I Don’t Like My Son’s Parenting–But How Do I Not Overstep?

Dear Dr. Meg,

I am a grandmother with 4 granddaughters.

Our son with the three teens gets very, very angry with me if I try to help the kids figure out a problem. He blows up and says I am interfering. 

Honestly, I don’t like their parenting skills as they do not give their kids any guidance and think that they can figure it out. Both mother and dad do not go to teacher conferences and during Covid they have not required the girls to do any schoolwork. Our son says they have free range.

They are 14-year-old twins and one 17-year-old. Our daughter-in-law is a person who talks very little. I can never carry a conversation with her unless I talk about her biking.

There are no cooked meals in their house. They never sit down to eat together. They just eat whatever they can find and our son does most of the work as far as shopping and does do some cooking.

The house is a total wreck with everything all over the floor. She does not have any friends.

The living room looks like a workroom. Our son works at home in the basement.

I do not say anything about their parenting but do talk to the girls about life.

As a child, we did involve our son in activities. We had him go to church, Sunday school and then not until 9th grade did he do any sports and that was in football because he was a big guy. I always encouraged him to take bicycle trips and choir trips and he played in the band one year. Also he went to camp every year for two weeks. Maybe I programmed him too much.

My husband was very good with him but he never disciplined him. We ate dinner together every night. Now the girls are not in sports or band or any outside activities. They do not go to church. 

What would you suggest I do? Should I talk to our son and tell him that I made a lot of mistakes when he was growing up and that I do not want to interfere with his parenting? He blows up at me a lot and I could mention that. He did it in front of his daughters and they were very upset. 

The girls are bullied in school. They are chubby and have low self-esteem. The twins have difficulty in school academically and socially. What suggestions do you have so I can help them but not upset our son?

                                             -Worried Grandmother

Dear Worried Grandmother,

As a grandmother myself, I understand. We have a very tough role and must walk a fine line.

Clearly, you are worried that your grandkids won’t grow into healthy, well adjusted adults. They may, or they may not. I can’t say. Your son and daughter-in-law seem to have a chaotic home with no restrictions. I get that this drives you crazy.

You are also struggling with guilt. What did you do wrong? Were you too strict? Were you overbearing? Here’s the reality, regardless of what you did or didn’t do, your son is in charge of his life now. He is who he is.

Here’s the hard news: his kids are his, not yours. You may want them to live different lives, but that’s not your job. Your job is to be the best grandmother you can be and leave the parenting to your son and daughter and law. You need to be quiet.

If you keep offering advice or criticizing your son, he may cut you off from your grandkids. This would be very painful for both you and them.

In order for you to stay in their lives, you need to stay quiet. You could go to him and tell him that you are sorry for interfering and that you respect him as a father. Tell him that you will try to stay out of the way in the future. That’s it, keep it simple.

Your job is to stay in good graces with him and be loving and supportive of all of the good things he and his wife do as parents.

If you find that your son is doing truly harmful things to the kids (abusing them sexually, verbally, physically) or putting their lives in danger, then you do need to intervene with child protective services. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Here’s the good news. When the kids are much older, you can have good conversations with them about life, happiness, etc. But–when you do that, NEVER criticize their parents. This will bite you and them in the back.

I wish I could tell you to keep doing what you’re doing but it’s not working. You need to back off and let the parents do the parenting and bite your tongue.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/g-stockstudio

Meg Meeker, MD is a best-selling author and pediatrician. To find her online parenting courses or listen to her podcast Parenting Great Kids, go to To send in questions of your own, email them to [email protected]

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