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The Art of Saying 'No' for Grandparents

Setting limits will actually improve your relationships with your kids and grandkids

By Leslie Zinberg and Kay Ziplow

(This article appeared previously on

OK grandparents, it’s our nature not to say "no." After all, who likes to hear that? Not our grandchildren for sure: “Just one more cookie pleaseeeeeeeeeee!”

And certainly not our grown children who ask us to perform a multitude of tasks, often times forgetting that we too have busy full lives. “Can you please babysit again tonight?” or “Can’t you cancel your plans?”

But saying "no" is an expression of true love and consideration. Many times it’s beneficial for everyone, kids and parents alike ... and even for your relationships with your significant other.

Haven’t you at least on one occasion said "no" to that decadent dessert that just called to you on the menu? Well, saying "no" sounds the same when it comes into the grandparent corner. Try it. It can earn you respect, dignity ... and promote thoughtfulness. We say, “Try it — you may like it. At least once in a while.”

Here's how to say "yes" to grandparenting while setting realistic limits:

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

The grandparent-grandchild relationship can be magical. You need to nurture, protect and savor it, even if that means (occasionally) staying quiet when it practically kills you, or (occasionally) smiling serenely when you just know your grandchild is wrong and you are right.

It's your right to give extra hugs, cookies, phone calls or lunches. Remember what it is we’re really offering: sweet, unconditional love. But that doesn't mean you have to agree to everything.

Establish Boundaries


Try to maintain some boundaries, even just in your head, as you consider any new requests.

Here’s an example: Does your child think that you can jet in on a moment’s notice to attend a dance recital or babysit while they hop off to someplace exotic? But he or she considers it an imposition when you want to pop in for a visit? Practice saying this phrase to yourself: “This weekend won’t work, but how about sometime next week?” Then say it to your child.

Don’t Rush In

If your child is trying to talk you into making some sort of big decision such as babysitting every weekend for the rest of the summer or planning a family vacation for everyone, make sure you take the time and think over your plans first. Yes, we want to help our children every way we can, but also remember, we need to have control over when we choose to help. Your children will appreciate any help they receive!

Keep in Touch

Not knowing what’s going on can make grandparents nervous — especially new grandparents. Be clear about how you'd like to communicate. Make sure to let your children know that you want THEM to call and fill you in on your grandchildren. Learn how to use Skype. It’s free, so you can coo and babble all you want while admiring your grandchild's beautiful face even when you can't be there in person. 

Let your Kids Know You Have a Life, Too

Grandparents are people, too! Today's grandparents are more likely than ever to still be working full-time or enjoying a vigorous boomer retirement with vacations and activities galore. Make sure to have a respectful relationship with your child so you two can plan ahead if he or she needs help.

Leslie Zinberg and Kay Ziplow are the creators of, Read More
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