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Are you Spoiling Your Grandchildren or Just Showing Them Extra Love?

By Ann Richardson November 07, 2022 Family

Do you ‘spoil’ your grandchildren? Some people say that this is a common phenomenon. It could be argued that children all over the world are becoming increasingly unhealthy, overweight and demanding. Could this be due to the over-attentive care of grandparents?

Too Many Cookies

We, grandparents, it is often argued, give those visiting children too many cookies (or ‘biscuits’ as they are known in the UK) and not enough exercise. This is, of course, the easy option.

Sit them down in front of the television with an extra piece of cake. Perhaps some grandparents buy the children’s affection by letting them have what they want.

Feeling guilty?

Well, I’m not. And plenty of others aren’t either.

Yes, we give the occasional treat in the form of an extra cookie. Or give them pancakes for breakfast and ice cream in the afternoon – or even ice cream for breakfast! But lots of us are also clever at getting children to eat well and establish good eating habits.

Screen Time

It could be argued that grandparents let grandchildren play with their ever-expanding forms of electronic games. This is especially an issue if such time is limited by their parents at home.

Personally, I limit those games, with children always working ‘to get to the next level’. Most grandparents would like a little personal interaction during the brief periods we visit, and so electronic devices often get put away.

Who Spoils the Children?

My book Celebrating Grandmothers is based on interviews I took with women talking about what it is like to be a grandmother. In the course of writing it I found the shoe to be on the other foot.

Although many were impressed with the childcare given by their own children, many others were deeply concerned about what they saw as regular spoiling.

The grandchildren had too much stuff, they said. One said her granddaughter had so many Christmas presents, they were found unopened months later. Too much screen time was a common cry – and not enough running around.

Indeed, such issues were the source of considerable family tensions, although the grandmothers agreed that they were wise to be quiet. Every grandmother should be ‘issued with a zip’, one suggested.


Finally, it is well known that we, grandparents, give a lot of help to our children in the form of free childcare. Most of us are not complaining because we find it fun or, indeed, fulfilling.

But it is nonetheless work, and, like any work, we don’t always get it right. Indeed, sometimes we do take the easy route.

If we do offer the occasional extra ‘treat’, maybe that is the price our children must pay for our help. Or, as one grandmother put it, giving little treats to grandchildren is the grandmother’s ‘privilege’.

What Does ‘Spoiling’ Mean Anyway?

The term ‘spoiling’ is an awful one ­– as if grandchildren could be forever ruined like a spoiled pudding we were preparing. It tends to be used as a term for doing too much, but the grandmothers I interviewed tended to reject the term.

One spoke for many when she said that what she did was not spoiling but ‘showering them with love’. And for me, that is one of the joys of being a grandparent.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you spoil your grandchildren? Do you feel that giving your grandchildren extra treats is a problem? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Sometimes grandparents give in to giving treats to preserve their own energy and sanity. Nothing to do with spoiling. Minding grandchildren can be exhausting.


My granddaughters are now 17 and 23. I took each of them on a special vacation where they got to have experiences they would not have had otherwise: a helicopter ride in the Smokies and whale watching off the coast of Maine, etc. My goal was to have a deeper relationship than I ever had with adults in my life as a youth. Giving them time, honest feedback, listening and never being judgmental, and loving them unconditionally were my methods.

Jeanine Eubanks Revell

I give my son and my grandkids the most valuable thing I have, my time and attention. I take them to zoos, museums, parks, and play outside all the time. I teach them about nature, life, being responsible, hard work, getting along with others and getting an education. I spend lots of money on them, but they know I don’t spend it on foolish stuff. They know why I have money, because I went to school, and I work hard for my money just as my parents and grandparents did before me. My grandkids help me clean house, raise quails, work in the yards, and help others. So, if I spend money on them taking them places or buying them things, they enjoy so they can learn, mature, be responsible and just have fun call them spoiled. I call it rewarding me and them.

Devamarga Goldy

You are very lucky and I admire your style

The Author

Ann Richardson’s most popular book, The Granny Who Stands on Her Head, offers a series of reflections on growing older. Subscribe to her free Substack newsletter, where she writes fortnightly on any subject that captures her imagination. Ann lives in London, England with her husband of sixty years. Please visit her website for information on all her books:

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