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When Grandma Comes to Spoil the Kids, part 1 of 3

Robyn Openshaw - Jul 28, 2010 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

This is edited for length, from “Momof3.” It was a response to one of my recent blog postings and I re-post it here.

I often get long emails like this from readers, asking what to do about the older generation’s visits to our children, filled with junk-food “spoiling.” Parents feel that their hard work to provide good nutrition is being un-done by Grandma.

Today, read her comments. Tomorrow, read my reply:

“I needed a pep talk! The in-laws will be staying for 8 DAYS.

I wish I was making it up when I say my mom in law (when she came after the last baby birth) feeds my kids chocolate chip cookies FOR BREAKFAST. (I came down from nursing baby and sleepless night and the kids had milk and cookies sitting on the table at 7:00 am. Grandma just smiled and said, “I’m spoiling them.”) Maceys giant ice cream cones FOR DINNER!

I asked if she would buy spinach at the store and lemons for a wonderful whole wheat pasta spinach dish. She came home with a chocolate ice cream kong cone at 4:30 pm and Cheetohs.

What adult thinks that is a good dinner for a 2- and 3-year old? Again, she smiled and said, “Grandma is spoiling them, and I’m not that hungry either.” I was not amused. I confronted her about it and she just said, “Grandma spoiled them.”

She also bribes them w/ Smarties to ‘be good’ at the store, I looked over at my son in church and he had a mouthful of Skittles and was munching on ‘fruit by the foot’. Grandma had a list of fast food places w/ takeout every night for dinner and brought it home, then tried to give my babies pop and “diet juice” with artificial sweeteners to wash it down because “diet juice” is “healthy.”

Plus, I guess, my freezer full homemade smoothie bars did not seem to be a good summer treat because grandma decided they needed a huge gigantic bag of popsicles instead. (I had made smoothie bars before going to the hospital and pointed out there were lots in the freezer along with all my other healthy snacks.)

I will get through this. I can do it. The kids WILL thank me someday. I KNOW I am fighting the good fight! I can do this even if my in laws (not to be rude, they are good good people and loving grandparents but they are morbidly obese) will try to sabotage me where I live. In my own home with my babies. I WILL be strong. I will not cave. I quietly will go about my ways and quietly do my thing with my babies and self and hubby and the world will stay right. I will do right by my family. I will do it as kindly as possible, but I will be kind but firm. Any suggestions?

What happens when I’m outnumbered 3 to 1? (Hubby and parents against me? especially when hubby’s mom is making all hubby’s ‘favorites?’) When it’s not just pop culture trying to sway our children…but loved ones too? The kids see the Twizzlers, soda, Captain Crunch, potato chips, Cheetos, big pink Grandma cookies, pimento olive bologna loaf, white bread, big greasy Costco muffins, hot dogs, M&M’s, milk, fake peanut butter, Cream of Chicken soup casseroles. This is what my in-laws buy and make and eat at our house. Of course that is what my kids want instead too.

It doesn’t work to have meals and menus ready and food bought and planned. They SHOP for ALL their favorites when they don’t find them in my cupboards because they won’t eat what I make. (They say it ‘messes with their digestion’ to eat whole grains, legumes, greens, and so much fruit and veggies.)

Even when I plan it all out, “cookie salad” (nothing salad about it) gets whipped up or something like it and stuck on the table. Unfortunately, if it’s in the house (or in Grandma’s purse) it finds its way into my children. It’s such a sporadic encounter because they live out of state that it’s difficult to just go off about how EVERYTHING they buy and eat for the 8 days is just unacceptable to feed my kids.

But, the BIG no-no’s for me Grandma tries to feed to them on a large scale: processed lunch meat, artificial sweeteners, soda, milk and ooooodles of sugar constantly. I don’t want to feel like the bad guy for 8 days, but they really are over the top with their terrible eating habits while staying at my house and feeding my children. More pep talks please! I’m in serious anxiety mode. Family pressure is intense!”

Posted in: Relationships, Whole Food

15 thoughts on “When Grandma Comes to Spoil the Kids, part 1 of 3”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow, you guys have my sympathy….here I am way on the other side of the spectrum…I’m the Grams who eats healthy – it’s my daughter & family who eat all the junk food…and my fridge and cabinets are considered

    ‘suspect’ because all they contain is ‘good healthy stuff’… fruits, vegetables, whole grains…

    For a while my granddaughter was requesting that I make her smoothies (I use frozen berries & protein powder, flax oil etc) because she liked them so much, but when my daughter got wind of that I was asked to NOT give them to her…saying they were ‘too rich for her delicate system’ -(I think that translates to her lack of constipation after drinking them -perish forbid!)

    It frightens me to think what my grandkid’s insides will be like down the road…because I already am seeing the signs of disaster approaching (in the form of upset stomachs, digestive problems, etc) and feel powerless to stop it. To this family, ‘Grams knows nothing.’

    I’ve stopped saying anything, and just concentrate my efforts on making my health as good as it can be…I can only change myself, not anyone else…and I try to lead by example. Hopefully, that will be enough. (The kids are getting to the age where they can come and visit on their own – and they’ll be able to make choices on their own too – so if I only offer them good choices when they’re in my company, hopefully they’ll start to make wiser choices on their own, regardless of what anyone else says…at least that is my fervent wish for the future!)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Your in laws are selfish and only concerned about themselves. I am supposing the purpose of their visit is to assist you after having a baby. They are making your life more complicated and stressful. This is not assisting you in your recovering nor assisting to the well-being of a new baby. (Newborns always know what is up with mom.)

    You need to decided at what costs you are willing to have this senario continue. After open discussion with my extended family the costs became to high for me and we said we would not attend get togethers etc unless changes were made. That worked for a while and “dinners” were eliminated from the gatherings. Even now however after 25 years of eating differently and 19 years of marriage, extended family on both sides still have issues with the “way” we eat. My advice to you is to be true to yourself and decide what is most important to you and then act on that information.

    Best Wishes.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The issue you are having with you MIL is actually an issue with her self-confidence (and yours). She is obese and she gave up on herself believing that she could not change this. How is her health? How are her joints? I am sure she had diabetes and high blood pressure issues because of her own weight. People recreate their world again and again…and she is doing so with her grandkids. I’m sure she remembers the torture of being a heavy woman by others…but she is living emotionally via her food. She wants attention and wants to know she is loved. She can do it without food but seems most comfortable with the food because it is what she knows. If you don’t stand up to her (even if your husband doesn’t) you have to know that YOU are good enough…to be respected by them all. I have been where you are. I know it is possible to change things. You may go through some heated debates and heavy arguing but you need to be respected. If you are not, you have to ask yourself if you can continually put up with this and want to complain about it year after year because that is what will happen if you do nothing. Or you might realize that YOU are the one person in the whole wide world that is brave enough to stand up to your MIL and help her where she needs help the most. You were brought together for a reason. You are that person that can change things…if you believe in yourself. Visualize yourself being successful and be calm and loving yet firm in your approach. Let her know that she is loved and also let her know that she is stepping on hallowed ground in your own house. I wish you well.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If it were my family, I would use the visit as a family lesson to be discussed later after the grandparents leave in hopes for next time. Let the grandma do her thing while she is here.

    Then, it comes time to have the family sit down to talk, individually or together. As lovingly as possible, ask each member of the family what they felt when they had been eating grandma’s foods. Where they headachy, constipated, irritable, over-emotional or uncomfortable in any way physically? Eight days of a dietary change is long enough for many to feel differences in what their body wants to eat, whereas it may not be so clear if the healthy foods you provide are interspersed between grandma’s foods.

    Also, you will need to have the discussion about the grandparent’s obesity. Affirm your love for the grandparents, but make your family see how what you eat affects how your body is. Wouldn’t they like to remain at a healthy weight and have as few health problems as possible? Make sure that they see the connection between what people eat most of the time and how healthy and fit they are. I realize that this is touchy. You don’t want the children to think any less of their grandparents, but you want them to have some own inner guidance of their dietary preferences.

    So, I say let grandma overfeed them on junk for her visit, just this once. Like forcing a kid caught smoking a cigarette to smoke the whole pack to make him sick, the discomfort of such a rapid dietary change should do the trick.

    Next, you have that loving discussion with grandma before the next time she visits, so you can hopefully get her on your side to at least only spoil the children for at most one snack a day.

    I hope this helps,


  5. Anonymous says:

    Well in my experience you can’t change anybody but yourself and it’s certainly not worth alienating grandma from the grandkids, no matter how you feel about her. Besides you will end up being big bad wolf in the whole families eyes! So if you ask for help, except it graciously, and then go back to doing things your way when grandma goes back home. The kids won’t die from your mother-in-law’s spoiling, after all your husband somehow lived to adulthood. So grin and bear it and next time freeze healthy meals ahead, get hubby to take time off work, and tell grandma you’d love to see her for a visit, but you’ve got it covered.

  6. Anonymous says:

    As an odd twist, I am the aunt who gets the kids hooked on green smoothies and organic foods. I don’t think the parents like it (I got an email note the other day asking if I could bring some stuff over because their dad wouldn’t buy organic).

    But I remember getting spoiled (though not with food, per se) by my grandparents. I don’t think one week or weekend will kill anyone, even if it does slightly undermine Mom’s efforts. I wouldn’t make too much of a fuss—it might turn the kids further into junkfood monsters!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I read the word “addicting” repeatedly as one reason to avoid junk food with kids. This is the missing link when trying to understand what seems to be irrational behavior in the MIL. SHE is addicted to junk food. SHE cannot and will not change what she eats when she comes to your house for 8 hours, much less 8 days. She WILL be sick if she does – that is why all the visitors described above eventually make a junk food run. If you need or want people you love who have poor eating habits in your home, there are going to be challenges for all involved. The MIL described above uses “spoiling the grandchildren” to cover her addictions.

    This is not about the grandkids, this is about needing sugar and chocolate and soda 24/7 because she is addicted. I am a grandma who needs a diet pepsi about every 48 hours. I get in my car without the kids and go get it and drink it before I get back. I admire my daughter and her family and hope never to get in the way of what they are doing. When I watch her kids for extended periods of time I try to use what she has prepared, however I’m not as good at raw as she is, but I do stick to whole foods, not processed. I buy the kids toys or take them to a movie or play ball with them to spoil them.

    Lastly, please be careful of what you say to those you love as you try to create boundaries about your kids and food. The Bible teaches that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles the body, but what comes out of the mouth. People are more important than food.

  8. Anonymous says:

    My 91 year old mother-in-law just passed away. I have been reviewing the past 30+ years with her. My mother-in-law was a wonderful cook and frequently had lovely family meals…cool whip jello was a favorite. It gave our family sinus infections etc….and our brother in law owned an ice cream and candy factory! My husband and I didn’t use sugar and refined foods in our home. It seemed like a constant point of contention with the in laws.

    I had it to do over what would I do differently?

    Some things I would not do differently!

    My 30 year old daughter still doesn’t have any cavities! I was right that good nutrition pays off–especially from pregnancy to 3 years old! I was so careful with her and forbade ANY sugar believing it would give her a strong body and especially teeth. I was right as the mother to do so. Later in life as allergies surfaced I saw my intuition was right for her.

    As the other children came along (7 total) I sometimes lost my will to constantly tell people No. A few years ago a new sister-in -law came into the family with Celiac and I watched the family struggle to figure out her diet..and I watched her bring something she could eat to family gatherings and how she was gracious and firm about what she would and wouldn’t do…..If I had my years to do over I would have been like her and just not change my standards for othersregardless of their ‘position’ in my life…I would give the children more choices and less guilt about going off diet.

    The thing I hated the most was when relatives would lie to me about ingredients until after you had eaten . Then I got to deal with the kids allergies for many days…I drew the line on the lying and began just taking my own food to family gatherings.

    I would pay my kids a quarter when we got home for turning down ice cream…and I would buy their Halloween candy from them on Halloween night….I would make wonderful healthy stuff at home-the ingredients were so expensive I didn’t take them much to family gatherings–others didn’t appreciate the food and my budget couldn’t stretch to feed the multitude with our healthy food. It would have been helpful to have brainstormed about inexpensive treats to take to share–ones my kids could eat too.

    It is good to review all of this-I appreciate the blog thanks

  9. I’m not going to be vary popular for this post but here it goes! If it is someone that the children don’t see often let it go. Grandma is showing love the way she knows how and is comfortable with.

    Your eating goals are honorable. What your children do everyday is what makes or breaks them. You are setting the stage. If someone eats to much junk and that is not their normal way it feels miserable. They will eventually only nibble to appease grandma.

    I also think that what we eat feeds the bacteria we currently have in our GI tract and if this is a rare thing they won’t continue to want it.

    Do what you can do and don’t stress over a isolated incident.

  10. A few comments from a grandma herself. First of all, i am the one feeding the grandkids the healthy stuff. I’m up against my 3 daughters, spouses and their children. Daughters are now in their mid-30’s and i started eating this way only a few years ago. They all think i have a few loose screws. I’m all organic and about 70% RAW and I distill my own water to avert the ‘city’ water supply. Besides being a nurse that used to think she can fix anything or die trying, I have come to realize that being a little less uptight benefits all those involved.

    I have resolved to accept that which I cannot control, however, not without great angst and some loss of relationship closeness. I believe that first of all, many people are unaware that ‘big agriculture’ sponsored by ‘big-govt’ and ‘corporate america’ are dictating what we eat and how long we live.

    I try to educate people, having given away thousands of pieces of literature and dozens of films. if at that point, they choose the ‘dark side of food’, that remains their choice. One of my children just bought a $30,000 boat but tell me they cannot afford to feed their children organically, to include only grass-fed meats. I know a mother of 10 (blended family) who feeds her family a mostly raw, all organic, diet on under $600 per month. it is a different way of eating and initially there is a learning curve.

    We have to remember where people are coming from. i do think that grandma’s should at least attempt to honor the wishes of the the parents, but it does sound like husband reverts to a little boy once around mom and dad. You are likely not going to change grandma’s mind—sounds like she is going to eat herself to an early grave. Maybe grandma thinks you are too controlling (with even snacks in the freezer) and this is her way of rebelling. I suggest giving her some literature, sitting down with an adult husband who is willing to back you, and explaining why you are feeding the kids and yourselves this way. If after that grandma continues without regard for anyone or anything except validation of her lifestyle (narcissism) — well, then you might want to find an acceptance level somewhere between shutting off communication and allowing rampant food choices.

    I just plug along and I do not eat but a few ‘thank-you bites’ when at someone else’s home, usually bringing my own food. If people find this offensive, I consider it mostly their problem. I always try to explain so as to not hurt feelings. As far as the kids and grandkids, I will not make or bring anything that I would not consider healthy and eat myself. SO– I do not blindly accept what my children’s families eat or believe in when I visit their homes, I guess it’s only fair that I accept that they bring their food to my house. I just choose not to eat it.

    I must say the most difficult is knowing that the lives of my children and grandchildren are very likely being cut short by their choices and feeling that it is the children who are innocently being led down a disease-laden path.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Interesting!! I have the opposite issues!!

    We went to visit 2 of our grandchildren and their diets are filled with processed junk, white flour, a little fruits, a little veggies……at least no soda!

    So we immediately go buy our food have non-chemical items sent there before we arrive and other healthy items.

    Did have a Mom that thought it cute to allow our children when they were young to “sneak” candy, etc. or bring some for them as a “treat”. By them experiencing the belly aches they did learn to eat better. A shame some of them haven’t kept this healthier eating style with their own children…but then one has to appease a spouse’s up bringing also!!

    Not with the arguing just set an example as to letting them know what we eat now, through our own experiences to attain better health and healing.

    Do remember your children need you to speak up for their well-being….after all they learn from you. By your example..

  12. Anonymous says:

    I realize how tough it is when a person is sabotaged by ‘well-meaning’ parents, grandparents, or friends, especially when it comes to the interest of our own children. I am a vegetarian for 30 plus years, a vegan for 4 years, and about 70% raw, and have learned to live with the ‘so are you having the leg or the wing?’ jokes for years…

    That said, as a parent of a daughter who is now 20, I wish that I had your problem of grandparents who love to spoil their grandchildren. My Dad passed away long before I was ever married. My Mom died when my daughter was three.

    My daughter’s paternal grandparents have never had much time for her – not because they don’t love her – but they just have never been ‘hands-on’ type of grandparents (or from what I’ve been told, parents!). It was fine for me to bring her to their homes, but they have never made the effort to come see her or have her stay at their house… Do I wish that she could have had some of the love that “Momof3” in-laws’ seem to have for their grandchildren – even if it is a little misplace? In a heartbeat.

    True, you have a right to be miffed that your in-laws seem so disrespectful of your wishes, but isn’t the other 357 days you have to be able teach your kids healthy habits going to counter-act those 8 days of bad eating worth the love your kids get??? Be thankful for loving; albeit junk-food-devouring; Grandparents, not all kids are as lucky as yours.
    I always told my daughter (whose paternal grandmother talks worse than a sailor) don’t show your ignorance in using the same words your Grandma does, rather, show how intelligent you are by using a good vocabulary… You could tell your kids the same; just because Grandma eats all this junk, doesn’t mean you have to eat the same as her, make the healthy choices…

  13. Anonymous says:

    I am in agreement with camy. The grandparents will leave and your family can get back to normal. By the way… don’t forget to thank them for helping out while you were recovering. Even though it was stressful to you, it was normal for them. We are just now trying to change our ways. There is still ice cream in the freezer and cookies in the cookie jar, but a lot more more fresh fruits, vegies and smoothies. My family rebelled when I tried to change everything at once! So, slowly but surely things will get better. Be patient.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps you or DH could talk with his mom and explain how much you care for her, that she is a very important part of your family and how concerned you are that her health is being affected by her food choices. Maybe she just needs a little help in making changes in her eating habits. Let her know that you are willing to help her make changes.

    Next time she comes challenger her to 8 days of green smoothies. Tell her she can eat as she pleases but to add just one quart of green smoothie to her diet each day that she is in your home, just like Victoria’s challenge.

    If you focus on her and your concern for her health, she may be more willing to take the plunge. She might just be waiting for a little helping hand. Making such a drastic change can be very intimidating. The green smoothie challenge makes it seem easier if someone who knows the way shows you how to do it. If she knows she can take it a step at a time, she just might like the idea. It’s worth a try.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Hello there,

    My toe nails are suffering from some fungi, which causes my toe nails to look rotted! Any suggestions i’m almost ready to take some conventional medicine that is not good on the liver, please advise

    Desperate ,


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