, things got worse.
They constantly criticized our parenting, tried to override our decisions, and boundary-stomped whenever they could. No matter how many times we asked them to back off, they never respected our roles as the parents.
The final straw was when they showed up unannounced and let themselves into our house while we were away. They had been explicitly told many times not to do this, yet they acted entitled to access our home and children however they pleased.
I finally put my foot down. Enough was enough. If they could not respect us as parents, then they lost the privilege of contact with our children. For 6 months we cut off all communication and visitation.
It was an agonizing decision that caused some extended family drama. But ultimately it forced my in-laws to take a hard look at their behavior. They finally acknowledged how hurtful and inappropriate they had been. A sincere apology opened the door to rebuilding a relationship with firmer boundaries.
Now they are back in our lives but on our terms. We control the frequency of visits and never leave them unsupervised with the kids. It’s sad it reached that point, but protecting my family had to come first. Withholding access was the only way to get through to them.
10 Reasons Why I withheld my Children From their grandparent
As a father, I never imagined I would make the difficult decision to cut contact between my kids and their grandparents. When my wife and I got married, we assumed the grandparents would be a positive presence in our children’s lives.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. After years of tried patience and establishing boundaries, we could no longer expose our kids to their toxic and manipulative behavior.
1. lack of respect for our parental authority
My first reason was their complete lack of respect for our parental authority. They would undermine our rules and decisions constantly. If we asked them not to give the kids candy, they would sneak it to them when we weren’t looking.
When we would put our foot down about bedtime, they would argue and insist the kids could stay up late with them. It became impossible to parent with any consistency.
2. totally unreliable
They were totally unreliable when it came to our children’s safety and well-being.
We could not trust them to properly babyproof their home, watch for food allergies, or keep a proper eye on the kids near roads and other dangers. Their carelessness nearly led to some scary accidents.
3. abusive language
The manipulative and emotionally abusive language they would use on both us and the children. They would guilt and gaslight us for setting any boundary.
With the kids, they would make promises they didn’t keep or say things to try and pit them against us. This psychological manipulation was extremely toxic.
4. disrespect requests
They would blatantly ignore and disrespect requests we made about gifts, food, and activities when caring for our kids. We are the parents, yet they didn’t value our opinions. This showed they only cared about their own wants rather than what was best for the grandchildren.
5. abhorrent judgmental, racist, and homophobic language
We realized our kids would pick up on the abhorrent judgmental, racist, and homophobic language that the grandparents commonly used. These were not the kinds of values we wanted imprinted on impressionable young minds.
6. possessiveness and entitlement Sense
The possessive and entitled way they would behave, treating our children like objects belonging to them rather than human beings needing proper care. The kids started referring to their home as “my other house,” showing how they tried to confuse them.
7. criticized our parenting choices
They flagrantly ignored or criticized our parenting choices, like baby-wearing, gentle sleep training methods, or deciding to vaccinate on a slower schedule. It made it impossible to get on the same page.
8. smoking around the kids
They continued smoking around the kids despite health concerns. Second and third-hand smoke poses health risks, especially for little lungs, but our pleas for them to smoke outside fell on deaf ears.
9. could not monitor their screen time
We could not monitor their screen time or internet usage when the kids were there. For all we knew, they could be watching or reading inappropriate content. Our rules were not their rules when it came to parenting choices.
10. jealous energy
Finally, reason number ten was the hurtful, jealous energy they would exhibit any time we prioritized my wife’s parents for childcare or visits. We base our decisions on logic, safety, and what’s best for the kids – not narcissistic game-playing.
7 Ways Grandparents Can Handle the Situation
During this traumatic time, my parents reacted quite immaturely, making the rift worse with their guilting, arguments, and refusal to take accountability.
I wish they had responded more constructively. Here are 7 mature ways I think they could have handled this:
- Give us space – Continuing to push and demand access, as my parents did, only strained things further. A mature response would have been respecting our decision and giving us space, even if they disagreed. Pushing their agenda made it about control versus the well-being of the grandkids.
- Seek counseling – One of the most helpful things would have been for my parents to seek counseling to understand how their behaviors negatively impacted us. Taking ownership for their part would have shown maturity and helped mend wounds.
- Send thoughtful gestures – Rather than acting bitter and hurt, my parents could have sought appropriate ways to convey they still cared, like sending cards, letters, or care packages indirectly through us. Small gestures can go a long way.
- Focus on self-care – Cultivating their own hobbies, interests, and relationships would have helped my parents cope with the loss in a healthy manner, versus wallowing in bitterness. It also would have modeled self-care for us.
- Apologize sincerely – I was deeply disappointed my parents never offered a genuine apology. A sincere, no-strings-attached apology could have started rebuilding trust between us.
- Respect our decisions – The most mature response would have been accepting our decision, even if they didn’t like it. They could have had an open conversation asking how to mend things while still respecting boundaries.
- Be the grown-ups – As grandparents, I wish my parents would have responded with maturity – being the grown-ups and taking the high road, rather than acting defensive, entitled and manipulative.
Do grandparents have a constitutional right to visit their grandkids?
In most states, grandparents do not have an enforceable legal right to see their grandchildren. However, there are exceptions.
In some states, grandparents have the right to petition a court for visitation with their grandchildren when their children die.
The court will consider any potential harm that may result from visitation in determining whether to honor the request.
Here are some potential effects of withholding grandchildren from grandparents:
- Confusion and a sense of loss – Children may not understand why they cannot see their grandparents anymore. This can disrupt their attachment and be emotionally difficult.
- Deprivation of a relationship – Positive grandparent relationships are beneficial for children. They miss out on the unique bond when contact is cut off.
- Loss of family history/values – Grandparents often share family stories, traditions, and values. Kids may feel deprived of knowing this family identity.
- Resentment later in life – When they are older, the children may resent their parents’ decision depending on how it was handled.
- Devastation and grief – Being cut off from grandchildren is incredibly painful and often feels like a profound loss for grandparents.
- Stress and depression – Some grandparents suffer from clinical depression when they lose contact with their grandkids. The sense of loss is immense.
- Anger and bitterness – Grandparents may feel angry at being deprived of time with their grandchildren. This can breed resentment.
- Helplessness – Without contact with the grandchildren, grandparents have no control over the situation, which compounds feelings of grief and pain.
- Guilt over hurting the grandparents – Even in necessary situations, depriving grandparents of access often makes parents feel guilty.
- Backlash from extended family – Other family members may judge, guilt and criticize them for withholding the grandchildren. This leads to relational tensions.
- Stress of protecting children – Maintaining the decision against grandparents’ wishes requires emotional energy and continually enforcing boundaries.
- Loss of potential childcare support – Parents lose the help grandparents provide with childcare, financial support or other practical matters.