My mom remarried to a great guy who has been absolutely wonderful to my kids. Ever since my mom and he were dating my kids have called him Mr. Joe. Lately my mom has been bugging me to get the kids to call him Grampa. I agree that he deserves more respect than Mr. The problem is that he isn't their real grampa so I don't really want them calling him that. Does anybody have any suggestions on what we should have the kids call him? They are 9 and 12 years old.

EDIT: I appreciate the comments regarding different variations of grampa and hearing how others have no issues with calling their step-granddad grampa. But I was hoping maybe someone has some suggestions for names that show the importance of the step-granddad without calling him some variation of the grampa name but still has a feeling of warmth and family in the name (I hope that makes sense).

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    @torbengb: My wife and I believe that children should show respect towards their elders. Calling an elder by their first name only gives the implication that the child is on a buddy-buddy equal level, which they are not.
    – Dunk
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 16:43
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    I guess it depends on how you define real grampa, but anyone married to Grandma I would have to consider Grampa. Just saying...
    – MichaelF
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:07
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    Dunk, after reading your question and all of the comments you have made, it really seems like this is a personal issue for you which can't be solved in this arena. As I see it, you want a new name for Mr. Joe to endear him to the family, but not welcome him in enough to give him the name of "grandpa", or any of the other variants of that name. Michael F. made some great points, but if tltles mean that much to you, I would suggest you just stick with "Mr. Joe" and explain to your mother why a marriage doesn't make a grandfather.
    – Kate
    Commented Apr 30, 2011 at 22:33
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    Personally, I think you AND your mom should stay out of it. If the kids are happy with "Mr Joe" and he is happy with it, then there should be no issue. If they want to call him "Grandpa" or some variant and he is happy with it, again there should be no issue.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 2, 2011 at 20:14
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    @Erik - We've never told the kids what to call "Mr. Joe" other than when we first introduced him to them by calling him "Mr. Joe". The only person who had a problem with that, as far as I know, was my mom. If my kids took it upon themselves to call him Grampa then I wouldn't stop them. When I originally asked the question I was simply looking for some compromise that both my mom and myself would like. In the end, it turned out that "Mr. Joe" is "Mr. Joe" to my kids and that doesn't downplay his importance at all and he is satisfied with them calling him "Mr. Joe".
    – Dunk
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 15:54

20 Answers 20


My mom died before my kids were born. My father remarried after my kids were born. We struggle with the question of names too.

I think to answer this question you need to first ask yourself how important names/titles really are (some would say it's just a name) and then ask yourself how important the person is and how this name would make them feel.

My husband calls his parents by their first names and has never called them "Mom" or "Dad". However, as grandparents, they adopted the title and quite like it!

If I had been more magnanimous, my father's wife would enjoy the title of grandmother. My dad refers calls her "grandma" to the children, but he's the only one. It really doesn't cost us anything. After all, special friends get the title of aunt or uncle!

Since your children are older and haven't know your step-father as grandpa from early on, if you decide to re-name your step-father, I would suggest you hold a re-naming ceremony in the same way that someone is knighted. This could even happen on an auspicious birthday or family occasion. This will give you a chance to formally recognize all that he has brought to your family so that he is honoured, as befits the name.

EDIT: If you are looking for a completely different name that is closer than "Uncle" but more distant than "Grandpa", perhaps you could find a nickname instead; something that is meaningful to your children that also relates to your step-dad. This might be reciprocated by the children getting nicknames too (thus not being "grandchildren"). For example, if they all watch Star Wars movies together, maybe he is referred to as "JediMaster" and they become "the Young Jedi". My cousins called my grandmother "LBBG" (Little Bit Big Grandma) because their other grandmother was much bigger than them. She embraced this and started signing all of her correspondence to us with LBBG!

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    +1 for the re-naming ceremony. What a great and fun idea!
    – user420
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 17:33
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    I guess titles are important too me. I can't imagine not having my kids call me dad, as your husband does with his parents. It would break my heart. It would also break my heart if I were to get divorced and my wife remarried and they called some other guy dad. Fortunately, that divorce thing isn't an issue:) I am kind of looking at things from this point of view. I was hoping to find some title that gives importance but isn't taking the grampa title from their grampa.
    – Dunk
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 16:53
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    As it is most kids might have 2 grampa's, what's 3?
    – MichaelF
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:15
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    How do you refer to grandparents formally in your family, as a full name? For example, many families use Grandpa LastName. What if they were to call him "Grandpa Joe" instead of strait "Grandpa". This is similar to "Mr. Joe" but elevated.
    – nGinius
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 18:02

If he behaves like a grampa, I think he deserves to be called grampa. We call my stepfather grandad (even though I call him by his first name).

It can be more complicated if the real grandfather also is around and resents sharing the title with the step-granddad. In that case I would let the real grandfather have a veto.

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    My real father passed away 7 years ago. I can't get over the idea that it shows disrespect towards him if I use his title for somebody else. Even if that somebody else behaves like grampa. That is why I am having such a hard time with this question.
    – Dunk
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 16:46
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    @Dunk Something you might consider is the children's desire to have someone to call Grandpa (if they have such a desire). Yes, there is an issue about respect to your departed father but, as you can clearly see, the issue is more complex than that.
    – DrJ
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 3:37
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    I strongly agree with Dunk that titles are important, and they have meaning, AND that they are earned as this answer suggests. Just bc a woman ejects a child from her vagina does not make her a mom. Sorry to be crude but that's how I see it. It's the behavior and love after that makes a mom. So if someone behaves and loves like a grandparent, then they earn the title. Is it disrespectful to the childrens' mother's parents that they share "grandparent" with the father's parents? The answer is no. My dad died when I was 2-I was raised by a "step" dad but I never called him "step"....
    – Jax
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 17:32
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    ...dad. He loved and cared for me always as a "real" dad would. By brother was never my "half" brother either. In fact, my brother in law always "corrects" me when I talk about my dad and brother -"you mean step dad; half brother"-and I always have to remind him that I don't call them that and it bothers me that he finds it necessary to demean our relationship based on his insistence to stick to the "correct definition" of my (step) dad and (half) brother's status. My mother is now divorced from him and he's still my dad, and my kids call him Papa the same as they do my husband's father.
    – Jax
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 17:38
  • So, sorry for the length of this comment, but I really wanted to justify my support of this answer while also illustrating my complete understanding of the OP's position and strong feelings of loyalty towards the deceased grandparent.
    – Jax
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 17:54

I'm in pretty much the same exact situation you are in (except for my son being 7 months old, which does change some aspects pretty significantly). My mother and her husband sent my wife and I lists of names they were considering, and honestly, we hated most of them. I strongly feel that the parents should be the ones coming up with the list of potential names, or at least an active participant in the process of choosing, although this could depend on your relationship with your mother.

Just make sure that whatever you do decide on is something "Mr. Joe" and your mother will both like. Not everyone will be happy being called "Mee-maw" :)

Here is a pretty good list of possibilities.

That website has a list of international names, too, which can be a great idea if your family has one or more strong ethnic identities. We were looking at "babushka and dedushka", for example.

  • Thanks for the list. Unfortunately, I didn't care for any of them but that doesn't mean my mom, the kids and Mr. Joe won't also, so I'll forward it on to them for an opinion.
    – Dunk
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 16:58
  • @Dunk yeah, there are some really horrible nicknames there. You should have seen some of the ones my mother sent us. I should have kept those emails, because some of the ones they came up with were truly bizarre (to me). "Frick and Frack" is the one that stands out the most, though.
    – user420
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:58

I don't think the name that your kids use for him is going to have a major impact on how they view him. If your mom is worried that your kids do not seem to accept him as warmly as their grandpa as she does as her husband, you should probably have a frank talk with her about that issue.

If your kids already love him, then chances are that "Mr. Joe" is a phrase filled with positive emotions for them. I'm not entirely sure it's worth changing the name entirely and losing those associations in order to gain the default associations of grandpa or grandfather or grandad or gramps or Grandpa Joe or whatnot. You should probably consider this carefully and possibly discuss with your Mom and Joe.

But there are plenty of variants on "Grandpa" to choose from (see above), so you needn't worry about a name collision with other sets of grandparents. Since your children are used to calling him Joe already, changing the impersonal "Mr." to a more personal "Grandad" or somesuch, while keeping "Joe", might be a good compromise that satisfies everyone's preferences adequately. (Explaining the change should be easy enough: now that he's married to your mom, he's part of the family, so you're going to use "Grand___" instead of "Mr.".)

  • +1 - "Mr. Joe" is definately a phrase filled with positive emotions for the kids. The kids warmly accept him. I think my mom wants to change the name in order to make Mr. Joe feel like he is more important in the kids life. After all, they've called him Mr. Joe from the first day they met him and he has earned a much higher level of importance since then. So I agree in that regard. It is simply the grampa (and variants) title that I am having problems with since they already have 2 grampas (one of whom passed away).
    – Dunk
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:06
  • @Dunk - But if he realizes how much they like him, and they realize it, how much does it really matter if the name sounds to outsiders like "Grandpa" or "Mr. Joe"? In social settings with friends, maybe it would make a difference. But if it's just for within the family, it sounds like things are already going well.
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:41
  • I agree with your opinion. Everyone seems happy too me. However, my mom has been pushing the issue a little bit and I can see her point. That's why I'm interested in some compromise win-win solution such as an alternative name that doesn't necessarily imply he's grampa.
    – Dunk
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 20:16
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    "that doesn't necessarily imply he's grampa" but he is, isn't he? Sounds like you are trying to give a title to biological grandparents vs. grandparents via marriage. The kids don't care about that at all. Hopefully both you and your mom can agree on that.
    – DA01
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 21:40

I'm a father myself and if I passed away, I would in no way feel disrespected if my grandchildren started calling their step grandfather "Granpa Joe", especially if he is "absolutely wonderful" with them. On the contrary, I would be happy that they had such a positive figure in their life.

However, I don't think you should force the children to call him that. If they choose to, let them. If they don't, don't force it.

On the matter of respecting your father, maybe having a tradition where you do something he loved around his favorite holiday every year to remember him.


What people call each other reflects their relationship with each other. It neither adds nor takes away from their relationship or their memory of anyone else. It seems like you're the only one who has a problem with it. I can understand that. My mom divorced and remarried when I was over 30. Since I never lived with my stepdad I don't feel like he filled the "Dad" role in my life, so I call him by his first name. He does, however, currently fill the Grandpa role in my childrens' lives, and I see nothing wrong with him being addressed that way.

Children themselves are perfectly capable of adjusting to names. My siblings and I called my Dad "Honey" until I was 5, because that's what my Mom called him. They asked us to stop and we did. My children call any old man who is nice to them "Grandpa," but we don't correct them because they are perfectly capable of understanding they have no familial connection.

I had foster kids who would call me "Dad" at home because that's what my biological daughter called me, but when we visited their birth parents they didn't feel comfortable calling me Dad, and I understood perfectly. The name is really the least important part of a relationship.


I am amazed at all the different advice given on this subject of what to call a step parent or step grand parent. I was a widower who remarried a widow with three daughters. I had three sons, all were grown with children of their own. On my side of the family there was no biological grandmother, on her side there was no biological grandfather. We have been married 15 years and she is Nana to my grandchildren, and to hers, and I am grampa to my grandchildren, and to hers for this reason, the biological grandparents are not alive. They cannot hold, touch, or love these children, we can because for whatever reason known only to God, we are here. We are grandparents to all in every sense of reality. Don't make this difficult beyond what it should be. They are married to each other, therefore they are grandparents to each son or daughters children on each side of the family. There are too many real problems in the world to make this one of them. Live life!!


For my family, the grandparent title means more about the role they play in our kids lives than genetics, so my kids' step-grandparents are 'Granddad' and 'Nanny'.

(not criticising you for feeling differently btw, just thought you might like to hear a different pov!)

That said, with the two step-grandparents, four biological grandparents and five great-grandparents so we have a Grandpa, a Grandma and have had good fun with nicknames to differentiate between some of the Nanny's & Granddads. 'Nanny Woof' has a dog, 'Nanny Bis' has biscuits, 'Granddad Fish' has - surprise - pet fish, etc.

The key thing here is it was my son who came up with the nicknames, so they were fun, they stuck, and it's hard to be too insulted by a nickname given to you innocently by a cute two year old ;)

  • In principle I agree that the role is more important. However, when one party can't fulfill that role because they passed away, then I can't help but feel that it is disrpespecting of that person's memory to give the title of what would have been their role to someone else. It would have been cool if the kids came up with something on their own but they are now firmly entrenched with Mr. Joe unless we tell them to call him something else.
    – Dunk
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:12

There are many names for a Grandad. The important thing is that it should be something only the grand-children (or step-grandchildren) use, so it is intimate, personal and endearing. "Mr Joe" isn't ticking those boxes. Can you find something that does (but isn't "Grampa")?

Edit: Actually, reading again some of your comments, "Mr Joe" does seem to be the intimate and personal name, it's already doing a great job as a "grampa" name and "belongs" to the kids (and to him). Sorry to say it but perhaps you just need to carefully and lovingly help your mum to see this.

The artificiality of forcing a name change on all parties might do more harm (certainly more awkwardness) than any potential benefit.


No one will replace your dad. However, in his absence maybe he would be pleased that someone was stepping up to love the people he would love if he were still here? I don't know if that alternative view might help. In our family we have a whole mess of step this and step that, and so names are often more about roles than biology. Perhaps grandpa joe? or big joe?

If you would have used grandpa for your dad, perhaps you could use grandad?

Know that whatever you decide, your father is honoured by who you have become.


We made a point of being inclusive when it came to family titles. That means among other things, that the woman who married my (divorced) father just a few months before my own wedding is "Grandma" to my kids, because she wanted to be. It also means that each person chose their own titles - some chose what their other grandchildren were already calling them, for example - and as it happened, we ended up with no need to use last names or initials or other distinguishers to tell them apart.

A parent who decides they are in charge of other people's names is likely to fight battles of control with those people and with the children for a long time. If "Mr Joe" wants to say, one day, "hey kids, now that I'm married to Gramma it sure would be cool if you'd call me Grampa Joe" there really should be no impact on your relationship with your own divorced father or your memory of your late father. You can have more than one sister. (I have three, not all of whom have the same mother as me.) You typically have more than one grandfather. It's all good. Were you able to take that attitude, I think you'd have an easier time navigating the waters of family dynamics.

But I know, that wasn't the question. IF you want to promote Mr Joe from "friend of the family" to "almost family" then I suggest working with your mother and Joe to come up with a nickname, so that the kids are the only ones who call him that, and it is a bit special and supports his special role in their lives. Just do keep in mind that he may not be entirely flattered at being "almost family" and there may be more benefit in finding a way to promote him to "family". It doesn't mean anyone is being replaced or forgotten. You're just opening the circle a little more.


I think my mom wants to change the name in order to make Mr. Joe feel like he is more important in the kids life.

I would suggest a three-way conversation. Mr. Joe may be able to get through to your mother more easily than you can. Or, Mr. Joe may have a bright idea that you haven't thought of.

Here's an idea: look at some translations of Grandfather to other languages. First, pick out the ones you feel you could live with. Send that list to Mr. Joe. Then give his short list to your kids to choose from.

Here's another idea: "Grand-Joe." Example: "Kids, time to get ready to go, your Grand-Joe will be here soon to take you fishing" or whatever they have planned.

I applaud your stubbornness (consistency, honesty). So many people have tried to talk you into plain old Joe, with no title, or Grandpa or Granddad, which you just aren't comfortable with. Good for you for knowing yourself, and standing firm in the strong tide on this page. Titles are a geographical and cultural thing. Stay true to yourself.


I think anyone married to the biological grandparent should automatically be called "Grandma or Grandpa". They are deserving of it unless they were responsible for the breakup of a marriage prior. When I read or hear people say "he/she is not their "real" grandparent, it irks me because there are some non-biological grandparents (and parents) who are more deserving of the title than what people consider "real" grandparents. It's a sign of respect and blood has nothing to do with it.


Maybe you could call 'Mr. Joe', gramps. It was just an idea but yeah. I agree with Kevin in saying that as long as the kids and 'Mr. Joe are fine with it, then you two (you and your mother) are worrying over nothing. You should also ask your kids about this and then contemplate about a few that you think are just right. Well that's my thought but it really is up to you.


I understand your hesitancy to ask your kids to call him grampa. Your stepdad sounds great, and I'm sure he's the best. However, it sounds like you feel some loyalty to your dad, and don't want to push him aside. If it was me, I would feel the same.

And yet, he probably feels a longing to have a more familiar greeting from kids he is learning to love, and wants to embrace into his life as, well, grandkids. If you resist too strongly, he may take it as a sign that you want to maintain distance, and it may be a barrier to closeness.

My first thought was: "Papa-Joe".

Or just Papaw. When I lived in the southern US, a lot of people called their granddad "Papaw". (Pronounced Paa-Paw). That gives him the familiar honorific of a grandad type name, without making you uncomfortable.

"Hey kids, let's go see gramma and Papa-Joe / Papaw!"

Note: if the kids spontaneously start calling him grampa, I would let it happen.


I am gonna be a step grandma my self in a few short months. I am looking for a name to be called and I think since the baby already has one bio nan, 2 grandnans and and 2 great grand dads, plus her step fathers family, and my family is a step family. I have a stepdad and step family as well, I call them dad and nan and gramps just like the rest. He has been my dad since I was about 3. I have been a step mom since hubbys daughter was about 11. I am as excited about this baby as if he/she is my bio grandbaby. Having said this I do not wanna be called nan or grammie as I think it would be unfair to the bio grandparents and family. Same time that could be all in my head, the name I do get labelled with is 1 I am gonna want any future grandbabies to use as well, all grandchildren should call me the same thing and feel as equally loved. Have no doubt I will love this baby to no end. Step grandbaby or not this will be my first and I will not ever treat her as a step anything. I chose names that I like then baby mama can chose which I shall be called. MY choices,so far, are Mimzy, Nonni, or Tilly. If I was gonna b a grandpa and the kids called me Mr Joe and it made me feel special and connected to em I wouldnt change a thing. I think the name is between Mr. Joe and the kids. If they are all happy with it why change it? If it doesnt make him feel less than granddad whats the harm? Mom sounds like the one with the issue.


I am a step grandfather. I have an amazing relationship with my step grandkids. For me whatever they called me is not so important..they respect me just the same. What my wife and step daughter did is allowed the space and time for them to come up with their own title for me. Throughout time the eldest started calling me PAPO and so i am now to all 4 for them...I am their PAPO and they are my stepgrankids.

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    Hi and welcome to Parenting.SE! The question was "But I was hoping maybe someone has some suggestions for names that show the importance of the step-granddad without calling him some variation of the grampa name but still has a feeling of warmth and family in the name (I hope that makes sense)." Can you elaborate how papo fulfills these criteria? Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 14:00

Its honestly up to your child and their personal relationship to the step-parent or step-grandparent. Children do have feelings. Believe me when they are comfortable and can feel it in their Heart they will have no problem addressing the situation and wanting to change the name on their own. (Dad, grandpa, grandma, mom etc. )


You want something that implies family, but not a usurpation of the grandfather role. I would suggest "uncle", "greatuncle", or granduncle", unless you think those would also be usurpations.


I met a great woman not very long after she got divorced. At that time, her youngest daughter (now our youngest daughter) was seventeen, the older one twenty. I was there when my first grandchild was born. The grand kids are mid teen to adult now, and they call me grandad. That's because I am their grandad.

There's another man living not far away who still has the occasional contact with his two daughters. The grandkids know him, know who he is, know that he is their biological grandfather, but he is "grandad X", I am grandad.

If your mother's new husband is a great guy as you say, and if he cares for his grandchildren, they should call him grandad.

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