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What to do when a grandparent mistreats stepgrandchildren?

My husband and I have full custody of our 5 children. Two from his first marriage and three from mine. We have been together for four years. The kids are 15,14,13,12,and 6. They are all great kids and all love one another. They are "our" kids and we treat them equally and fairly with the same expectations for all.
However, my mother-in-law clearly favors my husbands two sons. She showers them with gifts on holidays and birthdays, sends them new clothes and shoes, mails them cards with money... My kids have not complained. But, it is such an obvious difference that it makes all the children feel uncomfortable. I really dread the holidays because I know she will continue to do this despite my husband's request that she spend x dollars on each of the kids. I don't want to isolate the kids from her family. But, I feel so badly for the three kids watching as their two brothers open gifts after gift. What to do?

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Anonymous

Asked by Anonymous at 10:37 AM on Nov. 20, 2009 in General Parenting

Answers (10)
  • The only thing you can do is speak to them about it. Just be honest and say that you are ONE FAMILY and would prefer that she not single out the kids into "yours and "mine". If it were me, I'd put my foot down (nicely, but firmly) and say that either she has to buy equally or not at all. I would have NO problem explaining the situation to my kids if it turned out Grandma wouldn't buy for all equally. It can be a good lesson in standing united as a family. If she insists, then I would refuse the gifts. She is the one out of line here, not your family.
    deadheadjen

    Answer by deadheadjen at 10:47 AM on Nov. 20, 2009

  • My MIL did the same thing. She'd want my husband and I's children to spend the night at her house and not my daughter. And when she was out with all of us she would introduce them as "these are my grandchildren and this is her daughter from a previous relationship" It made me so upset for my daughter to have to stand there through that. I told my husband how i felt and he talked to her about it and she changed a little. I also got a lot more vocal with her about my feelings on it and I think she changed a lot more to avoid embarrassment. I will not have anyone making any of my children to feel uncomfortable. When she did the whole more gifts for her grandchildren thing I bagged them up and sent them back to her house. I explained to her that she was not going to make her feel as though dd wasnt one of her grandchildren and if that was what she was going to do then she could just expect not see or have contact with any of them.
    Shyma

    Answer by Shyma at 10:52 AM on Nov. 20, 2009

  • Oh my how sad about your last sentence. Really thats awful. Discuss that last sentence with her and see how she reacts. I would just explain to her that these kids are here to stay and she should act like it.
    3gigglemonsters

    Answer by 3gigglemonsters at 10:58 AM on Nov. 20, 2009

  • I like Shyma's suggestions. Calmly talk to her or have your husband talk to her about the way she acts, maybe she doesn't even realize she is doing it. Then if she continues to do it, tell her if she can't treat all of them equally, please don't buy them anymore gifts.
    Anonymous

    Answer by Anonymous at 11:01 AM on Nov. 20, 2009

  • if it didn't stop i would separate the holidays, or don't go at all. she has the right to favor her grandkids whether you feel it's right or wrong. she was probably there from the beginning with them and feels naturally closer to them. therefore, she wants to show them how much she loves them in this way.
    angevil53

    Answer by angevil53 at 11:07 AM on Nov. 20, 2009

  • I actually had a similar experience as a child with my own grandmother. She favored (still does) my older brother, and would take him to movies or shopping without ever taking me. My mother asked her one day while I couldn't go also and she said "I just can't manage them both." Finally, my mother put her foot down and said she wasn't allowed to take him ANYWHERE or buy him ANYTHING unless she was willing to do the same for me. I think, if anything, fear of not being able to see her grandson made her change her ways. Once I was old enough to see it for what it was, I elected not to go with her anyways. Still love my grandma, but she's not changing and I just roll my eyes over it now.

    Not saying that making threats is the best way to go, but.....it worked for my grandma :)
    DusterMommy

    Answer by DusterMommy at 11:07 AM on Nov. 20, 2009

  • If she was giving "her grandchildren" each one gift I would say ignore it. But since she is going completely overboard you have to do something. I'm inclined to send back the extras or even let the two getting gifts give to the other three and then send the extras back with an explanation of how your family choose to "fix" her rude display of favoritism.  Your husband needs to continue to take the lead in dealing with his mom.  I think you will get this all worked out. GL

    Anonymous

    Answer by Anonymous at 11:14 AM on Nov. 20, 2009

  • My mil did this and my husband spoke to her. He let her know if she could not be fair to not send anything. She stopped sending anything and cut us off. I got to say life has been much better. My husband said he finally loves the holidays not dealing with her favoritism and drama.
    Anonymous

    Answer by Anonymous at 11:52 AM on Nov. 20, 2009

  • There's only one thing you can do. Speak to her. If she didn't respond to her husband, then you call her up and talk to her about this. Let her know that you appriciate all that she does for the two children, but that it makes the other three feel uncomfortable. Tell her what you told us. Let her know that you'd like all the kids to feel accepted and welcomed by her.
    JazzlikeMraz

    Answer by JazzlikeMraz at 12:40 PM on Nov. 20, 2009

  • I am responding to all of your posts. I posted the original question. Thanks for the input.
    My husband was very disappointed in her behavior. He could not apologize enough. Things improved for a short time. He set a limit on the price of gifts.
    Later I learned from my SIL(married to husband's brother) that MIL gives her money to buy gifts for her children. She buys the gifts and brings them to MIL to wrap. She said that my husbands boys have always received more than the other grandkids. She said that she thinks it is her way of compensating for them not having a mother. She and her husband felt the same way and their children are her bio grandkids. (They are wealthy and MIL feels DH's boys should have everything they have.) It is really quite ridiculous.
    amazingmayzie

    Answer by amazingmayzie at 1:08 PM on Nov. 20, 2009

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