What Would You Do?

The Dangerous Grandma and Critical Grandpa

For the past week we have been discussing nannies and au pairs that work for a sandwich generation family. A huge issue for nannies and au pairs working in a sandwich generation family is when the grandparents do not respect the house rules when caring for the children or home. Nannies and au pairs must respect their employers (parents) wishes, while respecting the elder relative of the family.

What should a nanny do when the Grandma wants the baby to sit on her lap on the drive to the market? What should an au pair do when the Grandfather enjoys the face the five-year-old makes when he gets a taste of whiskey? What can the caregiver do if Grandma is annoyed that you will not give the children aspirin? What would you say to a Grandfather that scorns the new-fangled discipline philosophies? He believes in his method: spare-the-rod, spoil-the-child.

What is nanny to do?

First, the nanny must not consent to any activity that may put children at risk, whether physical danger or psychological harm.

Nannies and au pairs must be calm, assertive, rational, and unyielding. In-home caregivers should not: yell, be nasty, self-righteous, or become outraged. Nannies and au pairs cannot win power battles between grandparents, kids, and parents. Nannies and au pairs do not have the power or leverage to win in the long-term. Nannies and au pairs have to be clever and remain professional.
When a nanny wins an argument but loses her job, the nanny is the loser big time and on many levels.

What if the grandmother is a worrier, anxiety-ridden, and nervous? Her overreactions are causing you, the nanny, to be defensive and resentful. You begin to feel that everything you do is being criticized, and worse, that your charges are picking up some of these undesirable traits. In such a situation, nannies have to be professional and not take the pettiness personally. Nannies should be role models for their charges. They must be compassionate and understanding about the grandmother’s hang-ups. These occurrences in a sandwich generation family, or during a week-long visit, allows nannies the opportunity to do their very best, most effective work.

If the grandfather is scornful of today’s society and dislikes the clothes and the attitudes towards discipline the nanny should not take it personally that the elder raises children in a different way. Even if he disdains the current culture, prefers the way things were, and repeatedly asserts that his kids didn’t turn out so bad doing it his way, the nanny must do as much as possible to not become defensive and resentful.

The nanny serves the interests of herself and of her charges best by stepping outside the charged emotional environment and calmly applying the standards of behavior appropriate to self-confident obedient children.

Instead of succumbing to anger and resentment, a nanny must use these situations to learn, to mature and to perfect her abilities.

Have you experienced any difficult situations where the grandparents wishes or actions conflict with the parents parenting wishes or house rules?


  1. The grandmother comes for week long visits a few times a year and I wish the family would give me those weeks off (even unpaid)! I understand the grandmother is a family member and she loves all the members of the family. But she disrespects my way of doing things. I prepare healthy, organic foods for the children. The parents hired me because I love cooking and they have not ever served the children sugar candy or fast food. The grandma takes the kids to McDonalds and brings home Dunkin Donut munchkins for the kids. I know that a cheeseburger and donut occasionally does not affect these children’s overall health. But the grandma takes them to fast food and junk food just to assert her power and control.We have a really great discipline system already set up. The kids know their chores and they get rewards when they accomplish what they are to do but they are still young so they do not get punished if they do not accomplish a chore. They typically want the reward so they do their chores. But grandma scolds them and says they will be punished if they do not do the chore! ??!! I know grandparents spoil kids but she is just being controlling.Richmond Virginia

  2. Nannies are ready to care for the children’s needs without another parent or grandparent helping. Having a stay at home relative ruins the relationship between the nanny and kids. I would not take a nanny job with either grandparent living in the house because they would typically not need a nanny because the grandparent would provide care. If the grandparent moves in I would want to reduce hours to spend less time around the grandparent. I can come in to drive kids to activities and school and help with laundry but nannies are ready to take charge and I am not a mothers helper to suddenly have a grandparent taking charge of the children’s care.Verna, Sliver Spring MD

  3. I quit my former nanny job after the grandmother moved into the house. And I did not leave because of the extra work. I like caring for the elderly. I have worked as a home health aide before. I also like nannying. The grandmother moved in after her husband died and she became depressed. She was lonely. Other than having depression which she is treated for she is healthy. I do think she improved living in the home so overall that was a great thing, but my working conditions changed completely. Unfortunately she really stepped on my toes. She did not try to respect me at all. There was no need for me anymore because she is opinonated, stubborn, and rude towards me and healthy enough to care for the kids herself. Looking back on the situation I should not have left the job being angry, but I was. My warning to nannies is simply that blood is thicker than water. No point in arguing or changing family dynamics, just move on.Caring Nanny from Orange County California

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