Why grandparents are not the best people to raise your kids

Nowadays, dual-income family units are common in developed or developing societies.

For couples planning to have children, there are only two questions asked (both fairly short-term):

1. Do we have the money to have a baby?

2. Who will help us take care of the baby?

While the first is an easy question to address, the second is not.

However, this concern is far simpler addressed today than, say, ten years ago, when maids were not as accessible. And if you have parents or in-laws who are willing to care for your kid, you’re considered ‘lucky’. In my book, luck is relative in this case, if you can excuse the pun.

I have two kids. My older one is being cared for by my mother-in-law and the maid, while my younger is being looked after by my mom and me. This sounds like an ideal situation for a lot of people, and more than once, my friends and colleagues have told me how blessed I am to have both the grandmothers strong enough to care for my kids. And I am. However, things are a little more complicated than that.

For a long time now, I’ve been having a lot of doubts about how my in-laws are raising my older child. And now, I’m beginning to witness with my own eyes the effect my own mother’s ways of child-rearing, on my younger girl.

And it’s not pretty. Which is why I thank God for the opportunity to finally quit my job and concentrate on my girls next year.

Fact: Grandparents are NOT the ideal people to raise your kids. And neither are maids.

It’s true that a lot of people, when considering childcare alternatives after the mother has to go back to work, prefer their own parents to strangers such as maids or babysitters (talking about people who have a choicelah). But if you want my advice, neither will ever be good enough. Seriously. With all due respect to grandparents, and I know you have the best intentions, but your parenting skills are just inappropriate simply because you are grandparents. I’d sooner leave my kid with a professional nanny, and here’s why.

1. Firstly, grandparents SPOIL their grandkids. It is unavoidable, and believe it or not, spoiling is NOT harmless when it is applied long term. In fact, the kids you see throwing tantrums in the toy store or answering back, are more often than not raised by their grandparents. Try telling them NOT to spoil your kid? It would be easier to scale Mount K. It is as though it’s just not done. Or, according to my hubby, they are just biologically incapable of NOT spoiling.

2. Grandparents want to NOT make the mistakes they made when they were raising you. This is vain, selfish, and just plain unrealistic because then they will start telling you not to scold your kids or raise your voice or to whack them. They forget that when they REPRIMAND you in front of the child for REPRIMANDING him/her, the message to the child is not only mixed, but he or she will also deduce that Grandma loves me more because she sides me and Mama loves me less because she does not. This is bad.

3. Discipline: When it comes to setting rules, you will have problems. For my MIL, it’s like she deliberately wants to make my job difficult, perhaps to test how good a mother or wife I am, or just want to indulge in Point Two mentioned, or is just plain egoistic. But if you think your MIL is going to apply your rules in her household, you’ve got another thing coming.

The thing is, children CANNOT abide by two sets of rules. Even when Raeven began attending school, I decided to implement her school rules at home, just to ‘sync’ them as not to confuse my kid. But for four years, I’ve been trying to tell my in-laws that Raeven must have her afternoon nap or that she’s not allowed to have sweets after hours or that she must be reprimanded when she does something wrong like when she is rude or loud. Not only do they not discipline her, they make excuses for her misbehaviour, according it to the fact that “she’s still a kid, she doesn’t understand.” My MIL has been using that reason since Raeven was one. Now, she’s half a year to four. She knows all 26 alphabets, their phonics, numbers up to 30 and how to switch on her favourite DVD and ‘gossip’ about her classmates.

However, she is apparently STILL too young to understand the meaning of ‘wait’ or ‘don’t jump on the bed’.

4. Your parents or in-laws are not young anymore. Retirement should be time spent traveling, lunching at golf clubs or swimming clubs, yakking with friends on the phone, or just doing nothing. It’s not fair to expect them to care for your kids long term, no matter what they say. In the end, it is doing your kid more harm than good because the old folks just may not have the strength to keep up anymore. What’s going to happen if suddenly, your dad loses consciousness when driving with your kid in the car? Or if your mom is robbed while walking your kid to school?

Just like how some parents like to compare their kids with others, so can children compare parents with grandparents. You will never measure up to your parents in their eyes because you spend so little time with them comparatively.

And time spent is the key here. I believe that as a mother or father, one brings something totally unique and essential to the mix of raising one’s child. It is not about cooking the meals or washing the clothes or bringing home the bacon. It’s about being the center of your child’s world and ultimately, his/her pillar of strength. Emotional security, confidence and self esteem spring from the fount of attention one parent pays to his/her child, attention that noone else can ever replace. But it can be misplaced, and once that happens, that’s when you’ll find your child becoming increasingly ‘disobedient’. Why should she pay attention to you, when you don’t pay attention to her?

For those about to become parents, I urge you. Do what’s right and take care of your child, yourself, if you really want the best for your kids. If you think you won’t be able to cope with the financial aspect of giving up your job, get a professional nanny who understands and accepts your rules (or the fact that there should be rules!).

Leave the housework to the maid – and grandiose parenting to the grandparents.



  1. multidimid said

    If you believe your grandparents’ parenting skills are just inappropriate, do you think you can do it better? You must realize that any idea you accept as truth is a belief that you hold. You must, then, take the next step and say, “It is not necessarily true, even though I believe it?.

    Was there great self-sacrifice on your part – throwing the “burden? of yourself upon someone else and making it their responsibility!?

    Many of your own beliefs work for you for a certain period of your life. Many children at one time or another believe that their parents are omnipotent giving them a sense of security. Then in later adolescent years the same offspring are shocked to discover their parents to be quite human and fallible; the inadequacy and inferiority the older generations and the callousness of those in control of them.

    The rebellious streak in them surface in their adulthood and they would believe that the older generations have “done everything wrong?. This is good for them as it frees them of their “childish concepts? and gives them the challenge to tackle personal and world problems.

    If by forty, you still believe in the infallibility of your parents, then you hold that idea way beyond its advantages state for you. And by fifty you are still convinced that old people are rigid, growing senile, mentally incompetent and physically deteriorating then you are holding the “old belief? in the ineffectiveness the older generations and giving negative suggestions to yourself to fall into the same mould when you grow old.

    Similarly, as a young mother you may believe that your child is even more important than your husband. Initially this is positive as it would help your to pay more attention and protect the child.

    But if this concept is held on too long as the child grows older it becomes highly restrictive and eventually structured your entire adult life and make your husband becomes more wayward – maybe looking for another mistress!

  2. Jenn said

    I definitely don’t think I will do the best job in the world, and definitely won’t if I’m doing it all by myself, so let me qualify my entry by saying that I totally believe in the worth of having grandparents and other people involved in different roles in the parenting process – but not as primary caregivers.

    But yes, I think I will not only do a better job, but it will be an easier job as well.

    One fifth reason I’ve also forgotten to mention is that I, as a parent, learn as well, when I take care for them myself, and I’m not talking just about the processes of physically caring for a child.

    It is a fact that old people deteriorate physically and/or mentally (unless we’ve somehow managed to stop ageing, in which case nobody told me). It is not a belief nor an opinion.

    And I think that if you take care of your own kids, the higher the likelihood would be that they see that you’re only human. That you make mistakes as well by scolding them wrongly, or cry when parenting becomes too much. How can they not be closer to what you really are when they are around you so much?

  3. Jenn said

    BTW, I don’t think dedication to your kids is a valid reason for your spouse to cheat on you.

    Nothing ever is.

  4. lx said

    I wrote something about my observations of grandparents a few days back, and I do understand where you’re coming from, although I don’t kids on my own.

  5. […] Why grandparents are not the best people to raise your kids It’s true that a lot of people, when considering childcare alternatives after the mother has to go back to work, prefer their own parents to strangers such as maids or babysitters (talking about people who have a choicelah). But if you want my advice, neither will ever be good enough. Seriously. With all due respect to grandparents, and I know you have the best intentions, but your parenting skills are just inappropriate simply because you are grandparents. I’d sooner leave my kid with a professional nanny, and here’s why. […]

  6. Mrs B said

    I kind of agree. No need to deny the old folks of their rights, grand parents are made to spoil their grandkids and the parents to bring up and discipline them. The sooner the parents admit and accept that, the better.

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