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Can children be "damaged" by grandparents?

(18 Posts)
KTNoo Fri 17-Jul-09 17:41:32

I wasn't sure whether to post this in parenting or relationships.

I have a very difficult relationship with my parents. It's something which has become clearer to me since I had my own DCs. I have a lot of guilt from some reason, I feel like I constantly disappoint my mum and dad. We are very different, partly because I have gone through a lot of analysing their and my behaviour and making deliberate changes in the way I bring up my DCs.

They are very controlling. They never say what they want but manipulate situations all the time. They put huge emphasis on being good and quiet. I could go on.

What I'm worried about is this - I don't want my DCs to experience all this the way I did. At the same time I realise the relationship will not be the same as it was with me and if the DCs seem OK I feel I should promote that relationship, no matter how I feel about it. At the moment we are staying with them as we are moving house, so it's prominent in my mind.

To illustrate the kind of stuff that bothers me - my mum has been saying to DS(6) a lot "When did you become such a good boy? What happened to turn you from such a naughty boy into such a good boy?"

And "If you're going to cry we are not going to the park. Parks are only for GOOD children."

I HATE this. My poor children should not have to hear this stuff.

CapricaSix Fri 17-Jul-09 18:15:18

KTNoo - I think it's important to keep in the forefront of your mind that they are your parents not your DCs' and that it's you who will have the biggest impact on them.

But if they are close, I think there can be a certain impact - we were very close to my dad's parents growing up even though they lived up north. We saw them about twice a year for proper 1-2 week holidays, and when we were very little and my mum was hospitalised we stayed with them, which would have been of huge importance obviously, at the time and I think long term too.

They were very different from my parents, and actually, looking back i think it was the security, the feeling of knowing where you stood, meals on the table at a predictable time, etc, that made me feel safe & happy there tbh! Things were more chaotic at home, and presumably unpredictable what with my mum's mental illness. She was also pretty distant, whereas on holiday we were always very involved.

My grandma died when i was 19 and at the time i shut off all emotion from it & harboured much resentment & bitterness towards her (long story details of which are irrelevant). It's not until this year (aged 33) that I've finally managed to put all that to rest, and the death of my aunt who lived with them up until her death has helped with that. I still miss her like hell when I'm up visiting my grandad, and I do feel like the backbone of our family/childhood is crumbling somehow. I have such happy memories of that place.

I've no idea if this is a usual experience, others may be able to say? Could be just our circumstances.

In terms of emotional impact, my bitterness towards my grandma was to do with her disappointment that i didn't go to uni, and her treatment of my aunt, who had minor special needs and who she over-protected all her life (she was quite a controlling woman too). I had issues with all that. In spite of my bitterness, i wish she was still alive today so that I could have an adult relationship with her, and that she could see how well i am doing (and i'm now studying with the OU!) and she would adore dd!!

So in a way i suppose I still want her approval somehow. But you know, it hasn't affected how i live my life or feel about it or anything or as you put it, "damaged" me - my parents did that!wink- it just shadowed the way i felt about her & our relationship.

I think one point to make is that our relationship with my grandparents is totally different from that of my dad's. Me & dsis couldn't understand when we were younger why my dad had such a problem with them, the groaning & eye-rolling we witnessed! They were on the will to take us if anything happened to my parents, and my parents admitted they were terrified of the idea of that happening.
We've heard the stories in full now we're adults, and it seems my grandparents were very different animals when my dad was growing up!!!
(Grandad: depressive, excessive drinker, temper, storming out. Grandma: controlling, over-protective. To us? Grandad: great fun, gentle, steady; Grandma: loving, fantastic cook, funny, half-deaf, forever in the kitchen, self-sacrificing... Get the picture?) The funny thing is, I'm now terrified of the idea of my parents having custody of dd!!! (and that's in spite of our great relationship).

I too am working to NOT give dd the upbringing i had. Thankfully my parents are actually very different now to what they were, and dd has a fantastic & close relationship with them, but i totally know why you are cringing.

sorry i've waffled, not sure if my post helps answer your question at all!!!

LouLovesAeroplaneJelly Fri 17-Jul-09 18:25:42

I am a prime example of my grandmothers influence. Somewhat snobby, fat, huge guilt complex, manners from the 1920's, no idea what a normal family life is like, no self esteem and spent 5 years studying things at uni that I did not want to study...I could go on and on.

CapricaSix Fri 17-Jul-09 18:31:13

geez lou. how did they manage to have a huge influence??

CapricaSix Fri 17-Jul-09 18:36:44

Actually I've just remembered that my sister, who has had some counselling training, was telling me that she read or her counsellor told her or something the influence of one generation is passed through 2 generations, to the grandkids, because the parents were affected by them therefore are influenced in the way they parent - be it, like KTNoo, doing things very differently, or unconsciously continuing in the same way. I haven't explained that as well as my sister did but hey ho! If i find out if it was in a book she read i'll find out its title & author.

CapricaSix Fri 17-Jul-09 18:45:50

So in other words, in order to unravel all the issues passed onto you through your parents it is important to take into account your grandparents, particular their relationship with your parents.

It is so true, too - the titbits i've heard about my parents' upbringing has really helped me understand where they were coming from. For example, my mum's mum was very emotionally manipulative, and my mum made a very conscious decision to never ever be like that - and she succeeded and in one way that's been fantastic, but i think she went to the other extreme, i don't think i learnt enough that i could affect other people, I grew up a tad selfish & unaware of others' needs because of it, and i think i still take my parents for granted a bit.

As a result i ask myself, if i feel an emotional reaction to dd, if it is fair enough for me to let her know how i feel, and to let her know that her actions or words or tone of voice can affect another person. It felt quite unnatural at first, but I think i'm doing the right thing. I don't lay on guilt, i'm not emotionally blackmailing or holding any grudges or telling her i won't love her she doesn't do x,y,z, just showing her that she is not isolated or immune from others around her, if that makes any sense.

Sorry, another waffle!

funtimewincies Fri 17-Jul-09 20:10:39

KTNoo - your post really struck a cord. Many of the things that my parents did were good but I will try my hardest to make sure that ds never feels like he has to earn my love in the way I did and that he has to do everything my way in order to gain any recognition or approval.

KTNoo Fri 17-Jul-09 20:57:13

Thanks for taking time to reply everyone. Sorry for delay - was putting kids to bed.

The weird weird thing is that I never would have thought any of this until I had my own dcs. I would have said I had a normal, fine upbringing. I still think a lot of it was good and I have happy memories. Maybe the way they were/are is typical of their generation. Having said that, it was getting to know my DH's family that made me see how different things could be.

My Grandmother, FWIW, is a completely closed book. She is still alive. I have only had superficial conversations with her as an adult, but I have happy childhood memories of her doing things with me, familiar stuff from her house etc. It's only as an adult I've realised that she has big emotional issues. Basically I think she has suffered with anxiety and panic attacks for most of her life but has never had any proper treatment. I couldn't say that this affected me as a child, but it's obviously affected my mum, who is partly the way she is because of HER upbringing.

It's the emotional manipulation I particularly hate. We've been staying with them the last 3 weeks and already dd is coming up to me saying things like "Mummy, I'm a GOOD girl!" I find this very weird. They constantly give them things, TOO many things imo, but then remind them how lucky they are and how they can take their new things away if they don't behave perfectly. I wouldn'y say I'm your typical Unconditional Parent, but if I want to do something nice or give them a treat I will do it because I WANT to, not because they owe me good behaviour in return.

They went to church with my mum last Sunday, and all everyone could say was how good and quiet they were, never mind if they actually got anything out of the service.

KTNoo Fri 17-Jul-09 21:01:01

Meant to say, CapricaSix, what you said about emotions and how they affect people really rang true with me. My parents never show any emotion - it's all snide comments and loaded looks and comments. I've had to learn how to be emotionally honest with my children and it can still feel strange. I can see the disapproving looks from mum and dad if I tell my kids "I'm so fed up with all the noise you're making!"....or similar....

CapricaSix Fri 17-Jul-09 23:23:34

Interesting how you're saying similar to me about being emotionally honest, but we've both got very different mothers! My mum is the quintessential Unconditional Parent! Like you, I'm not completely either though I wish I could be, but I really don't like the sound of what your mum's been saying to your children...

KTNoo Fri 17-Jul-09 23:39:26

I know, CapricaSix, I hate the things they say to my kids. It's all nice tone of voice and fixed smiles with a horrible undercurrent of manipulation and guilt.

I realise now it must have been very confusing for me as a child, although I didn't realise why until recently. They are saying one thing but meaning something else, and their tone etc doesn't convey their true feelings. It's horrible. I hoestly don't know if the children have picked up on it yet, they probably just sense that I'm not my usual self (am very stressed and tense when we're with them) around the grandparents.

CapricaSix Sat 18-Jul-09 00:19:06

They sound a bit like my dd's CM. She is very friendly, passionate, clearly cares about her job etc, but she is also very controlling in a manipulative way. That phrase "it's all nice tone of voice and fixed smiles with a horrible undercurrent of manipulation and guilt" describes how she often makes me feel, and I am stuck unable to respond the way i want to because it's all in front of dd.

I am so happy that dd will no longer be going to her in September! dd seems to like her but i swear she is picking up on the conditional nature of her minding. (dd is soon 6.) Not that I witness much of them together, but i reckon dd probably seeks approval from her, she looks at her in quite a shy, anxious way iykwim.

ooooh there's so many things she's said that made my blood boil but i won't go into them now!

KTNoo Sat 18-Jul-09 00:58:20

I think it's a very good thing your dd is not going to that CM any more as you are clearly not happy about the situation.

I can relate to "makes my blood boil" - today I was literally sitting listening to my mum spouting such horrible nonsense to my ds, and I was trying to decide whether to say nothing or tell her not to talk to him like that. I'm ashamed to say I said nothing. It's awful when I think about it - I always thought I would stand up for my children. It's because it's so subtle - on the few occasions I have pulled them up on something, they have looked stunned and played the innocent. And then been huffy with me. I wonder if they don't even realise they are doing it?

CapricaSix Sat 18-Jul-09 11:18:39

Yes, subtle, and small things too so it's hard to explain to other people and sometimes i feel like it's just me being sensitive. But i have had enough experience with dodgy people in my life to know to trust my instincts on this one - and thankfully when reporting back to my dp and other friends they have understood what i meant.. I would have found it hard to change to a diff cm because i'd have had to give her some sort of explanation, but what actually happened was she told me she may no longer be able to pick dd up from school in sept, at the same time i was putting in a request at work to change to term time only so added a request to finish slightly earlier so dd could go to after school club -work said yes, yay! So I don't need to tell the cm what i think at all! wink

LouLovesAeroplaneJelly Sat 18-Jul-09 15:31:06

Sorry, never managed to get back online. Parents were divorced so grandparents had a lot of influence.
It was all about manipulation. My grandfather actually tried to get custody of me (my mother was perfectly normal so no reason for it). It is disturbing to think how much influence GP have on their GC!!

booyhoo Sun 19-Jul-09 01:54:37

KTNoo your description of your mums sounds so much like my mum. i dont know how many times i have heard her saying to ds that he an have xyz if he is a good boy, and when she takes him to mass that he was "good as gold". and im ashamed to say that i have caught myself on occasion(usually at my mums) telling him the same, "you can have xyz if you're good". its only after reading your post that its hit me how manipulative that is. im going to make a conscious effort now not to do this or allow my mum to do it either.

as for your situation, i think you have to be firm with your parents in what you find acceptable and what you dont. they are your children. they need you to stand up for them.

nooka Sun 19-Jul-09 05:42:38

I suspect that the amount of influence depends hugely on the amount of time spent together and the closeness of the relationship. I have a difficult relationship with my mother, and I know she had a very difficult relationship with her mother, and I suspect the two are related, but I have very very happy memories of staying with my grandmother. My father was pretty distant with his parents, and my memories of them are purely about the other cousins who visited at the same time (I didn't like my grandmother much, but this came much later when I disagreed with her opinions, which is a rather different affair).

So if the relationship is close and contact frequent, then the influence, and thus potential damage (and benefits too) will be much greater. If it's more distant, then they probably won't have a huge influence on your children, even if they wind you up when you visit.

CapricaSix Sun 19-Jul-09 10:02:30

It's funny isn't it, how it's the "good" stuff that winds us up? dd's CM (especially in the first few months of looking after her) kept saying "She's such a good child, she's a credit to you, she really is...is she ever naughty at home? I just can't imagine her being naughty..."

I've also got "She's so beautiful, why don't you get her to do some child modelling? I would if she was my daughter...you'd make some money!"

Also, her approval of dd seems to revolve around whether she's eaten her tea or not ."dd was really good today/ done well today, she ate all her tea," or "I'm not happy with dd today, she didn't eat her tea..." And, "They know there's no tv if they don't eat their tea..." "...dd's learning; have to play these little tricks with her..." angry

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