Should Grandparents Be Given a Say in Parenting When Providing Financial Support?

Updated on November 23, 2018
Luke Fitzpatrick profile image

I cover FinTech trends as a contributor to Forbes. In my spare time, I enjoy writing about parenting, productivity and pets.

An image of Luke's daughter who is half-Korean, half-Australian—taken in Seoul.
An image of Luke's daughter who is half-Korean, half-Australian—taken in Seoul.

First comes love, then comes marriage, baby, and the inevitable battle of opinions between parent and grandparent.

There’s no denying children and their parents often clash over how to raise the next generation. Grandma thinks mum is too lenient, while mum regards grandma’s way of thinking as too “black and white."

As grandparents step up financially to meet the demands imposed by today’s economy, tensions have the potential to flair even higher. Many grandparents feel it’s in their right to pass judgment on the way their grandchildren are raised, especially when they’re financially involved.

Most parents, however, want to be left alone to do what they think is right, despite taking the financial boost.

The financial impact grandparents have on families

According to the Raising Modern Australia report, 44.8% of grandparents say they have contributed financially to their family by helping with presents for special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas, while 36.1% have also helped with general household and living costs for their children’s family.

A further 19.2% who have contributed financially in some way to their children’s family feel this should give them a say on how their grandchildren are raised.

Investing in your grandchildren’s education is an admirable act, but it pays to remember financial input doesn’t warrant unsolicited advice on everything that surrounds that money. If you’re not willing to take a back seat to the big decision making, you may want to rethink your investment.

Why Tensions Rise

If you think back to the day you welcomed into the world your first child, you will most likely remember an endless amount of unwanted advice hurled your way. It’s overwhelming and can leave you feeling undermined and judged.

Many parents struggling with the financial woes of modern times are already under pressure and are susceptible to feeling like they’re not doing a “good enough job”. If you try to take over the one thing they have control over (their kids), it’s bound to get heated.

If you raised your child well, your child will be the best parent they can be. They will make mistakes, sure, but they will try their best out of love for their family. You’re included in this, so don’t feel too much like a bank - your child is no doubt eternally grateful for your support.

Financial input is a reality for so many grandparents these days, but if you’re going to do it, talk it out with your children first. If you feel your money entitles you to call some of the shots, say so.

Your children might not understand the role you want to play in your grandchild’s life and if you explain your eagerness to be more than just a financial aid, they might be more open to your input. They might even be willing to cede authority over certain things.

Some Emotional Considerations to Think About

When money and family are involved, emotions can run high. Communication is therefore crucial, as is a degree of trust and integrity. There will always be ups and downs, but providing everyone talks, listens, and refrains from being judgmental over how people might be feeling, you can maintain a strong and healthy grandparent-parent-grandchild relationship.

If tension does arise, consider resolving control issues by negotiating territory, or divvying up authority oversleeping, eating, homework, TV and computer use. Parents, for example, could have sole authority over diet and recreational or artistic activities, while grandparents could decide on education.

The advice of grandparents should be valued and fielded with an open mind, however, final decisions should ultimately be made by parents. Grandparents need to respect this—but parents too need to respect that staying “opinion-free” is no easy task. Respect each other at all times and you can ensure a positive action such as financial help can stay positive.

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