Dear Dr. Bill,
My son and his wife have been separated for 3 years. They have joint-custody of their 4-year-old son and I help care for my grandson when he’s with my son.
But now conflict has erupted between me and my former daughter-in-law. That’s because whenever my grandson visits me, he resists going back home to his mother. He kicks and screams, and tries to run away with his arms outstretched for me.
I’ve been accused of treating the boy like a king and being lax with discipline. His grandfather and I do give him a lot of attention — playing games and taking him fishing. But I can’t imagine why he doesn’t want to return home to his mom. What should I do?
Since many divorces involve a great deal of animosity between the ex-spouses, and that anger can spill over into relationships with grandparents.
I’d sit down with your former daughter-in-law and discuss the situation. Tell her that you know it’s been difficult for her, and that you never intended to do anything that would interfere with her relationship with her son.
Also, ask yourself if she may have a point. Do you give in to your grandson when he tantrums or demands his way, or do you set appropriate limits on his behavior? If you allow him to always get his way when he’s with you, you are definitely making his mother’s job harder.
That being said, I’m concerned about the way he violently protests when returning home. Could there be a possibility that he is being abused or neglected?
If your daughter-in-law is parenting appropriately and your grandson is acting out simply because he doesn’t want to leave grandma and grandpa’s “fun house,” you’ll need to work together to find a compromise.
Thanks for writing Linda. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, just click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.