Managing Rude Grandchild Behavior

Learn constructive ways to respond when your grandteens (or tweens) challenge you with rude behavior.

By Lambeth Hochwald

You love the grandkids no matter what, but the truth is, all kids, especially teens, have been known to be jerky sometimes. From being generally unappreciative to being less than thrilled at the prospect of spending time with you, they all have their moments. What's a good grandparent to do? Here, we’ve picked four of the most frustrating scenarios and tips to help you hold you head up high and forge a better relationship with your grandkid, as hard as it may sometimes seem.

Jerky Move #1: She makes it known that she hates the gift you bought her.
 No matter how peeved you are, don’t criticize her gift-rejection—that will only alienate her entirely. So, keep your comments respectful and don't dwell on it. "You want her to know that her behavior has hurt you, but you don't want to be over-the-top," says Andrea Bonior, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C. "Say something like, ‘I spent a lot of time picking that out for you.' And then add: ‘To be honest, I had hoped you'd be a little more excited about it.'" After that, move on to another topic entirely, even if it's a comment on the weather. She may pick up on your subtle message and apologize later, she may not. But at least you made her aware of your feelings.

Jerky Move #2: He never cleans up his room—or his plate for that matter—when he stays at your house.
 If you've laid down the law more than once with your grandchild and you're getting nowhere, talk to his parents. "Make sure you use descriptive, rather than judgmental language," suggests Richard C. Horowitz, Ed.D., a family parenting coach and author of Family Centered Parenting. "Instead of telling the parents that ‘John is lazy because he doesn't clean up after himself,' rephrase it as a question: ‘John didn't clear the table at lunch today. Is this something that I should focus on with him?'" In addition, always discuss discipline with your adult children. If you don't agree with their discipline style, find a way to bridge those differences.

Jerky Move #3: She constantly talks back.
 Grandkids expect unconditional love from their grandparents, says Deborah Gilboa, MD, a board-certified family physician and mother of four. But that doesn't mean a grandchild should mouth off. If she talks back, try to deliver a positive message along with one that expresses your dissatisfaction. "Say something like, ‘You express your opinions clearly and aren't afraid to disagree. That takes real strength of character.' By diffusing your grandchild, you may see a change in her behavior." In addition, consider addressing this back-talk at the source. "Young children can't solely be blamed for their lack of manners," Dr. Bonior says. "We all know that parents have a lot of power in this arena. Consider having a polite and respectful chat with their parents before you speak with your grandchild."

Jerky Move #4: He's the king of one-word answers.
 We've all had the experience of asking a kid how his day was at school, only to get a one-word response. To combat this, do what you can to truly get to know your grandchild. Try this experiment: Next time you see him, do more listening than talking, and really try to take an interest in a certain aspect of his life. "If he's into a specific sports team or loves a certain band, talk about it," says Dr. Bonior. "It might be a place to develop something meaningful to share." Also, by showing your grandchild that you're interested in something he's into, you may just get to connect on that higher level. At the very least, there's a chance for a truly well-balanced conversation.


People just might think I'm not a good grandparent, but let me tell you, I have 6 and 4 are pretty good. The other 2 are out of control. They are a girl (5) and her brother (4). Whenever we have to stay with them for one reason or another, they fight continually. They talk back to me, even if I'm trying to play with them--"get away from me Grandma" or "I don't like you--you look ugly and old". Or the boy slams his bedroom door and then locks himself in the room and refuses to come out or unlock it. I had an accident a couple of years ago and still have effects that affect my running or normally maneuvering stairs, and in a fit of rage, the girl threw a train remote control and it landed right on the plate and screws I have in my foot. I didn't see it coming and when I said "ouch", the kid belted out laughing. My husband told her to apologize and she said "No way". Personally, now this is the part people won't understand, I just can't stand to be around them. The girl is very intelligent, but I think she's got ADD. Her parents praise her if she sits still for 20 minutes. Can't take her to a movie because after a few minutes she's ready to go, and everybody has to leave so she "won't have a temper tantrum" in public. They've both told me quite often they don't like me and wish I wouldn't come to their house. By the way, she's the daughter of our daughter. I get depressed every time I know I have to stay with them. Am I rude?

kathleen19 on 2014-07-09 13:16:48

OMG you are so PC. If a granchild is rude you really think you should say they have strength of character? You should say you are rude and that is inappropriate behavior to an adult. You are endorsing the kind of upbringing that has created the disgusting millenials and will continue to cause the new generation to be selfish and obnoxious. You are probably a millenial yourself.

alicein3 on 2014-05-05 10:52:40

I like your helpful hints about grandchildren. I have three very rude and talk back grandchildren. I have tried everything, you gave me some more ideas. Thank you. on 2013-01-31 11:26:30

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