Grandparents Are Worried About Overindulgence by Connie Dawson


When I give a talk on overindulgence, there are usually a few grandparents in the audience and they express concern for their grandchildren. They believe that overindulgence may truly spoil the lives of the ones they love most.

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I ask them to be more specific. “In which area(s) do you think your grandchildren are being overindulged?

·  Too much stuff that costs money? 

·  Too many activities and lessons?

·  Having done things for the children they could do for themselves?

·  Not expecting the children to do chores? 

·  Failing to have rules that are enforced by consequences? 

·  Giving the kids too much freedom? 

·  Letting the kids have too much power in the family?

What are they doing about their concerns?

I ask grandparents, “What have you done to express your concern?” Here are some of their answers.

     - I’ve told my daughter I’m concerned that she and her husband are canceling one another out and not holding the kids accountable for their choices. The kids get by with running the show. 

     - I tried my best to stay non-judgmental. I don’t know what to do. I haven’t said anything.

     - I’ve given my son a copy of your book and told him that after reading it, I was concerned that I’d overindulged him in some ways. I apologized for not knowing better at the time. We have changed the way we respond to our grown children now.

     - We’re setting better boundaries and being careful about our gifts to them. We’ve both told our kids that we’re proud of how they’re doing some very smart things that we didn’t do when they were growing up. We wish we had!

     - Our grandson is annoying and obnoxious because he demands to be the everlasting center of attention. He’s four now. How will that behavior work when he’s fourteen? When he’s 25? How will it work for his parents then? I’m worried for them, but I don’t want to meddle.

     - I’m worried that if I express a concern about her parenting, my daughter will not be happy. I don’t want to make her angry or make her feel she’s not a good mother.

     - I tell my daughter and son-in-law how much I admire how they get parenting help when things aren’t working the way they intended.

Remember, the concerns of these grandparents come from a deep caring place. 

Grandparents overindulge less than parents

From the other side of the fence, many parents say the grandparents are the ones doing the overindulging. According to our studies, however, adults who were overindulged as kids said that mothers and fathers were the ones who overindulged the most. Grandparents were the overindulgers in only 4 percent of cases. Whoever overindulges should accept responsibility and make necessary changes.

Tips for grandparents

·  Look at how you may be seeing the situation with “they should do it my way” eyes.

·  Learn more about the dynamics of overindulgence.

·  Refrain from blanket generalizations. Focus on specific behaviors of concern: “When Jack opened his 25 birthday presents, he didn’t seem much interested in any of them. When he finished ripping through the gifts, he looked hollow, yet, he looked for more. Should we be doing something different?”

·  Stay in your loving integrity when you share a concern. Refrain from being critical. Overindulgence comes from a loving heart and good intentions.

·  Offer to explore options to replace unwanted behaviors or ineffective beliefs.

·  Be a partner in learning.

·  Acknowledge the specific ways you may have overindulged or are overindulging now, and make the corrections in your own current relationships.


There is more help about avoiding overindulgence in How Much is Too Much? Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children – From Toddlers To Teens – In An Age of Overindulgence (2014, DaCapo Press Lifelong Books).

All photos from MorgueFile free photo. 

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2017;  bredehoft@csp.edu, jiconsults@aol.com