Relationship Rescue: How do I connect with my difficult grandson?

Jill asks Jo Lamble for advice on how to connect with her difficult grandson.

Help! I don’t love my grandson!

Jo Lamble is a Clinical Psychologist who has been in private practice for over 25 years. She sees individuals, couples, and groups and specialises in parenting and relationship issues. Jo has been a regular contributor on Channel 7’s Sunrise and is the resident psychologist for the online magazine The Carousel.

Jill wants to connect with her grandchild but, due to his behaviour and attitude, she’s finding it difficult to cultivate a relationship with him. She has asked YourLifeChoices relationship expert Jo Lamble for advice on how to deal with this tricky situation.


Q. Jill  
I’m finding it hard to love my grandchild. He’s four years old, always nasty, rude and cries all the time when he doesn’t get his way. I feel as if my daughter does a good job, but he’s really hard work. I would never tell her how to raise her child, and even feel like I can’t discipline him when he’s out of line. Do you have any suggestions or know where I can get help?   

A. It can be really tough for grandparents to stand by and watch a grandchild behave badly and not have any control over him or her. I love that you recognise the good job your daughter is doing and you seem to empathise with her for having a tricky four-year-old. Fingers crossed that he gets easier as he gets older, but in the meantime, I would continue to let your daughter know she has your support. In other words, don’t feel like you have to step in to discipline your grandson. It can be more helpful to stand beside your daughter and ask if she’s okay when the little boy has been nasty or rude.

It’s good for your grandson to see his mum get the attention when his behaviour is out of line rather than him. If he is given the attention for that behaviour, it might get worse. It’s a win-win situation if you show support for your daughter. She feels cared for and your grandson learns that his behaviour has really affected his mum.

One final strategy to try if you are alone with your grandson when he is crying non-stop is to give him empathy but encourage him to use his words. For example, you could say to him: “I can see you’re really upset and I want to help, but you’ll need to use your words and tell me what's wrong’. That way, he is not ignored if he’s upset, but he is being encouraged to express his pain in a way that makes it easier for you to help him.

If he’s crying because he hasn’t gotten his own way, a good response is to say: “I know you really wanted to have that/do that and I can see how upset you are, but I’m afraid you can’t. Instead, you can have this or do that ...” If he is still crying, then stop giving him some attention for a while until he calms down and then reinforce his calmer behaviour by suggesting a game or a book or something appropriate.

If you have a question for Jo Lamble, please send it to



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    16th Feb 2018
    I see a lot of grandparents who think its their duty to order kids around. You had your shot with your own child. If you didn't teach your child how to raise their child when they were young then you just have to stand back and let her figure it out. Kids have a high EQ they know what you are thinking.
    16th Feb 2018
    Ha ha no you don't feel your daughter does a good job. And your probably right. What works for me is I wait till they're 25 and see if they've come good. Otherwise it's your daughters problem.
    16th Feb 2018
    You can always get out your phone and take a video of his behaviour. Even if your phone doesn't do this, a kid will think you are, and they hate that. Tell him you will keep it until he is a grown up, and show him then. Worked for me.
    16th Feb 2018
    One of my grandsons, at 4, was a little horror. As a former kindergarten teacher I could handle the tantrums (mainly by ignoring them), but I'd rather not be in that position. Anyway, he's grown up to be a beautifully behaved teenager, studies hard, plays sport hard, is in a strong friendship group and has a great sense of humour. So my advice is to hang in there.
    16th Feb 2018
    We have 5 grandsons age range 11months to 8 years and the 3-4 year range is definately tricky. They are not as easily side tracked as a toddler is and not quite there with reasoning.
    However we find as grandparents our role is to be more the relaxed nurturers rather than picking battles with behaviours. Provided the behaviours aren't unsafe we just ignore tantrums and try to have fun with them. We have lots of activities and toys and use bribery and bartering to keep them in line. They love being at our place . I think discipline is the parents job.
    16th Feb 2018
    lol - I don't have grandchildren - does that put me in the "lucky basket"??? lol Sorry just teasing ......................................
    16th Feb 2018
    Don't have grandchildren. With kids They ignore me. I ignore them and I've got ice cream.
    18th Feb 2018
    You have to start from the time they come home from the hospital -- and always remember Children live what they learn -- and if they have been able to get away with bad behaviour -- thats what they will do -- they always have to have to take the consequences for their actions and learn to have manners also.
    It is NO use trying to teach them from the age of 2 + they have to be taught well before the age of 7 and by 7 if they have been taught right that is what they will be.

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