Grandparents That Favor One Set of Grandkids over Another?

Updated on October 17, 2011
T.O. asks from Athens, GA
21 answers

So my hubby's parents obviously favor another set of their grandkids over our kids. It's really frustrating to me and my oldest is starting to notice and ask questions. Before long his feelings will really start being hurt and I really don't want that. The kids are all similar in age so age isn't the issue and it's boy - girl in each set. They do things like have the other grandkids over to spend the night and my MIL in particular just GUSHES over their oldest. That child can do no wrong in her eyes but with my oldest she makes comments like, "I'd need 3 days worth of drinks to have yours over for the night" and she'll come over to our house and say something about she doesn't want to spend her retired years babysitting, blah blah blah.

And we do NOT ask often for them to watch our kids! In the last year we've asked twice! Once was for conferences at school and the other we went to a concert but the kids were asleep they just stayed at our house and watched tv so I absolutely don't feel like we've taken advantage of them so she had a reason to say that...and she says it very often. Then there's "Well he's a sweet boy BUT we just can't take a lot of him" Come on!! He's an 8 year old boy and did you not raise 4 kids of your own?? It's true he's busy and gets really excited (sometimes too excited) when people come to visit but he's not out of control! And your OTHER grandkids act no different then he does but somehow with them it's "Oh how precious!" " I love they're so excited to see me!" " They're so full of personality!"

UHGG!! It's gotten so bad that I have started to actively dislike my SIL and her kids. Yes, I know it's wrong and childish and I feel bad but this has gotten ridiculous. How can you not love all your grandkids equally and show obvious favoritism?? Not to mention the disproportion of pictures at their house. I give you just as many pictures as SIL does so how do you have 3x the pictures of her kids than mine??

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your sweet comments!! I want to be fair and point out that my inlaws DO love my kids. I know it and they know it. They give lots of hugs and kisses and come to games to support them. But when the kids are all together you can really see the difference. My husband does see it too but at times he's told me that I'm being over sensitive which is probably true but my heart hurts over this. Sometimes it will be a little bitty thing that I probably wouldn't notice or care about if all this wasn't going on but every instance just glares at me.

I've told my husband that we have got to do something about this and he agrees but his parents are SUPER sensitive to anything resembling criticism so we don't want to alienate them.

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answers from Eugene on

MIL has the same problem. She favors her daughters set of kids over her sons. I have come to justify it, by thinking she is closer to her daughter, therefore she is closer to her kids. It ate me up so long, I had to get past it and make it her loss for not spend the time with my kids.

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answers from Des Moines on

I just wanted to say that I think it is very natural for the grandma to be closer to her daughter's children than her son's simply because she is closer to her daughter than her son. Her daughter probably makes more of an attempt to reach out to her than her son (your husband). maybe I am way off here. But that's what has happened in our family. My mom is much closer to my kids because we talk on the phone all the time, etc. We live 18 hours away but I still feel like she is very involved in my children's lives. But here's the kicker... my brother lives right down the road from her. She rarely sees them. This really hurt her for a while, she couldn't figure out why they didn't come over, etc. They were always at his wife's parents house. I think it is a natural thing for Grandparents to be closer to their daughter's children.

My mom heard this saying that made her feel better. "A daughter is yours for life, but a son is yours until he takes a wife." For some reason this helps her keep it all in perspective.

I know this doesn't answer your question directly but, that's what's going on in our family.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

How mean! This is just horrible. At least my MIL is equally uninterested in ALL of her grandchildren -- except when she's talking about them when they're not around, then she's REAL CLOSE to all of them ;-)
Seriously, 8 yo is old enough for him to totally notice this slighting.
Normally in the case of in-law issues, I'm a big believer in politeness, respect and here's your hat, what's your hurry? But this is just flat-out mean.
I think your hubby (and maybe you) should say something to them. I would say something like "Perhaps you don't notice this, but Timmy is very hurt by the lack of time, attention and interest you show in him compared to Susie and Jeff. Just wanted you to be aware of how this hurts him."

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answers from Phoenix on

I suspect that my mom has a bit of a preference for my children (over my nieces and nephews) simply because she and I are very close to each other. But, like any decent grandparent, my mom would NEVER show favoritism of any kind and is very conscientious of displaying equal amounts of love/affection towards everyone. She does spend a lot of time with me during the week, and (by default) my kids as well, but she goes out of her way to keep it balanced as much as possible.

Part of loving your child or grandchild is showing them unconditional love. Which means that even if there is a closer "bond" with one set over the other, nobody knows but Grandma herself.

Your in-laws are making a tragic mistake here and I really think you need to talk to them about this. My in-laws are extraordinarily defensive as well, so I understand your concern about alienating them. But what if you made it all about your kids? Specifically your oldest and the potential of his feelings getting hurt. You could even (pretend) to give them the benefit of the doubt and tell them that even though you know it's not true, you're worried that your son might percieve their actions as showing favoritism. Focus on how devastating that would be for him.

I don't know any decent grandparent that wouldn't take something like that to heart. Even if they react defensively at the beginning, they'll eventually consider your words. Ideally, though, all of this should come from your husband. I've found (in dealing with my own in-laws) that things will be taken a lot better when coming from the mouth of their own flesh and blood, lol.

Good luck to all of you.

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answers from Dallas on

Let your kids ask grandma and grandpa those questions. There is nothing more obvious than when a kid brings it up. Be around to hear the answer and that should be the deciding factor on if you want to continue fostering that relationship.

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answers from Denver on

How awful for your kids. Grandparents are supposed to fun and wonderful! I say just keep your distance and try not to hold it against your SIL an dher kids. They haven't done anything wrong. I would also let the grandparents know that they are being VERY hurtful. They need to know how hard this is for everyone.

good luck!

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answers from Philadelphia on

aww im sorry. sometimes we can have issues like that...One of my kids was favored by MIL...I have two though...It made me and my husband really we slowly addressed each issue at a time...we spoke up (mostly my husband) about how it seemed wierd and wanted to understand what was going on...and at first we got a lot of "excuses" "i'm not doign anything wrong" blah blah...everyones situation is different, ...The comments they are making seem so annoying......who says that...about their grandkids...that is what I always thought when there were comments...i finally had a little talk...maybe you guys need to talk to them , give them some time, and see what happens...guess they wont be seeing her grandkids, if they keep it up???? goodluck!!!

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answers from Dallas on

Quit inviting them to visit you at your house. Toxic comments should be avoided. NEVER ask them to babysit. Whenever you need an overnight babysitter, hire a friend to come sleep over with your kids or ask your Sister-in-Law! But - if and when - - the grandparents invite you to visit them at their house - - go and BE HAPPY and GRATEFUL while you are there!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I have a similar situation. My husband and I were together for 8 years before having kids. I spent more time with his family than he did. He has 2 younger sisters and a younger brother, but we are all close in age. I happily gained a large, close knit family as a 20 year old.That was a wonderful thing for many years. His sister and I got pregnant together and it really changed everything. I can say that the favoritism does stem from my MIL relationship with her daughter over me. But, in my situation it was not due to a lack of effort or wanting on my part. I realize I have my own mother. I realize she has an entirerly different bond and relationship with her own daughter. But having kids showed me how much of an outsider I really am in a way that has been heartbreaking. I have fretted and cried over my kids realizing the imbalance in the family. My MIL has made amazing little girl and boy bedrooms at her house for my niece and nephew. When they are with her, she assumes a mothers role for them. When I ask for help, it's a big favor on her part for me. She does love my kids, and my inlaws are great for the most part. I'm just saying that I understand the way it hurts (for you and your kids) to feel less than someone else in your own family. I have stopped making the valiant effort I used to make in every way in the family. When I am called upon, I am there. When we are together, I enjoy it fully. I do love these people, but I protect myself and my kids by keeping some distance emotionally. Good luck to you and your family in dealing with this.
PS-I can relate to the misdirected feeling of resentment towards your SIL and niece and nephew. I've been there too. Just remember that they don't create or control the issue. For me, I am an only child and these are the only nieces and nephews I will have. I really fight not to let bitter feelings get in the way of being a good aunt. It's hard not to feel sorry for my kids that they don't have extended family on my side, and on my husbands side they are second place. Then I remember that they have me and their father who adore them beyond words.

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answers from Phoenix on

I found this question as I am looking for answers as to "why" things were they way they were with my parents toward my kids. Also have the same issue with my sister and the way they treat our kids over the other nieces and nephews. My husband's family is no different, treating our kids with less attention than the other children.

When my Mother passed away I arrived at their home to find not one picture on display that I had sent over the years of our family. However their were pictures everywhere of my sister and her family. When I arrived at my sisters there were less photos out of my family and more of her husband's. Now my Father just passed away. I found one photo at my sisters of me and my husband, NOT ONE of our children. My aunt who my sister has said she dislikes is living with them now, and her photos are everywhere. I guess we have been replaced.

My children have always been sensitive to all of this and when I speak up everyone says oh,, we don't treat them different. I ask about the photos and they say I never send any...I re sent college graduation photos and other holiday photos to make sure....these were still not up at my sisters.

I have boiled it down to a few things. We live differently, have less money and live with less. We are more conservative. We also as far as my family goes, the ones who moved away. I moved as a teen, brought my family back only to move away again for my husband's job. I think my parents resented that. My parents never in 18 years came for a holiday or sent a ticket to us to come to their home for a holiday. They would say that if they came to us they would miss what the other granddaughters were doing. It was very hurtful. When my parent's died my children really felt no loss. They did, but not as deep. This was my parent's choice. We did not do this. It is not me, it is not my husband, and it is not our kids- they are wonderful! It is a shame I waited all these years hoping to have them play grandparents to my children and it never happened.

My kids have been left out on both sides of the family. But they have us. Now as adults they understand this and know how to treat others -better! Give your kids what you can. If they ask about the grandparents...when they are older...tell them to ask the grandparents themselves. I wish I had. May have torn at their heart strings a bit.

Good luck.

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answers from Portland on

Of course you realize it's wrong to dislike your SIL and her kids – what you may not have thought about is WHY it's wrong. What if the situation were reversed, and she resented you and your kids because the GPs preferred you? I think you'd see that it is not in your control to make them love you less or the others more. Switch that back to your situation, and you can see the pointlessness of resentment toward her.

As unfair as this situation feels, it really is beyond your control whether or not your in-laws love or don't love people all the same. Do you? None of us do. Are there sensible reasons? No, not usually. There can be a whole host of rationalizations, but usually our likes and dislikes are based on things we don't recognize and can't control. Can I make myself love, or even like, somebody who rubs me the wrong way? Honestly, I do try, and occasionally I can achieve at least a scruple of respect or caring. But that doesn't mean I'd like to hang out with that person.

It's just human. Unfortunately.

Help your son to understand this so he won't be wounded by the lack of care and interest from his GPs. This will be an amazing life skill that he will find useful in many situations. For me, it's Rule #2 for living a sane and happy life: Don't take it personally! (Rule #1: Whatever I hate in other people, I hate in myself, and don't want to face. Rule #3: Recognize that the only things I can change are in myself, not in others.)

I think if I were in your situation, I would try to focus on dealing with my own business, and leave their business to them.

I wish the best for all of you.

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answers from Honolulu on

Well gosh, they are damaging him... he obviously is old enough to see that this his happening.

There is no excuse for it.
And your son is old enough to know when he is being given an 'excuse' for their behavior or not.

Just be honest with him.
And teach him everyone is different... NOT better, just different and NOTHING is wrong with him. Don't take it personally... for him.

Also, I would, or your Husband should, tell them that it is HURTING your son.... period.

I would really start teaching your son about how to value himself... not it being about how his Grandparents act toward him... give HIM value and confidence about it, if it is affecting him.
Arm him with skills and emotional astuteness... about people. Make it a learning lesson for him.... and you must role-model for him...... that YOU/Hubby value him... which I know you do of course.

It is sad... that your In-laws so openly dis-favor him. That is real mean.

What is your Husband doing about it? That is his parents....

Do not let, your In-Laws TOXIC behavior, damage your son.... bottom line.
Socialize with them or not... YOU choose.

all the best,

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answers from Sacramento on

Well to start we can't control other people. Meaning your MIL. SHe may also take pictures of the kids when they are visiting. It does however sound like she is able to handle the other kids better for some reason or likes the way they are behaved for some reason. Is there a posibility that your son may be hyperactive? Have his teachers ever said anything to you about it at all?

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answers from Columbus on

Oh you're living my life! I'm 29 years old and the oldest of 26 grandchildren- all but four are girls! My brothers and I are the least favorite, we've never been able to figure out why. My parents used to fight with my grandparents about it and of course they deny deny deny! But, it's made our immediate family very close. When we do have family gatherings with everyone (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) it makes us realize how much we love and appreciate our parents and siblings... because we're normal! Think of it as a blessing in disguise!



answers from Boston on

Do we have the same mother in law? I'll commiserate with you a little.
My children are mostly grown now... 2 in high school and one in college. While they were growing up, we'd invite them to plays, band concerts etc and they never came. Yet when their daughter's children (they have 2 daughters) had such things they drove long distances to see them. We live in town.

Now that our children are grown I get comments about how they didn't come over during the summer to work in her yard. For a few years I dropped them off to help with lawn, leaves etc. but now that they can drive it is up to them to make these decisions... funny though, the other grandkids don't help ever... even when they come to visit which is now very infrequent.

Like you, I know the kids are loved. My FIL has gone to a few local ball games with my middle child. If I score red sox tickets I have my son ask his grandpa to go with him... I force the bonding haha!

Yes, there will be hurts and questions about why the GPs don't ask them to sleep over or why they didn't come to such and such event. I never had the answer for them but soothed them as best I could.



answers from Raleigh on

We are on the other side of this issue. My inlaws favor our kids over my husband's sister 's kids. No idea why. They do not ask to watch our boys or spend a night or anything like that , but when we all get togather you can tell. We always try to get to the gathering later and leave earlier to give my sil's kids more time with the grandparents. Neither my husband or his sister ever addressed this issue with the parents, so I just leave it along. It's stange for me, because whe my mom tried to favor my youngest over my oldest, I confronted her right away and she quit.



answers from Washington DC on

I think you could take this story out of a page in my life. My MIL and FIL obviously favor their daughter's son over our daughter. Our nephew is 2 1/2 and our daughter is getting ready to turn 1. My MIL often has the nephew over for sleepovers at least twice a week and has never asked to have our daughter over. My SIL and BIL are always dropping him off on a dime and forcing the grandparents to watch him. We hardly ever ask them to babysit, but when we do, they have a fit or can't because they have had him and say they need a break. My MIL has also made several comments about how we don't need to have any more kids and she doesn't want to keep kids too much longer. Like your MIL and FIL, mine can get very defensive, so you hate to say anything. We are the ones who typically watch their house and dogs when they go away or do things around their house, not my SIL. However, when you go to their house or anything, all of the toys and stuffed animals are in our nephew's room and they buy all of the stuff for him and expect her to play with it when she gets his age. Obviously she's too young to notice now, but I know when she gets older, she'll wonder why she can't spend the night like Kollin does all of the time. Good luck with the situation.


answers from Davenport on

Honestly, it sounds to me like this is more about you than your son. It seems like your MIL just gets along better with your SIL (you don't mention if it is her daughter or daughter-in-law) and therefore gets along with the children better (sometimes in life, right or wrong, we just don't like certain people). My MIL favors her daughter's children because she sees them more often (SIL pawns them off at least 4 days a week) and because they are needy and are raised the way she raised her children. My SIL and I are as different as chalk and cheese, as are our parenting styles, so MIL has an easier time with that set of grandchildren because she knows she can do as she pleases and doesn't have to follow rules (we ask that she enforce our rules when she has our children). Maybe you could have your husband talk to his parents and indicate that it is fine if they get along better with the other half but that your child is starting to notice and they are making him feel badly. This wouldn't work with my in-laws, they would just blow it off, but it might work for you. My MIL actually forgot she has a second granddaughter (she has been out of the womb for 4 months now).


answers from San Francisco on

My father and his sister each had two kids. My father had two girls (myself included) and his sister had two boys. He became a business man and my aunt became a missionary for the church. This lifestyle took her to strange and exotic places and she and her family never had much money.

My grandmother treated my sister and I differently than the boys and they were never even around very often. She would save up money and send huge care packages to them wherever they were and when we'd visit, and the ice cream man would drive by, she couldn't spare the fifty cents each for my sister and I to get a Popsicle.

She'd say, "I don't have the money!" as she stuffed more things into another care package.

The care she showed towards those boys vs how she treated us girls wasn't lost on us and eventually it cost her a relationship with us. We drifted apart and seldom talked.

Don't push your kids to visit their paternal grandparents because they will feel the shame in not being the "loved" grandkids. My parents still made us visit grandma but it was a visit of obligation, like going to the dentist.

If your husbands parents don't treat your children nicely. Don't visit. Don't go out of your way to foster a relationship with them if they don't want one. Spend time with YOUR parents and let your kids nurture that relationship instead.

If your husbands parents inquire as to why you haven't visited in a while, tell them the truth. Your kids don't feel loved when they visit that house and you're not going to push them where they're not wanted.


answers from Medford on

I have always felt like my in laws favor 2 of the grandkids over the rest (there are 10 total). I also think that they favor a couple of them the least. We are somewhere in the middle. I get resentful sometimes about it, but i try to let it that my daughter is getting older (she is 5), she is starting to notice. she asked a couple weeks ago if she could stay the night (gma is off during the summer). She was told sorry, but not this time...then two days later gma called and invited the 2 other granddaughters over for a sleep over just because. My daughter was pretty upset. I just made up an excuse as to hurt in laws will watch my kids whenever needed, but I feel like they go out of the way to ask the others and do special things even though they already do their fair share of babysitting them also...



answers from Portland on

This sounds exactly like my parents. They favor their oldest grandchild over any of the others and my it shows when we are all together. I just went for a visit and it astounds me at how passive agressive my parents have become. If my younger nephew (bro's son) and my kids are playing, even fairly quietly, but in the same room, my parents turn up the TV so loud that it drowns out everthing. And did they turn it down when all the kids were gone or going to bed, nope. My kids couldn't fall asleep because of the noise.

My oldest nephew (sis's kid) would do the same, ask him nicely to stop or ignore the behavior.

You would think that since they only get to see my kids once, maybe twice a year, that they might change their pattern for a week, but they must watch their programs and heavens if you would like to visit. I did not feel welcome in the least. They didn't ask me to stay somewhere else and only come around at certain times.

My youngest nephew is not favored because there is a clear dislike of him mom. They treat him horribly. Constantly yelling at him and not giving him even a few seconds to process what they asked him to do. Then there are 3 people yelling at him. It just tears my heart to see/hear. It is awful and my mom doesn't curb her tongue when she talks about my ex-SIL in front of my nephew. I wouldn't take him over if I were my brother. It would be just for brief visits maybe once a month or less.

I will definitely stay elsewhere next visit. I will do my duty to visit once a year, but will make sure we have a place to go and be away from that atmosphere at least part of the time.

I have no answers for you, but protect your family from the emotional hurt as much as you can, while still letting your kids get to know their grandparents.

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