Setting Boundaries with Entitled Adult Children

Sometimes we grandmas walk a fine line with our grandchildren’s parents. We don’t want to rock the boat if it means losing our grandparent privileges. Yet, the pain we endure when we’re treated like a doormat can make us step back and question just how much we’re willing to take.

Many articles have been written from the parent’s perspective about setting boundaries for grandparents. But not much has been written from the grandma’s perspective—how can we set boundaries with our adult children?

Grandma Needs to Set Boundaries

Recently, a grandma wrote to ask for help with her entitled adult daughter:

As my husband and I head into our third week at my daughter’s house, I am enjoying my two-year-old granddaughter so, so much, but it’s gotten to be a struggle between my daughter and me.

My husband and I have been doing non-stop babysitting, cooking, cleaning, repairing, picking up dog poop, cleaning cat litter, and helping my daughter settle into her new home. We have met with barely lip service appreciation and ever-escalating demands. Yesterday, after chasing my adorable granddaughter around Target for a very long time while my daughter leisurely strolled the aisles, I told her I was too tired to change the poopy diaper when we got home. She has barely spoken to me since, except to let me know that she’ll be sending me links to the Target items she wants me to buy for her. Just call us The Help, and I mean the kind of Help people had before Emancipation.

I know I have to learn to lovingly set boundaries. Am I the only grandma with these feelings? I need your insight about feeling underappreciated, unloved, and overworked.

3 Ways to Set Boundaries

According to Brene Brown, the moment someone asks you to do something you don’t have the time or inclination to do is fraught with vulnerability. “Yes!” often seems like the easiest way out. But it comes at a price. For women, there’s a myth that we’re supposed to do it all (and do it perfectly). Saying no cues a chorus of inner shame gremlins: “Who do you think you are?” “You’re not a very caring [mother/wife/friend/colleague].”

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.

We can’t base our own worthiness on others’ approval. Only when we believe, deep down, that we are enough can we say “Enough!”

Here are 3 ways Brene Brown sets boundaries:

  1. Make a mantra. I need something to hold on to—literally—during those awkward moments when an ask hangs in the air. So I bought a silver ring that I spin while silently repeating, “Choose discomfort over resentment.” My mantra reminds me that I’m making a choice that’s critical for my well-being—even if it’s not easy.
  2. Keep a resentment journal. Whenever I’m marching around muttering cuss words under my breath, I grab what I lovingly refer to as my Damn It! Diary and write down what’s going on. I’ve noticed that I’m most resentful when I’m tired and overwhelmed—i.e., not setting boundaries.
  3. Rehearse. I’ll often say, to no one in particular, “I can’t take that on” or “My plate is full.” Like many worthwhile endeavors, boundary setting is a practice.

When we set boundaries by stating our own needs to our adult children, we model self-respect and inner strength for them. Ideally, our children will notice our resolve and show us more respect.

But be prepared for pushback. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Boundary-crossers might not take kindly to new personal rules. They might continue to cross some boundaries — and that’s okay. Just keep reminding yourself that you deserve self-respect and if you don’t model it, your entitled child isn’t going to learn it.

It’s helpful to anticipate these moments of violation before they happen. Visualize your boundaries getting crossed so you can prepare for how you’ll handle those situations. Remind yourself that you’re making a choice that’s critical for your well-being.

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