My 20-year-old step-granddaughter's father left when she was nine and my husband and I have been there for both of them before, during and after all of their crises, so perhaps I feel more like we are co-parenting them both.

This year, my step-granddaughter's birthday fell on Father's Day. That day, she had a tantrum, because she wanted to family singing when others were going to watch her grandfather's Father's Day gift, a comedy DVD.

She grabbed the DVD out of the machine and threw it across the room and it landed on the sofa next to her grandfather. I told her to pick that up "right now". Her mother rushed in from the kitchen and said "No one yells at my daughter on her birthday!"

After years of BS from these two I had had it and got up and walked out. We will never get the the apology we deserve, I am sure. But I will never be as forgiving, generous and lenient as I have in the past, either.

My husband got a lame text from his daughter with an "I miss you" the following week... nothing else.

I am looking for suggestions on other ways to react or know if my reaction was valid. Anybody knows a better reaction?

  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's primarily a rant with no real question to be found.
    – user11394
    Jul 14 '15 at 4:11
  • 1
    What kind of "parenting" relationship are you asking about? You and your step(?)daughter? You and your granddaughter? Your husband and his daughter or granddaughter? Parenting-wise as far as the daughter is concerned, I believe that ship has long sailed, as far as the granddaughter goes, it's probably the same, especially if she's 20 and her mother backs her up. If you simply need a pat on the back, consider yourself hugged but unfortunately this is not the focus of this site: relationships between adults are off-topic here.
    – Stephie
    Jul 14 '15 at 7:20
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    @Stephie - Are they? When does someone stop being a parent? I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, just unaware that there was an age-limit. I need to read more in meta; I may have missed something significant. I do agree with you otherwise. You can't force adults to behave the way you want them to. If that were possible, my adult children would all be much better spouses. Jul 14 '15 at 7:26
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    @anongoodnurse According to our own on-topic site questions on relationships are off-topic. Especially with the daughter (who is already a mother of a 20yo.) I am convinced that we are talking about the relationship between two apparently independent grownups, not primarily between parent and child. I don't dispute that a parent stays a parent forever but at least in western societies the balance of power gradually changes over time until some kind of "equality" is reached. And note: I'm not in the least concerned about the "step" part.
    – Stephie
    Jul 14 '15 at 7:33
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    Dear Aunt Thesaurus, don't be discouraged! First of all, let me assure you that nobody wanted to hurt you or belittle your problem and I apologize if my comments did. That was never my intent. I know that getting a grip on this whole Stack Exchange stuff can be hard, but today you got a front-row seat at how this site works and evolves. Your question was not simply answered or closed, but sparked a discussion about what we - as a comunity, not as a bunch of more or less high-rep users - want this site to be. We try to walk a fine line between keeping us focused on one topic ("parenting")...
    – Stephie
    Jul 14 '15 at 20:30

This may be closed soon, but I wouldn't want you to leave without something to think about.

Your granddaughter may well be spoiled, or perhaps she lacks impulse control, because we don't know all the particulars.

There may have been extenuating circumstances (was her birthday on Father's day? Why, on her birthday, were you all doing something she didn't want to do? Was there a discussion that included her opinions on her special day? I mean, she's not a toddler, but a birthday celebration is, well, to celebrate the person who was born on that date. If it was mixed Father's Day/Birthday, it is more understandable.)

The common wisdom about grandparents is that they don't "parent" when the actual parents are present. This undermines the parent's role, leaving them feeling unsupported and implicitly criticized.

Anybody have a better reaction?

You might consider setting healthy boundaries.


  • "Throwing things indicates anger getting out of control, and is threatening behavior. If you throw something, you will be asked and expected to leave if you are in our home; if you are not, we will leave, because we will not engage with you while you're out of control."

  • "We love you, and would like to maintain a relationship with you. If we have offended you, we want you to feel free to tell us respectfully how you feel and why, and we promise to respectfully listen and consider what you've said. That way, we can avoid hurtful arguments. (and vs, versa.)"

I'm unsure about the last statements.

We will never get the the apology we deserve, I am sure. But I will never be as forgiving, generous and lenient as I have in the past, either.

Healthy boundaries are placed so that hurtful people don't continue to hurt you. Read about setting boundaries. Most people are good at many things, but it's unusual to find people who are really good at setting boundaries, even though they make such a difference. Just know you cannot set someone else's boundaries; you can only set your own.

  • These are extraordinarily helpful suggestions, which I appreciate. It is difficult to be objective when among these folks. My husband's ex is always there as well and just minutes prior to this event we became friendlier and I thought a new milestone had been reached. This information will help me to be better prepared. I will study boundries. Jul 15 '15 at 15:34

There are inherent limitations to the step-parent role -- and by extension, the step-grandparent role. Step-parents are in a very awkward situation. Those who are able to navigate those choppy waters the most gracefully usually decline to take a direct disciplinary role. I would recommend that you give that a try.

However, you can give a step-child or step-grandchild an I-message. This is probably easiest to accomplish if you avoid attempting it in the heat of the moment. "Marlene, I felt so startled when the DVD was flying across the room."

I know two ways to elicit an apology.

  1. If I'm really irate, and there's no doubt in my mind that the person behaved abominably, with no provocation, and even then, this doesn't usually work as well as #2, below -- "Marlene, I'm not accustomed to being spoken to / treated that way, and I think you owe me an apology."
  2. "Marlene, I'd like to apologize for leaving your party so abruptly last month. I was startled and offended, and didn't think before I acted. I'm sorry if I overreacted." At this point, if the apology was perceived as sincere, Marlene will probably apologize for her part in the blow-up!

At this point it is probably too late.

I know someone who was incredibly coddled and treated like a princess by her parents perhaps due to them not being able to do anything about a bad thing that had occurred in her past.

Unfortunately, it makes it difficult for such a person to be pleased by common expressions of care because such actions don't measure up to what they expect. If they don't get what they want they react negatively to the point of being able to ruin their relationship with other people.

In general, when they were being parented, they should have been told "no" appropriately and with firmness so they could learn to deal with it. The world is not going to give anyone everything they want once they stop living with indulgent parents -- we're all busy trying to live our lives.

So, in short, my answer is that I think it is too late. I've seen this before and it is not a situation I ever want anything to do with. If they grow up they can demonstrate such by their actions. If they don't, well, their mother will apparently always be there to comfort them.

  • 1
    This doesn't really answer the question. I think you're completely right that there does come a point where somebody isn't going to grow up any more, but the past is past — what can the grandmother do in situations like this (which will probably keep coming up if granddaughter is irretrievably spoiled)?
    – Acire
    Jul 14 '15 at 16:06
  • Well, I guess between the lines I'm saying "turn your back" but the other side is "lay down the law" and invest your energy in trying to undo twenty years of bad parenting. The latter may be more damaging to other relationships than the former.
    – A Smith
    Jul 14 '15 at 16:11
  • @Erica, rereading your statement, I'm not so sure the past is the past. If there are future social interactions it will probably be difficult not to notice similar, if less overt, behavior going forward.
    – A Smith
    Jul 15 '15 at 10:13
  • True... so what can she do going forward in response to that?
    – Acire
    Jul 15 '15 at 11:58
  • @Erica, I can add a third choice... put up with it. I simply don't see a "strategy" for dealing with other people's children -- this is a step grandchild not a step child. I don't think trying to rework the child's parents so that they retroactively fix things is an option. I do realize my answer isn't what anyone wants to hear -- but I felt it would be worthwhile to note that there may not be a solution per se.
    – A Smith
    Jul 15 '15 at 15:27

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