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The Competent Parent: Grandparents Favor Sibling’s Children


Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with local expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Feels Like Chopped Liver

Dear Dr. Debbie,

How can I effectively deal with grandparents who clearly favor my sibling’s children over mine (with time, money, etc.)?
Seeking Equality


Dear Seeking Equality,

Assuming all things being relatively equal – distance to travel, ages and personalities of the children, ease of access through the grandchildren’s parents – and you are accurately measuring the time and money discrepancy, the cause could very well be a relationship issue between your parents and you or your spouse or your children.  Not having more information about the relationships among you makes it difficult to give advice on how to address the discrepancy.  The best way to find out the cause would be to share your observation with your parents to see what they have to say about it.

Do the children notice and comment on the favoritism?  If not, leave it alone.  Stop measuring your assets (including your offspring’s) against your sibling’s.  It’s time to leave this rivalry behind.  Your children have relationships and experiences that the cousins do not.  In fact, your parents may be trying to balance what the other grandparents in each family have to offer.

Your job as parent to your children includes surrounding them with caring adults who may or may not be related to them.  Money, by the way, is not a fair measure of how much positive influence an adult can have on a child’s life.  Time, on the other hand, is a commodity that can be lavished on a child by a scout leader, music tutor, friendly neighbor, or even the proprietor of the corner store.  And it needn’t be a lot of time, just part of an ongoing genuine interest in the child’s well-being.  In my childhood, our mail carrier had longstanding, caring relationships with many of the families on his route.  We felt it when he added a “Hi from Mailman Fred” to the outgoing mail destined to reach us at summer camp.

If what your sibling’s children receive from your parents really bothers you, try focusing instead on providing a wonderful childhood for your own children.  Please include opportunities for them to experience plenty of examples of adults sharing time with children.  That can be truly grand.

Dr. Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis.  She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum.  Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at www.drdebbiewood.com

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