29 answers

Grandparents Treating Each Child Equally

Hello all

I am not sure how to begin this. I have a beautiful almost 3yr old. Mike has an older daughter from a previous relationship who will be 10 this year. I am finding that Mike's parents are favoring the older child who doesn't not live with us. Sometimes it is like our 3yr old doesn't even exist or as if i brought him into this relationship from another relationship (like he is not mikes) they are always buying things for his daughter or spending much more quality time with her. Every summer they get her for 5-7 weeks (they live in Florida)-however right now they are up here visiting and I am finding they are spending more time with the granddaughter than their grandson. Brandon and I are home all week- with the exception for Wed and Thursday when he goes to daycare so I can get my work done (I work from home) They have not chosen at all to come over except one day when they spent an hour with Brandon. I find this very hurtful and very agrivating. They are always talking about how they spoiling the granddaughter. When she is in Florida with them she doesn't take a suitcase they buy her all new clothes to wear when they are down there (which is not necessary she has a ton of clothes which a lot have not even been worn some still have the tags on them) And when they come here have nothing for Brandon. For example they sent a package here for the granddaughter that contained items adding up to approx $20 with a note just to let you know you are special. NOTHING CAME FOR BRANDON - Brandon knows when packages come the are usually always from one set of grandparents or another. When Mike mentioned this to them - they said they didn't know what to get him! Then the sent him a .97 cent monster truck - for him is was great but was really hurtful to us it didn't make sense. It really bothers me because my parents who are not the daughters natural grandparents treat her as though she is (except birthdays) if My parents send something for one they send something for the other and are of equal value.Sometimes I want to tell my mom not to send anything for the daughter - but I don't want to be like that and I want her to feel part of my family -- how can I resolve this - so no one is getting hurt feelings. thanks for listening I am sure I rambled - but I don't have anyone else to really talk to about this. thanks again

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Wow thank you to everyone who responded! I was totally surprised to see how many people have seen or been through this same thing. I will take all advice and try to get this resolved to best benefit Brandon. I have opened the door to the grandparents in letting them know they are always welcome and that we are always here and would love to have them come visit. Sadly they have not taken us up on this. I don't think us not being married is an issue because Mike was not married in the previous relationship. We are engaged and they seem to be happy about it. They have been actively involved in the daughter life since birth - she has been going to florida since as least 4yrs old- but I will not keep venting - I truly appreciate everyone who took time to read my story and to respond!! I am really liking this resource. Even though we don't meet face to face I feel like I have people I can talk to and being here in Maryland I don't have many of those. thank you to all!! I will try to let everyone know what happens. thank you

More Answers

If your future inlaws are not even acknowledging there's any favoritism, what do you think you will able to say or do to point it out to them? All you can do is make suggestions if they ask what he'd like. You can invite them to spend more time with him--and you--while they are visiting. Sounds like, even though Mike wasn't married to his daughter's mom, his parents established some type of bond that allowed them to have a lot of time raising this granddaughter. But, there are so many other reasons for their being aloof that you can make yourself crazy trying to guess them all. Frankly, your future inlaws just might not have the stamina for dealing with a strongwilled grandson who is still learning boundaries and behavior. Who knows? There are some people who just don't have the patience or energy to deal with children at all stages of life. Some are your greatest help when they are infants and toddlers; some can handle them throughout; some are useless until they are well out of diapers and ready ofr high school. You cannot compare a 10-year-old granddaughter to a 3-year-old grandson. They are different in their needs and their personalities. A 10-year-old is much more independent than a 3-year-old and you don't know when that 5-7 week visitation started or how. You can't get too distracted by the surface things like toys and such. Your future inlaws might be helping in other ways (like including him in a savings plan or estate plans) or they might be your greatest support in the future, like when your son is 10. Meanwhile, your parents are great and they are here for your grandson's emotional need right now. And, the fact that they include your stepdaughter shows they are just loving and giving people. Love them, in return, and appreciate the bonds they are building within your family. Keep the door open and inviting to your future inlaws and try not to take everything personally--even if it is an issue of favoritism. Be yourself. Let them get to know you and their grandson. Discuss things with Mike and let him address them. But, don't try to force it. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to get some premarital counseling and decide now how you are going to manage the extended family issues.

1 mom found this helpful

I know it is hard to watch unequal treatment, especially when your child is the one on the small end of the stick. You didn't mention if you have invited the GP over or they just haven't come. I agree with the previous post about letting the father of your child negotiate with the GPs about how much to share with each child. Also, remember the attention span of a 3 year old is much smaller than a 7 year old, so the shorter interactions may be more appropriate for now.

I would suggest: While the grandparent's are in town invite them along to some specific activities. If you think they aren't sure how to play/talk with a 3 year old, set up a specific activity for them to do with your son on a specific day. You could invite them to join you for something fun you have "planned" for Saturday afternoon... Then, for your son's sake do whatever you picked, regardless of their participation.

~Cookie/cupcake decorating, pre-bake cupcakes (or ask a local bakery if you can buy some un-iced cupcakes) and have icing and toppings ready to go. Along with aprons or play clothes to get sticky and then let the GP enjoy his creativity and energy.
~Chucky cheese or McDonald's play area where they can watch and intermittently interact with a energetic child as he comes down slides, ect.
~Grandparent read his favorite book to him for a story time. Make it special by eating or wearing something related, during or after the book. (Scramble eggs with green food coloring added, for green eggs and ham.)
~Make "dirt cake" Your 3 year old can mash Oreos in a Ziploc bag and grandparents can help assemble the layers of oreos alternating with pudding/yogurt/etc. There are actual recipes online. Include gummy worms in the layers... eat it together. Lots of silly fun.

<<<< Regardless of activity: Be sure to take photo/video of the event, especially since interactions are limited. Then in a month send the photo/video to them in Florida to remind them of the great time they had and how cute your boy is, strong willed or not. :) >>>>>

Personal note: My grandma got so into being even with her 8 grandkids, that there was no compensation for inflation (with a 20 year span in ages) and change was given if you didn't spend all your money when grandma took you shopping. Problems arose with gratitude when all my grandma got a particular group of my cousins was socks/underwear/uniform shirts. The kids weren't excited, so she wasn't excited to buy, so she only bought what their mom suggested, more boring uniforms. Just be careful not to let evenness go to the extreme. I try to by my nieces/nephews a similar number of packages even if the value varies because of their age, that is all they are aware of for now.

1 mom found this helpful


Is your husband an only child? It sounds like it. Is his daughter their only grandchild until you had your son? Sounds like she was. My husbands Dad and my husbands step mom are both only children and because of that they both grew up very selfish and to where everything was just for them and that is what they are used to. My husband is one of 3 and among the 3 there are 4 grandchildren. His stepMom has one child and her one child has one son who is 14. The other 4 grandchildren are all 8 and under. Anyway because they were only children and my husbands step sister is an only child and so is her son they don't know how to act or give if there is more than one child. My husbands step sister gets all the attention from her Mom and my husbands Dad and her Son also gets all the attention and gifts. The other 4 grandchildren that are on my husbands side are all put off and given nothing. At Christmas they give the other grandson tons of stuff, clothes and so on where my son who is 8 gets a DVD or maybe a $20 gift card and that is it. The other 3 grandchildren get nothing. It's the same way at Birthdays. It's really sad. We stopped going to their house for Christmas because of this because the one who gets hurt are the children especially my 8 year old. They just don't know what to do or how to do anything for more than one child at a time because of all their up bringings. My son knows this and so we have had many talks with him and have explained a few things so he knows and so he also knows not to expect anything but to be thankful when he does. It's really hard to be around them and seeing the other grandson getting everything and all the attention so we limit what we do with them and limit our visits with them and we really supervise most everything with them. There was even a Christmas a few years ago that we were with them that year visiting for Christmas. Well they had gone way out on the other grandson and on Christmas Eve after we went to bed they brought out all of the other grandsons presents and let him open most of them so that way we or my son won't see how many he has. After he opened them they had him put them away. Then on Christmas morning they left a few more for him to open so it looked like to us and my son that they got equal. My son got some cheap stuff, a DVD and some hot wheel cars that are 97 cents each and that was it. We were hurt and furious and have never gone to their house for Christmas again and never will. My son was too young to understand then, but he's not now and we will never do that to our son or put him in that situation again. My parents have 4 grandchildren, too and each one of the kids gets equally at Birthdays, Christmas and all during the year. What my Mom does for my son she also does for my sister's kids, too. My husbands Dad, Step Mom and Step Sister aren't cacable because of the way they were brought up. They don't know how to do this like my parents do. It's really sad, but we're raising our son to understand this so he doesn't get hurt or expect anything from them. Your son is too young to understand all this now, but I would start talking to him about things pertaining to this situation and as he ages he will understand and when he gets to my sons age he'll then be ok with it all. Not sure if this is your situation or not, but your story is exactly as mine is, too. Hope this helps a little. Good luck.

C.- married 11 years and one 8 year old son

Hi A.,

I feel at times I'm in the same situation. My husband has a child from a previous marriage and my husband has a brother who has twin girls who I feel my mother in-law does way more for them then my 2 kids with my husband. She will get the twins every 2 weeks and buy them way more then mine. I think your fiance's parents may feel that Brandon has both parents at home and you all may be more financially stabled then his ex-wife and they probably feel she needs way more attention then Brandon. I decided to stop taking it personal and to move on feel the in-laws are doing this because they feel she needs them more then your son. Luckily he is still young and really doesn't understand but hopefully it will get better. Take care!

Dear A.,

First and foremost, pray. Only Heavenly FATHER can change people's hearts. I faced something simialr when I married my ex-husband, who's mom really didn't like me, and I had a child from a previous relationship. When we had her first grandchild, I explained to my husband first that while this was his mom's first grandchild, she couldn't treat them differently and then I explained it to her. I was very afraid but she listened and she never sent a present for her grandchild without sending one to my first child. Even on my daughter's birthday, she remembered. But again, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY and continue being strong for your son. If they don't know what Brandon likes, then send them a list. Ask them if you've offended them in any form or manner. I know it's painful but not hopeless.

Hi A.

I am really sorry to hear about your in-laws, their behavior is deplorable.

But please try to understand, they are no doubt over-compensating for the fact that their granddaughter is from a broken home and doesn't live with her father.

This is very dangerous to the granddaughter, it is always bad for a child to be spoiled, and I'll bet her mother is not thrilled with the grandparent's either, they are setting up problems with unrealistic expectations later.

It could also be hurtful to your son as he gets old enough to understand, but only if he percieves it that way, so I would be careful to not mention it in his hearing, if you are hurt (and of course you are) he will be hurt too.

It is up to your husband to speak to his parents and explain he doesn't want his daughter or son involved in their need to "compensate" and that they need to show more equal treatment of both his children.

Whatever else you do, I would strongly recommend you ignore this behavior, it can only cause friction in your family if you focus on it.

Good luck,


i understand that this is a difficult situation for you. but here's a possible perspective....maybe the grandparents were not that interested in the granddaughter when she was younger.

here's my current grandparent situation. my inlaws are getting better with our son. he will be 3 in march. they see him in person once a year (their choice as we invite them and they say no). when we have seen them over the last 3 years for other family events. they are great with my husband's cousins who have kids. they interact more with the older children. it infuriated me since our son is their only grandchild. but growing up, i had grandparents similar to my inlaws (my dad's folks). my grandparents preferred my older sister and younger brother as they favored my dad's side of the family though they were always treated us equally. i had a much better relationship with my mom's mom.

my mom and my husband have been great in this respect as they have been my sounding board. my husband grew up with his folks so nothing that they do is too surprising for him.

we just returned from visiting them. and the first day, his mom took a couple of naps. during breakfast (the first day), they were reading the paper as my son tried to talk to them. finally on day 3 and 4 they were playing with him, talking to him, reading him books, and then we left the following day.

I think that your husband needs to talk to his parents about the disparity. Not everything will be equal, but if the unequality is in the kids' faces, it's not good for either of them. The less favored one feels bad and the more favored one can either get an attitude or feel badly for his/her sibling.

Also, is your stepdaughter the oldest of all the grandkids? Is she favored above others? Do they feel like they have to do these things to maintain a relationship via the mother (since she doesn't live with you)? Or feel like they need to support the child who lives with the mother more than the one that lives with the father? Or maybe trying to make up for not having parents together?

I was the less-favored child on one side of the family and I know that it's no fun being in your son's place. Has your husband tried telling them what his son is into right now and making suggestions for what to buy? Or are they just refusing to deal with the kid at all?

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