Avoid Playing Favorites with Your Grandchildren

I’m a loyal reader of Amy Dickinson, who is the syndicated advice columnist, “Ask Amy.” Amy’s advice is insightful and often reveals deeper issues than the topic initially addressed. In this column, a grandma asks Amy for advice about her daughter who is showing obvious favoritism to the younger of her two daughters.

I’ve written several posts on the subject of favoritism because as grandparents, we want to believe we’re not guilty of playing favorites. Many psychologists say that there are favorites in every family. The key to sound parenting and grandparenting is to realize that one may have favorites, but it’s not okay to play favorites. In other words, we must strive to provide appropriate love and support for all our grandchildren, regardless of the level of affection we feel.

Grandma Wants to Compensate for Mom’s Favoritism

Dear Amy: Our daughter has two daughters who are one year apart. She very obviously favors the younger one.

Examples: She features a picture of only the younger one on her phone screen. We will talk at night with our granddaughters and when talking to the younger one, the older one is always getting yelled at for something, while heaping positive attention onto the younger one.

Our daughter goes shopping with the younger one all the time while the older one stays home with dad.

I asked, “Why not take the older one?” She said the older daughter isn’t interested. I’m thinking: “Well, make her go!”

When the girls are with us overnight, I purposely favor the older one. My husband plays with the younger one while I seek out the older one, hug her, snuggle, and give her lots of love.

Am I wrong to try to make up for six days of favoritism for the younger with one day of favoritism for the older?

I can’t say anything to our daughter because I’m afraid to offend her and then we would never see the girls.

Loving Grandma

Advice for Grandma

Dear Grandma: If your daughter would respond to respectful observational feedback from her own mother by denying access to the children, then your issues might be larger than this imbalance of attention.

You sound very sensitive regarding the topic of favoritism. I’m not sure that leaving one child home from shopping because she doesn’t want to go is an example of … anything, but I agree that overt parental favoritism has a negative effect on the entire family – look at what it is doing to your own!

You see that mom favors the youngest, so you favor the eldest.

I agree that it is compassionate and loving to treat your elder granddaughter with lots of attention. Every child wants to be recognized as an individual and appreciated for their unique presence. Every child wants to be “seen” – especially by a treasured grandparent.

This includes your younger granddaughter. It would be a good example for both girls if you sometimes treated them as a team, promoting balance and togetherness, while finding some special time to spend with each.

4 thoughts on “Avoid Playing Favorites with Your Grandchildren”

  1. Absolutely get this as I have the same situation and if I say anything, my daughter would probably not let me see any of the kids, and yes, we do have a bigger problem, but for right now, I keep my mouth shut so I can see all the grandkids.

  2. We have always joked that my eldest grand daughter is my favorite but I am very clear that I treat ALL my grands with the same time, money. Personalities determine how each grand relates to me but seriously, I love them all and have found something unique to each which I celebrate.

    1. Thanks for your honesty, Irene. I do think the first-born grandchild holds a special place in the family but you’ve made a conscious effort to love each of your grandchildren for their unique qualities. That’s exactly the way it should be!

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