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The Rise Of Helicopter Grandparents

Posted: June 21, 2012

Disclaimer: This may not be true for everyone. I may be wrong in my outlook. This is not to point out fingers to anyone or anyone’s style of parenting or grandparenting. The whole point of this post was to just bring out certain aspects in styles of grandparenting. I apologise in advance if it hurts anyone’s feelings.

While most of us know about helicopter parenting (it was a big topic of discussion with tiger moms and what not) I wonder if anyone coined the word ‘helicopter grandparenting’..or may be its already there and I am not aware…….or is it because we have taken it for granted at least in the Indian parenting style.

I don’t know how popular the concept of daycare is in India (I think its catching up in the urban areas), but most ladies I know in my workplace, leave their children with the grandparents. In the washroom (its the favorite area of discussion in our office I guess! Many have complaints against their in-laws’ grandparenting styles…

Loads of people believe, that there is a great importance of grandparents in a child’s life. I wont dispute that. But in my case, I have had neither set of grandparents around permanently.The grandmothers would come visiting once in a while.I dont remember my grand fathers, they died within a gap of 1 year of each other, 1 year after I was born.  We were a nuclear family right from the start, and I have felt no lack of love ever. Whatever a grandparent is expected to do (show extra love, make your favorite dish, tell you stories) everything my parents have done for me and my brother.

I always believe in this ‘A parent knows the best for his/her child.’ But does a grand mother know the best for her grand child? After all she herself has been a mother and knows a lot more from experience.

I know of grandmothers, who overrule what a mother has to do all the time. you know mundane things. Like let’s say giving solids before  a certain age, or controlling what the child has to take at what time, or taking the child in their laps during a pooja or dictating a child’s choice of clothes even if the mother wants something else.

I would term that as helicopter grandparenting. Where a grandparent seems to have more say in a child’ life than the parents.

I dont know whether it’s good or bad. One part of my brain says ‘after all they are experienced’ but the other part of me feels ‘Shouldn’t the final decision lie on the parents?’

When grandparents try to be parents all over again, I don’t know whether its a good thing or not. Because as grandparents, you may have the experience, but you also are looking after your child’s child, so love often blinds your decision. This has happened in a lot of cases where the child then starts to understand after a certain age, that okay, if my parents are not giving me, I am sure my grandparents will. Basically leads to pampering. And a pampered child may not always turn out to be a balanced adult.

What happens when such pampered kids grow up? They think the world belongs to them, they think what they do is right, and they think they can get away with anything because that’s what their grandparents told them.

For example, let’s say a mother scolds a child for some reason and the grandparent supports the child saying the child is too young. Agreed the child may be young, but when you support your grandchild, you are sending conflicting messages to the kid. And finally the kid understands that his/her grandparent is going to always support him/her and starts taking advantage of that.

That’s wrong.

I am years away from being a grand parent, I don’t even know whether R is going to give me grand kids (I am never asking her!) but I think grandparents need to understand that their parenting styles may not always apply to today’s generation.

We did it to you and you turned out just fine, is not a logic that may be applicable always.

We never gave you a choice when  you were 6, does that mean you cant decide?

Well, it was a different world, perhaps if you had given a choice, we would have turned better?

I often come across grandparents, who are constantly telling the parents, what to do, how to do, when to do?


I mean, most parents seem to be sane enough, mature enough to decide whats right and what’s wrong for their kids,…and if you brought up your child right, how come he/she cant decide whats right or wrong for their children?

Again, if a grandparent is taking care of their grandchild in case both the parents are working, I think the right way would be to keep the parents informed about everything related to their child. They may know the best for their grandchild, but its always better to confirm with the parents, whether they think its appropriate that the child watches two hours of TV or goes down to play before doing the homework. I dont mean to say that keep asking the parents everything, obviously its only the major decisions and basic rules which need to be in place so that a child doesnt get conflicting message.

I am no expert in grandparenting or even parenting…but few things do come to my mind

1. Always be on the same page with the parents of the kids. If there are certain basic rules laid down, it becomes much easier to handle all the three generations

2. Never interfere when a parent is talking to a child. Even if the parent may be wrong. You can do it later, when the child is not around, otherwise the child thinks he/she can get away with anything when grandparents are there

3. Never encourage your grandchild to do anything on the sly and not inform the parents, you are not setting the right example there

4. Its absolutely important to remember that you are helping raise your child’s child and not your child, so a parent may have as important a say in the topic of upbringing as you.

I again apologise, if this post hurts anyone’s feelings. That is not the purpose.

R’s Mom is a working mother in Mumbai trying to balance work, home and

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  1. Excellent write up..you’ve hit the right notes. I agree with what you say. Parenting does change with generation and what was right then may not work now. Grandparents had their chance to be parents and now they should just be a supporting factor and not a conflicting one.

  2. loved it R’s mom! In today’s nuclear families when there are less number of grandchildren (2-6) compared to (6-20) from out last generation, grandparents and parents seem to squabble endlessly on who is better or right? Grandparents get to see their grand children for few days in a year and then they start commenting on the parenting ways, physique and growth pattern of the grandchild. For parents, who have actually come to visit their parents, it become difficult to hear so much of comments, criticism and suggestion over a short visit.

    • I so hear you, Chandrima…I think the issue lies when the grandparents want to go through the parenting process ALL OVER AGAIN just because they think they will do a better job..may be they will, but whats the point, you have raised your kids, now let them raise theirs!

  3. This post just hit the right ‘spot’…I am a new mom living with in-laws…and MIL is quite possessive about my child…she is always gushing and fussing with the kid…don`t know how it will be when kid grows older and I need to get back to work full time…hope I dont have to face such a situation which seems quite possible for how she is doting on the baby!!!

    • I think the easiest way is to set expectations right from the start..and involve your husband in every step…because once the grandparents know that both the parents are in the same page, it becomes easier to handle tricky situations 🙂

  4. So so true! Living in a joint family, I’ve already seen one nephew going the way you’ve described! Now it’s my kid’s turn, am trying my best to ensure the story doesn’t repeat!

  5. Pingback: Few Links I Forgot to Put | R's Mom

  6. Thankfully someone has the guts to state that. If only grandparents come across it. Three cheers.

  7. well written and yes if only grandparents read this !

  8. This is so true. It has happened with me when my son was too small and at that time we were living with my in-laws. The situation resolved when we moved to UK and I was able to look after my son all alone. What I think is, we as first time mothers may not know it all but we certainly want to be the only parents for our child. If and when we do face problems we consult our parents and in-laws, after all they are experienced, who else will we go to. But rest of the time, the grandparents should not interfere with mundane daily matters. I don’t think it is stable for the child. I have also seen a situation where the grandparents are so dominating and possessive that the parents have taken a back seat and are not confident in raising the child on their own.

  9. I cm from a joint family.. from my experience i would say grandparents should trust the parents when it comes to parenting after all they have done with their job so it nw their children’s responsibility.
    I think they should serve as mentor, if they disagree with parents style of parenting, they should discuss with the parents and sort out the matters and not try doting the parent in presence of the kids.

  10. I just hope to print this and read it out aloud at home. I so wish….

  11. Too much with Sumana. Also I think this should also be applicable to any relative who visit your home for more than a day. When the athais come home, stay for more than a month and boss around the parents talking about their upbringing of their kid, even thats sometimes so irritating.

  12. righty said RM.. i am facing this prob at my home.. MIL takes care of bunty.. such prob come even for small small things like giving her a biscuit or chocolate.. it is ok if she gives, and it spoils her tooth if i give.. she want to dictate when i have stop breastfeeding my daughter.. my hubby argues, that they have experience and they know better..

  13. I am irked by grandparents who try to take away their son’s or daughter’s chance of raising their own children. All I have to say to them is, “You have had your chance, be happy with the next best place in the child’s life now”!! Because honestly, that’s the truth, grandparents are very very important but their place in a child life is secondary to the parents.

  14. My opinion about grandparents are playing the major role in decision taking and at the same time they didn’t trust the parents because they are the pillar want to save their child from problem which they faced.
    Good post to share.

  15. Very well written,an eye opener to grand parents.I think if the older generation just learns to live and let live,a lot of problems will just disappear.They need to realize if kids are old enough to be married off,and procreate,they are also mature enough to know what’s best for their kids,especially with regards to today’s changing scenario and the competitive world we all live in. Deepthi

  16. Possibly also grandparents like the idea of continuing to be the know-it-alls in their children’s lives? I am a grandparent too and mostly try not to interfere, though occasionally I do talk to my grandkids’ mums–I can’t help myself!

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