When you think of your grandparents, you probably remember them being loving and kind. We usually think that grandparents can’t wait to have grandchildren and they will love them dearly no matter what. That stereotype, however, may not always be true. Is it possible for grandparents to hate their grandchildren?
While we idealize grandparents, a child’s relationship with them isn’t always loving and tender. There are many reasons why grandparents may not like their grandchildren very much. At the top of that list is if the grandparents are narcissistic; they have difficulty loving anyone in that case.
It’s important to understand how your child’s grandparents interact with their grandchildren because toxic grandparents can do significant damage. Let’s explore the signs of toxic grandparents and why they might not really like their own grandchildren very much.
Why Wouldn’t Grandparents Like Their Grandchildren?
While there could be many explanations for why grandparents don’t like or even hate their grandchildren, a common reason is if they are narcissistic. Narcissists are only able to focus on their own needs, and they have no empathy for other people, including their own grandchildren.
Narcissistic grandparents can only think of their grandchildren as being extensions of their own identity. They don’t see them as individuals with their own needs and desires. Instead, they are someone who needs to learn how to prop up their grandparents’ self-esteem even at the expense of their own needs.
Moreover, narcissistic grandparents will use their grandchildren to support the image of themselves they have constructed for the rest of the world. They may want to seem like loving, caring grandparents, but they are really only interested in how they look to everyone else around them.
They also love to create drama in the family. They will lie to their grandchildren, gaslight them, and use triangulation to create division between the child and their siblings and parents. They will also undermine your authority as a parent.
As with everyone else in a narcissist’s, life, the grandchildren of narcissists will eventually disappoint them. When that happens, the toxic grandparents will initiate the devaluation stage of their relationship. They will be harshly critical and never satisfied.
While it’s not possible to say exactly what is in the heart of a narcissistic grandparent, it is clear they are willing to use their grandchildren to further their own agenda. It’s also possible that as a narcissistic mother is jealous of her daughter who represents a younger, better version of herself, such a mother might also feel the same way about a granddaughter. The treatment that results is not what most people would consider love.
What are the Signs of Toxic Grandparents?
There are several signs that let you know a grandparent is toxic to your children. Particularly with narcissistic grandparents, it’s common to see them engage in several types of manipulative behavior. Let’s take a look at a few signs.
They Choose a Favorite Grandchild
This also happens with narcissistic parents, but the toxic grandparent will also choose a ‘golden grandchild.’ They will shower with gifts and attention, but it isn’t out of love. They have an agenda.
The first thing they want to do is project an image of the perfect grandparent. That’s all-important to a narcissist. The next thing they want to do is create competition among other grandchildren. A narcissist loves nothing more than several people vying for their attention and love.
Another thing they’re hoping to do here is to groom their own grandchild to fulfill their needs, to pick up where their abused children might have left off. They are looking for a steady and reliable source of narcissistic supply. A grandchild is perfect.
Finally, when they shower your child with loving attention, they are building trust, and they often use that trust to undermine your parental authority later on.
They Feel Entitled to Spend Time with Their Grandchildren
Of course, many healthy grandparents want to spend time with their grandchildren, but they are usually respectful of the parents’ wishes about when they can do that. Narcissistic grandparents feel as though their desire to spend time with their grandchildren should supersede anything the parents want.
They feel as though they should be allowed to see their grandchildren anytime they want. They often show up unannounced, and they expect you to drop everything so they can spend time with their grandchildren.
Remember that a narcissist doesn’t consider anyone else’s needs above their own. They can’t empathize, and so, they don’t care if you’ve already made plans or aren’t prepared for them to visit. They are only concerned with what they want and getting their needs met immediately.
They Buy Love
Another thing that toxic grandparents will do is try to buy the love of your children. They may shower them with expensive gifts and their undivided attention. They want the grandchildren to love them even if they don’t return the favor.
Their goal with this kind of manipulation is not to love the child and help raise them. Their goal is to create a steady source of narcissistic supply and an ally in projecting a particular image.
When their grandchild starts to get older and wants to do normal adolescent things like hanging out with their friends, the grandparents may turn on that child in a vicious way. This is when their true colors will shine through, and unfortunately, their devaluation can cause substantial damage to your child’s self-esteem during a fragile time of life.
They Undermine Your Authority
Toxic grandparents will also work hard to undermine your authority as a parent. They want their grandchildren to trust them and no one else. They don’t want your children to feel like they can come and talk to you about anything that’s going on.
If this is successful, it can create a rift between you and your children. Moreover, it can encourage your children to defy you. Perhaps worst of all, it leaves your children vulnerable to their narcissistic grandparents who will, at some point, begin to devalue them.
To undermine your authority, these bad grandparents may get your children things you explicitly told them you don’t want them to have. They may buy expensive gifts that go against what you told your children. They may allow them to do things that you said they couldn’t. All of this is a very bad influence on your kids.
How Can You Stop Toxic Grandparents?
As a parent, you do have the right to prevent your parents from seeing their grandchildren. But they will likely push back even if they truly don’t care for the children at all. It’s the image that matters to them.
They might even try to take you to court to sue for visitation rights. In most states, the well-being of the child is considered most important, and as long as you are a fit parent, the courts tend to side more with the parents. However, such a suit could cost you a lot of time and money.
Still, going no contact may be your best option to protect your children. If that’s not something you want to do for whatever reason, you do have the right to limit the visitations. You can set the time, date, and length of any grandparent visits.
You also have the right to insist on supervised visits so that a parent can always be monitoring what is happening during a visit. That will allow you to prevent some of the toxic behavior that narcissistic grandparents use to manipulate your children. As social worker Joyce Smith writes, “Keep the child away altogether or supervise short visits. Do not leave the child alone with the narcissistic grandparent.”
If these toxic grandparents don’t really care about your children, they will likely back off when you set such limits. It’s often too much work for them to go to see someone they care very little about.
It’s not possible to really know what is in someone else’s heart, but some grandparents, particularly narcissistic grandparents, don’t seem to love their grandchildren. At least, they often don’t treat them like they love them. If they do, it’s usually because they want something. They will manipulate your children using their own emotions and with toxic techniques like lying, gaslighting, and triangulation.
One way to help prevent them from using your children’s emotions against them is by helping to defuse any emotional triggers they have developed. You can do this kind of work together as a family and everyone will benefit. My 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers can help. It’s a free guide to helping you recognize and defuse those triggers as well as heal the wounds that caused them. Just click on this link, and I’ll send it directly to your inbox.
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