Discipline #9: When the Gramps can’t say ‘no’

When we were growing up, my dad was busy working most of the time. On the occasions that we were out together and I asked him to buy me something, he would gladly do so because he wanted to see his kids happy. Now as a grandfather to my children, it is no surprise that he dotes on them, sometimes excessively.

Anything to see them smile

I still remember the first time it happened. It was many years ago and my parents had taken the 5 kids to market for breakfast. They came back and I saw one of them holding a handheld game. Then I noticed that ALL of them had one. “What’s all these?” My voice must have been raised. “Gong gong bought for us”.

I stared at my dad for some explanation. “They started arguing so to settle the problem I bought them one each. It’s just $2 anyway.” (everything to him is just $2, whether it’s actually $5 or $20!) My mum noticed the look on my face and said to me quietly. “Your dad is getting old and he gets very stressed when they bicker. Just let him be. It is no good for his high blood pressure. Let him enjoy his grandchildren.”

Things started going downhill from there. It became like a me-against-my-parents mini war.

About a year ago, #5 wanted to buy a set of LEGO Ninjago with his angpow money. I allow them a portion to spend as I wanted to teach them budgeting and delayed gratification. My dad was free to take him out and I gave him specific instructions that he was not to pay for it as #5 has his own money. He came back with the set and I thought that was the end of it.

The truth came to light when my friend brought her son over to play and she commented that they have the same set. She was lamenting how expensive toys cost, that $39 gets you a small structure and just one figurine.

Wait a minute.


I was certain the set came with 6 figurines. She insisted her set had just one. We called the boys in and lo and behold, #5 admitted that the other 5 figurines were bought separately, with gong gong’s money. And gong gong told him NOT TO TELL MUMMY. I looked at his distressed innocent face and I knew I couldn’t get angry with him. After all, it wasn’t his fault.

I had a talk with my dad and wanted to tell him that not only was he spoiling #5, but he was teaching him to lie. I expected him to feel bad about it, but guess what? He thought I was the one who was crazy!

Before I could even finish what I wanted to say, he told me that I was being mean and ridiculous and that my son is just a young boy and if that makes him happy, he should be allowed to have his toys. I was the one who needed some sense drilled into me. Unbelievable.

Over the weekend, I caught #5 secretly eating a whole tube of sweets. I asked him where did he get it from and #4 chimed in, “Of course Gong gong la. He has a whole bag of sweets.” I scolded him and reminded him about all that he went through with his teeth. I asked my dad why did he buy him so much sweets and he replied, “I did not.”

“You did not? Then where did he get the bag of sweets from?”

“Oh, he asked me for money.”


After so many years, I have finally stopped being angry with my parents for the lack of boundaries with regards to the kids. Some old folks tell me it is the parents’ job to discipline the children and the grandparents’ job to spoil them.

Ah well. I wonder what sort of grandparents we would be when it’s our turn.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

8 Replies to “Discipline #9: When the Gramps can’t say ‘no’”

  1. Mine spoil them rotten too. But I am taking an alternative perspective: if things get really bad during the teen years, perhaps the grandparents' place will be the safe haven of choice? Instead of some other random teenager's? Hoping it works!

  2. Hi Ginny-Ann,

    You are quite right about that. My teenagers do turn to their grandparents when they can't find leeway with us. It is also important for the adults to keep communication open, in the interest of the kids. My mum used to base her opinions on what worked like 30 years ago. Add to that her very limited knowledge of technology (and the dangers), she was exposing the kids to more than she should. But now she knows to check back with me and at least inform me of what is happening even in cases where I don't fully agree.

  3. Ha.could identify with what you have written.just this evening my three year old asked me for ice cream and I said no as its so close to bed time. He asked his grandmum and she gave in. So he's happily chomping his ice cream after he brushed his teeth and right before bedtime!i used to get really angry but not anymore. Deep down, I know my mom dotes on my kids and hence does not mind sacrificing her time to have them so that I can be at work. How many more years do they have anyway with them?

  4. Hi Sherlyn,

    Glad I'm not the only who got angry with their parents! Yes, we should let them enjoy and cherish whatever time they have together. The kids are indeed fortunate to have fond memories of their grandparents. Somehow the kids instinctively know they are being 'spoilt' by their gramps and accept that our standards as parents are different. Thank goodness.

  5. I suppose we get mad when they undermine our authority. Then I saw it from their perspective – "you may be the kid's parent, but hey I'm YOUR parent". What to say to that??

  6. hey you know what. I've been thinking of an idea, which I haven't had the time to work out the details to implement yet. I've been wanting to buy a glass display case from Ikea, and fill it up with rewards – toys, candy etc. But with a price on them, number of stars or whatever point system you want to implement. Then, they have to earn their prize, to redeem them. So to earn stars/points, they have to do their chores, extra papers (coz homework is a given), etc.

    So, I'm thinking, if you do the above. Tell your dad, that whatever he buys for the kids still goes to them, just that they have to earn it first. So whatever he buys goes into that glass casing :p

  7. That's an awesome idea, Pamela! He can be the sole sponsor for the rewards and I'm sure it will fill up very fast.

    The only problem I still have is that he tends to buy them stuff to avoid them crying (now only Kate left). But I guess when they get home I could 'confiscate' the toy and put on hold into the glass cabinet.

    Thanks for the suggestion!

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