Grandparents Need to Respect Parents Food Choices

Don't Bite Your Tomgue cover
Grandparents can help support their grandchildren’s harried parents by asking how they can pitch in, says Ruth Nemzoff, Ed.D, author of Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships With Your Adult Children. Here is Ruth’s guest post on how to avoid conflicts when it comes to feeding our grandchildren.

For two years I have traveled the country talking with parents. Many are in a quandary about how to relate to their adult children and about what their role should be in the lives of their grandchildren. The days are gone when grandparents were the source of all knowledge. Our children have access to many streams of information, some of which conflict with our dearly held beliefs. Daily life is the stage on which the conflict between their philosophies and ours plays out. Take feeding the grandchildren, for example.

Your children might be vegetarians while you are not. They want you to feed the children only vegetables, no meat. You were taught that children need protein to grow. You worry that your children are endangering the health of your grandchildren. The last time you fed your grandchildren you gave them chicken and fish thinking you were being a good grandparent. Your children told you in no uncertain terms that you were never to give the grandchildren any form of animal meat again.

Another time you took your grandchildren out for ice cream, thinking you were not only giving them a treat but also increasing their calcium intake. Your generosity was met with anger. How could you feed sweets to your grandchildren?

Probably the meat and the fish and the ice cream will not endanger the lives of your grandchildren, but not following the dictates of your children could lead to a rift. Instead of focusing on the rightness of your position, consider how lucky you are to have grandchildren whose parents sincerely care about them and their health. Focus on the opportunity to learn something new about nutrition. Vegetarians who are mindful to give their children vegetable protein can help them grow up quite nicely. If you find it difficult to make vegetarian meals, you can ask your children to provide the food or order out or look at this as an incentive to learn some new cooking skills.

Your grandchildren can live a very happy life without cookies and ice cream. You might find you enjoy walking in the park or going to the library as much as going out for ice cream… and it is far cheaper. We old dogs, can learn new tricks. While doing what we have always done is comfortable, doing something new is more interesting.

Arming yourself with expert opinions on why your way is correct and theirs is wrong will do little to change behavior. There are experts on both sides. Every nuclear family is a different sub-culture with different customs. Adults can and do differ on what is the best path. We show respect to our children when we acknowledge them for caring for their own children. It is clear they are trying to instill discipline and good eating habits.

Find some ways in which your skills are appreciated by reading a story, telling about the old days, or teaching a skill. If you are feeling unappreciated, discuss your feelings with your children rather than blaming their parenting decisions.

Enjoy the opportunity to learn new behaviors and information. And remember, there are many ways to raise healthy children.


  1. says

    Some new parents may be unsure of their decisions. If they look to you for answers, be graciously timid about giving them. I like to start off by saying, “I’m not sure about this, but I think….” That will give them the encouragement to check things out for themselves and gain confidence in making their own decisions.

  2. says

    Lots of grandparents find themselves on the other side of the nutritional fence. We don’t approve of the number of treats and empty calories that our grandchildren consume. When I was a kid, a treat was really a treat. A soft drink was an occasional reward in the middle of helping mom with the housework, and my sister and I had to walk to the store to buy it. When the ice cream truck came by, we were sometimes allowed to make a purchase, but not always. But it doesn’t matter in which way grandparents disapprove of the parents’ food decisions, the same principle applies: Respect the parents’ choices.