The short question is this. How can we as parents encourage our parents to be more equitable in their treatment of their grandchildren?

As background here is my situation. When my wife and I got married, we had made the decision that we weren't going to have children. This was devastating to my mother who really (read really really really) wanted to have grandchildren. Independent of her wished, a few years later we decided to try and our first son came along who is now 7. Grandma immediately bonded with him, showering him with love and attention (and stuff). Four years later our second boy came along (now 2 1/2 y.o.) and while grandma loves him, she is still very bonded to our oldest.

Up until now, it hasn't been a big deal because the baby hasn't had the mental maturity to understand the differences in their relationships but his behavior of late has indicated that he is starting to notice something... or at least wanting more.

An example would be something like recently we had made arrangements for grandma to spend the afternoon/evening with the toddler and then when they came back she was going to take the older one home for a sleep over. On the day of, she decided that she would take both boys for the afternoon and then keep the oldest one for sleep over. Ostensibly she says it's to give my wife and I some time alone, but my observation is that she often includes the older one in the time planned with the younger, but rarely (if ever I can think) alters plans with the older one to include the younger.

So what can I do to encourage her to spend time and develop a relationship with my younger son?

Should I point out what I observe or how I interpret her interactions?

Am I making too much out of nothing? Do I need to get over it?

  • 3
    No time for a full answer but I don't think you're exaggerating this in your mind. It's noticeable and should be carefully addressed. Nov 19, 2013 at 15:37
  • Some grand parents are atrocious for not attempting to mask favouritism. My mother wouldn't acknowledge my daughter's birthday, but will always make a fuss over my son.. it's at a point. we don't bother seeing her. the toxicity out weights any benefit.. I'm not suggesting you do that!
    – user21179
    Nov 19, 2013 at 21:42

4 Answers 4


Probably the best approach is to bring up your concern about a specific individual event, rather than trying to address the pattern separately. Also, make it about your son's feelings more than her choice. For example, if she wants to invite your older son to an event that was originally just planned for the younger son, say, "He was really looking forward to some one-on-one time with you, and was terribly disappointed the last time the plans got changed. Are you sure?"

On the other hand, as long as both kids are getting time to spend with their grandmother, I wouldn't worry too much about the amount of time being equal. You don't want to get into a situation where grandma doesn't have energy to give them both equal one-on-one time, so she decides to skip it altogether. These things have a way of evening out over the years. When the older son is a teenager and no longer as interested in the kinds of activities grandma likes to do with them, the younger son will be the perfect age.


She may not realize that she is favoring one at all, but I agree with Karl Bielefeldt in terms of how to approach her about it.

I disagree that as long as they are both getting time. . . She is a close family member and being slighted by grandma can be pretty painful. If she won't give them both one on one time, then both of them should only get to see her when it includes both of them.


Kids and grandparents are all different persons with different affinities and relationships. For a while we had three kids and three grandparents for nine total relationships and they all played out differently. That's perfectly normal and okay. Unless there are some gross inequities or it actually starts to bother someone, I would just let things play out naturally.


She probably doesn't realize the younger boy is old enough to notice it. You say she loves them both, but if she enjoys being with the older boy that much, she has probably been indulging herself by asking to see the older boy more, under the "what the younger one doesn't know won't hurt him" theory.

Tell her the younger is old enough to notice, and it's time she "grandma up" (so to speak) and take that into account. Point out that it really is not good for either child for her to favor one and slight the other. (My theory is that children are okay if you have favorites, as long as you don't treat them differently.) The boys are going to be together long after she is gone; a good relationship with each other now, free of resentment and contention, will help set them up to be friends all their lives. (If necessary you can point out that when they're reminiscing at some family barbeque together forty years in the future, she'll want their memories of grandma to be good ones.)

This assumes she is a reasonable, kind-hearted person, of course. If your mother has deficits in either of these areas, you'll have to take stronger measures.

And I really liked Karl Bielefeldt's comment about when the older son is a teenager, the younger son will still be the perfect age to enjoy spending time with her. And, er, you might point that out.

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