Grandparents Who Treat Kids Differently Damage More Than Their Own Relationships

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shutterstock_152525504Having a set of very generous grandparents is a great thing. Kids are extraordinarily lucky to have living, involved grandparents in the first place, and to have some loving, friendly, Santa-like older people ready with ponies and tuition and trips to the American Girl store makes a person extremely lucky indeed. But while it is very nice for a grandparent to be generous, it is much more important for the grandparent to be fair and equitable. Distributing largesse unevenly among siblings can cause problems and hurt relationships, so any grandparent who wants to give had best be prepared to do so equally or not at all.

In a recent Dear Prudence column, a mother wrote in because she and her husband have three young daughters. The husband’s parents were reportedly excellent, loving grandparents who gave gifts to all three daughters equally. Now, however, the grandparents say they want to pay for their biological granddaughter to go to private school. The parents are conflicted about how to proceed. They don’t want to raise their children differently based on the grandparents’ money, but they also worry that they would be doing a disservice to the daughter who would benefit if they turned the offer down.


She’s going to edit the little girl out later.

The mother specifies that the public schools where her children go to school are good schools, and l think they would be doing all three daughters–even the one who would go to private school–a serious disservice by accepting the grandparents’ terrible offer. Any benefit she got from private school would likely be outweighed by the damage such an offer would do to her relationship with her sisters. If all of a sudden she is going to a different school, the others are going to notice and want to know why. By the time they graduate high school, all three girls will understand that their family operates on a two-tier system, and I can’t conceive of any way that would not result in jealousy and hurt feelings.

Even if everyone continued to get along fine with the grandparents, this is exactly the sort of thing that can damage family relationships. Not only can it lead to resentment between siblings, it can lead children to resent the parents for allowing this sort of favoritism to take place. These parents would be much better served by protecting their family unit and sending all three girls to their very good public schools together. Shame on the grandparents for even making an offer that they had to understand would create an unequal living situation in their granddaughter’s home. A fancy name on one’s diploma is not worth the family heartache it could cause.