Indulgent grandparents, please give our kids all the love—just not all the candy

How to talk to your parents about overindulging your kids. 

Indulgent grandparents, please give our kids all the love—just not all the candy

She’s a character you’ll find replicated across popular culture: The grandmother whose house always smells like chocolate chip cookies and who lets the kids eat ice cream for dinner.

She’s a cliché, for sure, but science shows there is some truth to the idea that grandparents are prone to indulging kids in unhealthy ways. Fortunately, talking about it can help reduce the health risks without reducing time with Grandma and Grandpa.

Recently published research out of the University of Glasgow, suggests grandparents are inclined to let kids overindulge in junk food when they’re over, and aren’t keen to let the kids play outside because they fear they’ll lose them. This, combined with the fact that some grandparents are actually still smoking around the children (even when they had been asked not to) raise some red flags for researchers examining the impact grandparents’ habits have on kids’ long-term cancer risk factors.

“Given that many parents now rely on grandparents for care, the mixed messages about health that children might be getting is perhaps an important discussion that needs to be had,” says the paper’s lead author, Dr Stephanie Chambers.

Chambers and her colleagues examined 56 previous studies with data from 18 countries. All the studies looked at child care provided by grandparents who are not the primary caregiver to their grandchildren. They found that grandparents often disregard mom and dad’s wishes when it comes to nutrition, and role-model negative behaviors.

“Exposure to smoking and regularly treating children increases cancer risks as children grow into adulthood,” says Chambers. “It is also clear from the evidence that these risks are unintentional.”

The researchers suggest grandparents could benefit from targeted public health messaging about kids’ health issues and from some hard conversations with their own kids. “From the studies we looked at, it appears that parents often find it difficult to discuss the issues of passive smoking and over-treating grandchildren,” Chambers explains.

According to Angela Bowen, author of Today's Grandmother: Your Guide to the First Two Years, parents need to be very direct when discussing things like a child’s diet and exercise with caregiving grandparents. “You have to say, ‘This is our child and this is how we are doing things,’” Bowen says in a previous interview with Motherly.

Expert tips for grandparents

Don’t use food to control behavior

Research indicates a lot of grandparents turn to treats when kids are having a tantrum, or in order to reward or bribe them. Experts suggest more productive ways of stopping tantrums, and encourage caregivers to use non-food rewards (if parents are using rewards at all). A trip to the park or a special book might be a better “treat” for kids in the long run.

Don’t buy juice

When we were growing up, there was always juice in the fridge (and in our sippy cups) but these days, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against fruit juice. It recommends no juice at all for babies, and really limited consumption for older kids. If juice isn’t an option at a child’s home, grandparents shouldn’t serve it at their house, either.

Take them outside

The physical activity levels of grandchildren are linked to how physically active the grandparents are themselves, so modeling healthy habits makes a huge difference. Going outside is good for you both (and might help the kids chill out a bit during indoor time) so don’t let a fear of losing them stop you from going for a walk or to the park.

According to the researchers, if grandparents help encourage healthy habits early in life, kids have an easier time keeping up a healthy routine as an adult.

No one is suggesting grandparents don’t bake cookies with their grandkids, but the science does suggest they may want to seek out some reduced sugar recipes. ?

In This Article

    The weighted blanket you need to make it through the rest of 2020 is on sale today only

    If you want to sleep on a cloud, this is your chance.

    If I had a dollar for everything I've added to a virtual cart over the past eight months thinking, "I need this. We're in a pandemic." I, well, I'd be able to afford like 1/8 the grand total. From "stress-relieving" aroma diffusers (going to need like an ocean's worth of lavender oil here) to jetted foot spas, there's really nothing I'm not cart-curious about if it might in some small way make the monotony of work, kids, Netflix, repeat just a little more bearable.

    Occasionally, I actually pull the trigger. And most of the time, I'm so glad I did. Case in point: A weighted blanket.

    Unless you've been living on a remote island for the past few years (where do I sign up?), you've definitely heard of weighted blankets by now. If not, I'll catch you up. Harnessing the power of deep pressure stimulation, these grounding blankets can help reduce anxiety, improve sleep and bring about a deeper sense of relaxation. They're championed by parents of kiddos on the spectrum as a tool to help them calm down, by mamas of toddlers who have a hard time sleeping in their own bed, and of course, everyone who has turned to one in hopes of not staring at the ceiling at 3 am AGAIN.

    Admittedly, I wondered if they could possibly be worth the hype. But as the market flooded with dozens of options and the world became a real dumpster fire, it wasn't a question of "should I get one" so much as it was a question of "which one should I get"—because if they're selling calm, I'm buying.

    Keep reading Show less

    This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

    One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

    If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

    Stylish storage cabinet

    Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

    White board calendar + bulletin board

    With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

    Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

    From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

    Bamboo storage drawers

    The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

    Laminated world map

    I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

    Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

    When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.


    From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

    Expandable tablet stand

    Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

    Neutral pocket chart

    Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

    Totable fabric bins

    My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

    Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

    Work + Money

    Cameron Diaz on having a baby at 47: 'You really have to work hard for it'

    "The only pressure for me now is I have to live to be, like, 107, you know? No pressure!"

    This is the decade that saw the face of first-time motherhood change. The number of first-time mamas under 30 is shrinking, while more and more women are becoming moms after 40.

    Cameron Diaz is one of them. The actress and businesswoman, now 48, became a mom in January at the age of 47. In a new episode of Naomi Campbell's YouTube series, No Filter, Diaz opens up about what it's like to become a mom in your fourth decade.

    "A lot of people do it the other way around ... they get married [and] have a family in their youth," says Diaz."I'm kind of doing it in the second half of my life."

    Keep reading Show less