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My Grandchild Is Intimidated By Her Father

by Gila Frischer
(Tel Aviv)

How can help my 1.3 baby granddaughter who is intimidated by her father. My daughter doesn't see the damages they cause this little angel.
They don't have any patience with her. She was a happy baby and now is very quiet. They won't listen to me!

Being A Supportive Grandparent

Annie's Reply
Hi Gila,
Sometimes as a Grandparent the hardest thing is to hold back when we don't approve of the way our children are raising their kids. But it may well be you are making the situation worse if they feel constantly judged by you.

Of course if you are concerned there is physical abuse then you have to confront that - but if it is more that their expectations of good behavior are unrealistic when parenting a toddler, and her father is overly authoritarian, then you constantly confronting that will actually cause more disharmony and confusion for the little one.

You are better to model by example rather than criticism - they are clearly defensive and the more you push the more you will back them into a corner and you may well jeopardize the contact you have with your grand-daughter.

If you concentrate on building a healthy happy relationship with her, she will have someone else important in her life that provides perhaps more of a balance.

I am not a fan of strict parenting, but children do thrive in families with all sorts of varying parenting styles so long as they are loved.

Your son in law may well have grown up in a family that did not show love and approval or have much patience with small children. He may well never have thought about the best way to parent, most of us simply automatically repeat the way we were raised.

But I do know, people seldom change when they feel judged and unaccepted. They are much more likely to retreat into old familiar behaviors to protect themselves.

Your son-in-law must have some good traits, and will be good at lots of things. He may not be parenting the way we would like, but your daughter has chosen him as her partner and she is clearly united with him. The more you can reinforce his good points the more he will trust that you are on his side and will be more open to change. The more you criticize and try to tell them what to do the more defensive they will be and you are actually contributing to the situation because they will feel the need to justify their parenting style.

The most important thing is for you to maintain a great relationship with your grand-daughter, but also to build a good relationship with your daughter and her partner. They are going to learn far more from seeing your level of patience with the little one, and the kinds of activities and games you play with her, than they will from being told they are not good parents.

More to follow in the comments below . . .

Comments for My Grandchild Is Intimidated By Her Father

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Loving Grandparent
by: Annie Desantis

I assume you don't live with them? If that is the situation, you only see the interactions for short bursts of time. You may well only see them when your son-in-law is feeling tense and stressed because you are visiting! And if he feels judged he might feel he has to assert his authority with the child more. There are likely to be lots of situations where the family is more relaxed and the child is quite happy.

Show Good Parenting Rather Than Criticize

I know it is really hard to bite your tongue when you see unrealistic expectations or you think the child is being put down or they are being too strict - I have even gently intervened in supermarkets when I could not stand the way a child was being spoken to! So I know how hard it must be when you love this little mite and you see her loosing confidence.

The odds are your son-in-law needs just as much patience, love and support as your grand-daughter. The responsibilities of parenting can be a challenge to adjust to, he may well have not had particularly loving parents himself and might be struggling with other things in his life.

Your grand-daughter may well be intimidated by him, but she may also be deeply loved by him and that is way more important. Disharmony between you all will actually cause just as much of an issue for her than him being overly strict.

Show them how to play with her, have fun and play games to her to co-operate. The more you can give them a great example of good parenting without undermining their rules or decisions about how they parent their child, then you can have a much more postitive effect on the family.

Your grand-daughter will be OK. She may be having some tough lessons about resiliance, but unless there is physical abuse you really have to back off a bit and come at things from a more supportive angle. Kids cope suprisingly well even when both parents have different styles of parenting. They soon figure out rules are different depending on who is "on duty" and she will figure out a way to maintain her sense of self even if she lives in an overly strict family.

Keep loving them all and look for all the good things they do and affirm that rather than trying to force them to be what you would consider better parents. Trust that your daughter was raised by you so will have absorbed lots of your parenting style too, and will be countering some of the more extreme authoritarian style perhaps your son-in-law exhibits.

Good luck Gila, not easy to hold back I know, but you will do more good by simply building a great relationship with your Grand-daughter.

love Annie D :)

Bullying Parent
by: Anonymous

I'm a man in his 50s who grew up with a psychologically bullying father. He used fear and intimidation to control me. I was afraid to be alone with him. I was simultaneously bullied as an adolescent and teen by peers. Is there a connection? To this day a yelling male makes me shake in my boots. I don't have a solution for your granddaughter's situation but I know it can cause severe life long issues just as physical bullying can. I understand your concern completely and wish all involved some enlightenment.

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