My Grandchild Won't Sleep!

What to do?  Offer advice, or stay quiet…

Scott Hanson


It’s tricky being a grandparent sometimes. You see things from a perspective your child—now a parent themselves– doesn’t. So when your grandchild doesn’t sleep or has bad sleep habits, what should you do?

First, you should know a recent study found one third of parents lie about their child’s sleep because they want to be seen as perfect parents. As grandparents, you see things more realistically. But be aware of the pressure your child feels.

So when grandparents offer advice will it be taken as interfering? Or is it welcome advice?

At Hush Buddy, we wanted to find out.  So we did an informal survey of parents and grandparents on this very issue.

First, we asked from whom they were likely to welcome parenting advice. Far and away, they welcomed advice from their partner and a medical professional. But grandparents aren’t shut out. Your advice is valued more than that of news articles and social media.

You should note, however, that your advice is likely to be welcomed by your own child more than by their partner. Bottom line: a grandparent’s advice is welcomed more than advice from an in-law.

“A grandparent’s advice is welcomed a bit more than you might think, but it’s important to know your audience.”

Next, we asked parents how they feel when you, the grandparent, offer parenting advice. 58% said they were appreciative or open minded about it. But when we asked the same question of grandparents, only 49% said they feel their advice is appreciated. 

Meanwhile, just 15% of parents says they feel either insulted or feel intruded upon. But 26% of grandparents feel they insulted and intruded upon their child.

The takeaway here is, grandparent’s advice is welcomed a bit more than you might think, but it’s important to know your audience.

With this as the backdrop, there’s a right and wrong way to offer advice.  Some tips:

Listen. Start by asking questions. Listen to the answers. Find out if they feel they need help, or do they feel they’re handling it well on their own?

Wait to be asked. When you’re asking them questions, if they don’t ask for your help, it might be time to take the hint.

Be humble about your experience. You know, if you’re realistic about it, you faced challenges as a parent too, and probably fell short plenty of times.  We all do!  Share the feelings of frustration you felt and the times you failed. Even if advice still isn’t sought, you’ll build the bond from one slightly older parent to another.

Admit if you don’t have the answer. But offer to help find an answer if asked. Too often, we jump to “Here’s what you should do”.  Try “You’re so busy. I can look into that for you if that would help” instead.

If they agree some help researching a solution might be nice, you could point them to our bedtime overview How to Get Your Toddler to Sleep. If you see that your grandchild won’t stay in their own bed, you could share our tips to Help Your Toddler Sleep Through the Night. And if they think their child is having a temporary setback, we have some advice about Sleep Regression that might be helpful.

Grandparenting is a delight, and a challenge. By listening and empathizing about the challenges of parenting, you can help both your child and grandchild while making your bond even stronger!



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