Daughter Never Wants to Leave Grandparents

Updated on May 06, 2013
J.C. asks from Wilmington, DE
16 answers

I am a 31 year old single mother to a 3 1/2 year old little girl. She loves to spend time with my parents. My father picks her up from daycare everyday and she spends time with them for 2 to 3 hours before I get done work. She also spends the night at their house (it seems like more than she stays home more recently) and we visit just about every weekend. About a month and a half ago, I hurt my back and was on bed rest for about a week to two weeks. During this time, we pretty much lived with my parents and my mom was her primary caregiver. Lately, when I get done work and go to pick her up, she fights and screams and cries that she is not leaving. I don't know what to do. My parents are wonderful and would do anything for her. I know they love her and hate to see her cry but when I take her to leave and she is screaming and crying, they tell me I am wrong and mean. There are time when I give in and let her stay, or even end up spending the night there with her. WHAT DO I DO??? I want my child to be close to her grandparents, but I want her home with me. Please help...

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answers from San Antonio on

Unfortunately, every time you stay or let her stay, she is learning "if I rebell enough I get my way". Your parents are hurting the situation, too, by calling you mean and wrong. She apparently gets what she wants at their house while she has rules at home. Yep, she likes their house better :) When your daughter is not around, let them know that they need to support you. From now on, do NOT give in. When you say it's time to go, it's time to go. You are the big person. When it's time to go don't say anything, go and put your things in the car so that your hands are empty. Empty hands are best when carrying a squirming child :) Go inside and let her know it's time to give hugs and say bye. As soon as she starts to act up, gently and firmly give her one warning to behave and give hugs. If she obeys react in a happy way and head out to the car. If not, pick her up immediately like you would normally carry her, have your parents kiss her, and leave. If your PARENTS start to act up as well, then tell them "Love you, see you tomorrow (or whenever)" in as cheerful voice you can manage, walk out the door and buckle her in the car. It may take many times to get everyone used to the new way of doing things, but is necessary. Putting her in time out at Gma & Gpa's just gets her extra time at their house and by the time you get home it's been too long between action and discipline for her age and will just seem mean to her. Just placing her in the car instead of a timeout is best.

Right now it's just at Grandma & Grandpa's house. The longer she uses tantrums as her way of getting what she wants the harder to break her of it later. She will start this at other places, too: McDonald's, friends' homes, at the store when she wants a candy or toy. None of us like being the "bad guy", but sometimes it is necessary. Just be constant and she will learn. Making her go home with you will NOT cut her relationship with her grandparents.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I have experienced a similar situation...in our case it was probably because Grandma bought the kids stuff every time they visited (frequent), gave them all kinds of sweets and junk food, and also rarely said no to anything...and then she got a dog...it was all play and no rules.
Anyway, try not to let it get to you. She is not rejecting you. A lot of kids have trouble with transitions, especially if they are in the middle of something fun.
She will grow out of this, but for now, do not give in. Make it clear how long she is staying and what time the visit will end so she can be prepared. When you come to pick her up, say, "Goodbye Grandma and Grandpa, thank you, we will see you again soon!", in a cheerful tone. By doing this, you are modeling the behavior you want her to have.
Have a serious talk with your parents, and let them know that encouraging tantrums is not helpful at all, and that you expect them to support you in helping your daughter to learn how to express her feelings appropriately and transition from a visit back to her home.
Also, I would stop the overnight visits for a while, if you can. If you can't stop it, just reduce them drastically. The overnight visits may be confusing her as to where she lives---you said yourself it "seems like" she is there more than home, recently---and if it seems that way to you, imagine how it seems to a preschooler with little sense of time!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

If your parents "would do anything for her," they'd dramatically reduce her dismay if they can help her be emotionally ready for the switch. Ask them to help with the transition by letting her know you'll be picking her up in half an hour, and helping her to finish whatever activity she's involved in. Have an activity prepared for her to come home to, and ask your parents to talk it up as though it's every bit as appealing as being at their house. I can see where they'd think it's wrong and mean for you to take your crying daughter home. And it's equally wrong and mean for them not to help her look forward to your return.

It sounds like they have become as attached to your daughter as she is to them. I hope you'll acknowledge how important the bond is all around.

You may find some real help in the steps offered by a process called Non-Violent Communication. It teaches you how to recognize and affirm the feelings and needs of other people, while being clear and non-confrontational about your own feelings and needs. My husband and I have both learned the process, and find it helpful with "difficult" family situations and highly-emotional people. I hope you'll google the term to see the basic process explained, and sources of books and classes. (We haven't taken any classes – just using the book has worked well for us.)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

How is she treated at your parents house? My guess is like a little spoiled princess who gets what she wants when she wants it. This is how most grandparents treat their grandchildren. Of course your daughter doesn't want to leave.

The absolute worst thing you can do is to give into her tantrums. You teaching her that her behavior is acceptable. You need to be firm and when you say its time to leave, mean it. If necessary, pick her up and drag her to the car.

As for your parents, you need to sit down and have a talk with them. Tell them that you really appreciate their help and that you want them to spend time with your daughter, but you also have things you need to do at home.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I had the same problem with both my girls who are 16 and 9, my son who is 2 loves going to see them but doesn't make a big stink about leaving. I would not EVER give in and stay there with her ir allow her to stay. You need to explain that when it is time to go home, it is time to go home. You also need to tell your parents to explain this to her as well. My mother respected my decisions and thats part of the problem if your parents don't. Your child is close to your parents and thats why she wants to stay, but she also has a home with her mother. My kids are STILL extremely close to my mom and my 9 yr old still tells me she isn't going home and begs to stay there and some nights we give in but some we don't. There is nothing you can do about it really, and at 31/2 you will have to deal with the temper tantrums, but just don't give in to them. You honestly need to tell your parents to have a talk with her about HAVING to go HOME and you need to tell them to stop telling you your wrong and mean. EXPLAIN HOW THAT MAKES YOU FEEL and that when they do that in front of her they are just feeding into her. etc..etc... Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Scranton on

It sounds to me like she needs some time with you and some time away from your parents. She's starting to see you as the babysitter and them as the parents. Also make sure that when she is with them, she isn't being completely spoiled. I can certainly understand the attachment, but it may be a good idea to have her spend less time with them so she can reattach to you

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

Hugs to you with this one. I go through the same thing with my children (7 & 2). Please don't listen to those who are telling you this is a result of not spending enough time with your daughter or allowing her view your parents as her primary caregiver. My husband and I raiseI work part time. My kids are with my inlaws for three short (7 hour) days a week. When he sees me at the end of the day my youngest will often cry -- "You go away! I don't want to go home!" I 've also noticed that this happens most frequently on days when he has cried in the morning that he doesn't want to leave home! It makes me feel awful, either way. My advice is this: Don't give in to the mommy guilt! This is about transitions -- ever challenging with little ones -- and about the good times and positive feelings your daughter experiences with your parents. I've thought long and hard about this. Do tears mean that they prefer grandparents over me? Am I a terrible monster mom that they don't want to be with? The answer (obvious to everyone around us but me): of course not. Grandparents who are not full time caregivers have the luxury of devoting 100% of their attention to your child for most of the time she is with them. You and I do not have that luxury. Know she loves you. Know it in your bones. Be grateful for the attention and love she receives when she is with your parents. Talk privately with your parents about respecting your opinion and backing you up, even through the tears. And when it is time go home, stay strong :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I think you need to take control of the situation.
If you can talk to your parents and let them know you concerns do so. Ask them to help with the transition, preferably even before pick-up time arrives and definitely when you are picking her up.
Kids get attached to their caregivers, it's a good thing! But a good caregiver never questions the parent or their authority, commitment or love for their child in front of them. Ask them for their support in your role as a mother.

I don't think that the fact that she makes is fuss is the problem, it's that you give in and she ends up spending more time with them than with you. That is going to affect your relationship with your daughter and with your parents (as you will start feeling resentful towards them).
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think it is very wrong of your parents for them to tell you that you are wrong and mean. She is your daughter and belongs with you. Kids always cry for something and just because parents don't give them what they want, doesn't make the parent mean. You should not give in and let her stay or stay there with her. If you give in, then your daughter "wins" and she will keep up this behavior. I disagree with those that said you should move in with your parents. That won't solve the problem. I think you should see if you could find someone else to watch her for those couple of hours just for like a week to get her off this habit. Even if you don't, if you don't want to hurt your parents feelings or don't have anybody else, please DO NOT give in to her. She will stop soon as long as you don't give in to her crying. Maybe you could designate one day a week where she could stay over, and tell her ahead of time that on a certain day she can stay, but every other day she has to come home with you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I too have a similiar "problem." In my case, I am divorced and my son will be 4 in August. My mom used to have him overnight every Thursday as well as other nights' pick ups from school. Since March, when his dad wanted 1/2 custody of him, my mom lost Thursday nights (wed/thurs he is with his dad) along with every other weekend. My parents then only get to see him every other weekend and then Mon, Tues when he is with me. Of course these weekends they offer and offer to have him stay over and I too get to sleep at my parents if I want to be with him. Believe me, I try to not give in -- Sundays are a mess with me pulling him out of there -- but I do it because he's got to be here in our house with me. Just as I insisted that his father set up a home for our son as well.
My parents understand my side, but really miss my son. He is their only grandchild and they have even renovated their house allowing us our own seperate rooms and a play room for my son.
I am hoping that this will get easier with time -- If I stick to my guns....
But my parents also have been trying to get me to move in with them (with the renovation, we'd have our own "wing" of the house).. that's pressure, hah?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I have no experience in this and might get flamed for suggesting a different approach that worked for a friend who was in a similar situation. She moved in with her parents. At first, she thought it would teach her kids wrong messages (about adults moving back in with parents), she was worried about having to follow their rules, etc.

She talked with her parents and they came up with living situations they could all live with - her kids thrived with the consistency, her son had a 'father figure type' and stopped acting out and her kids saw her as their mother (not as a sitter or part-time member).

For several years, this has been a win-win situation for them, so that is why I wanted to share. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

In your situation, being a single working mother, you will have to work very hard at building a relationship with your child. Already it is clear that you have had to let the child stay with your parents because you are time poor (because you have to work) and maybe even energy poor from being sick. With kids, the thing they want the most is quality time. Going shopping is not quality time, playing by themselves while mommy sleeps is not quality time.
Parents need to ask themselves why their children would prefer the company of their grandparents rather than them. Is there something about the parents recreation time that the children don't like. Do the parents SHARE time with them, or do they DRAG them along like a dog while they do their own selfish things.
So one tactic that works with children at hand-over time is that Mommy needs to have a good activity planned for when you get home. Painting yes! Bath time no! Remember, build a bond through sharing quality time. And quality time is not going shopping (cause kids hate shopping) it is about having a game of hide and seek, or doing something like painting.
Most importantly, never punish your child for loving their grandparents. If they cry that is very normal at that age, in fact they can't help it in much the same way they will cry if they hurt themselves. And just as they grow out of crying when they hurt themselves, they will grow out of crying when they leave the grandparents.
But of course your daughter won't cry because you will have some fun activity to do when she gets home and she will be dying to see you. The day that she starts crying when you drop her to your grandparents is the day that you have really won the love of your child...


answers from Dallas on

My kids are close with their grandparents and have somewhat overstep their boundary with my older kids. I know you love them very much too, I can read that but you are also very independent and that's great to show your daughter. I think you really need to talk to them and let them know you are her mother and you know they have great intentions, but they need to stand behind you. It's only going to be harder the older she gets. My youngest throws a fit every night I tell him he's taking a bath, but does he ever want to get out of the bathtub, NO. Kids just do that. Your daughter does love her grandparents and loves being there. That's great, but you do need to have them stand with you.
Good Luck, I know it's hard.


answers from Allentown on

Hi, J.:

Move in with your parents.
Good luck. D.



answers from Los Angeles on

I am a grandmother who has a similar problem with my grandson. He has been this way since he was about 8 months old. He stayed at our house occasionally but not enough so that such a strong attachment should have been made. Now he is 3 1/2 and still wants to come stay with me. He asks his parents every day. All the things that are being said are not true with me. I do discipline him and I don't buy him gifts continuously. He doesn't get to do every thing he wants. I've been worried that he is being treated mean at home... but never said anything to anyone about it. All I know is that I do love him and he knows that. I play with him a lot because I have time and I ask his opinions and sometimes let him decide if it is possible. I let him help me do things around the house and I'm always willing to sit down and play with him or read a story. I feel bad that for my son and his wife and I understand how upsetting it is for them. But now they are keeping him away from me on the premise that this will handle the problem. It makes me so sad that I am not able to have him visit any more... and he still asks me every time I visit them for a couple of hours if he can come home with me... because he doesn't like his house. I have explained to him but oh... it's heartbreaking for all of us... one side or the other.

I think every parent needs to examine what they are doing and make sure it is loving and kind. Children are little people and they deserve to be treated just as you would like to be treated. They will respond to that.


answers from Williamsport on

Your parents are wrong to ever tell you you are wrong or mean for taking your daughter home. Children sometimes cry. But you should be alarmed she is so unable to leave them. You have gotten them too involved in her upbringing. You needed their help, and now it's gone too far.
I'm home alone all the time with 3 kids and no family help whatsoever. Granted, I dont' work outside of the home, so I would need child care for those times, and I do have my oldest in daycare during the week. But I have all my kids at all times other than that. If this truly bothers you, you need to adopt that practice.
If you're not at work, she's with you. You don't need to visit your parents that often or leave her there overnight. If YOU want to visit them that much and YOU want to leave her overnight, YOU want to stay overnight there too, and YOU want them taking care of her that often, then you can't complain that they are her primary caregivers (with the perk that they don't like to see her cry--possible spoiling alert--- ) in your daughter's eyes.
When I was on bed rest for 2 months with a high risk pregnancy, I had two sets of relatives helping me. For 1 month my in laws came to stay, for one month we were at my parents. Not once did my kids think they were their primary caregivers. Mom was on the couch, that's all.

You have adopted a little too much of a "we're all raising my daughter together" system. Which is fine if you like it, but since you don't like it, you need to be firm and take control. Have a family pow wow, tell them your new rules, for example, she's only there when you're at work. You can do it! Now would be a good time to get your daughter more used to you before she gets any older. Don't worry about her being close to the grandparents, even if they only see her for a few hours a day until you get home from work, that WAY more then most grandparents see their grand kids.

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