16 Ways to Deal with Disrespectful/Out-of-Control Grandkids

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

grandchildren having fun and jumping around at home

Dear Grandparents. Things are a whole lot different from the way they used to be in your day, right? Nowadays, parents don’t bat an eyelid when their 8-year old child screams abuse at them, and tired moms overlook the rudeness and disrespect when their teenager goes out for the weekend, even though they have been told to stay home. Parents the world over seem to have lost control, and surely there are days when you find yourself thinking, “things would be running a lot more smoothly if I had the reigns”! 

As a grandparent, there’s little you can do when it comes to how your grandchild treats their parents, but you can take baby steps towards instilling some respect and kindness in them when they are in your care/company… without bending them over your knee and giving their bottoms a good old fashioned pummeling, of course!

Dealing with disrespectful grandchildren nowadays is something that must be done with great care. Obviously, you want to stop the problem in its tracks without destroying the potentially great relationship between you and your grandchildren. Below are several effective ways to deal with disrespectful and out-of-control grandchildren. Try as many of these as you can without being overbearing – see which one your grandchild responds to best.

How to deal with disrespectful grandchildren – 14 ways that get results: 

1. Have rules in your own home (perfect to implement when they visit).

You can’t go over to your child and their spouse’s home and implement rules, even if you want to. Instead, you can draw up rules for a grandparent visit. When in your home, there are simple rules that need to be followed. Make some of them fun, so that the children don’t feel as if they are being micromanaged and moaned on. 

For instance, one of your rules can be that everyone washes up their own dishes and helps to clear up after a meal. Another one can be that only funny/hilarious movies are to be watched in granny’s house or only their happiest and most brightly-colored pajamas are to be worn for a sleepover. Keep it light – don’t make it obvious. 

2. Make a list of consequences for poor behavior and post it on your fridge.

With a list of rules comes a list of consequences. You don’t have to link them too closely, and you shouldn’t set them out as punishments. Perhaps, you can remove a privilege for back-chatting, such as dessert after dinner, or TV time. Give the consequences some thought, as some consequences could mean more to one grandchild than they mean to another.

3. Praise good manners and politeness.

Don’t only pick up on when your grandchild is being rude or disrespectful. Instead, keep a watchful eye and immediately sing their praises if they do something nice, show good manners, or are polite. Children love positive reinforcement, and they crave more approval than we as adults realize. Really praise them and even tell other people about how amazing they were. The more you praise the good behavior, the more they will want to behave that way.

4. Speak highly (and openly) about other people’s children who are respectful and well-mannered.

If your friend has a grandchild or there’s a child in the extended family that behaved really well or did something really nice, really talk them up in front of the grandchildren. Encourage them to do something similarly nice for someone else or to show someone else some kindness. Not that you want to inspire jealously in your grandchildren, but they will want you to dote on them as you are doting on the “other child” in question.

5. Ignore them until they start to use better manners (you may need to hint at this).

If your grandchild is rude to you or treats you disrespectfully, don’t be afraid to show a sad face and proceed to ignore them. Don’t pay them any attention or do any particular favors until they muster the courage to say sorry or agree not to behave in the same way again. 

If it seems as if your grandchild is confused that you are ignoring them, you can provide them with a brief, but gentle explanation. Perhaps say, “you hurt my feelings when you yelled at me, and I don’t think I want to do anything with you until you can genuinely agree not to do it again”. Leave the ball in your grandchild’s court.

6. Draw up a rewards chart with desirable rewards for a good report on behavior from the parents each week.

If you have a good relationship with your daughter-in-law, you can work together on promoting great behavior and respect. Make it seem like a fun bonding game with the children (which it is). Draw up a chart of rewards each child can get for being the best possible child they can be when at home. 

Find out what chores they need to do and what specific areas of behavior need work. For instance, if one of your grandchildren back-chats his mother daily, perhaps his chart should have a reward for a full week of no back-chatting. Of course, a brief report from the parents will confirm if rewards have officially been earned each week. Make the rewards something they desire or an actual experience like going to the waterpark or the beach. 

7. Use positive language to promote healthy behavior.

If you want to teach your grandchild that it’s not okay to shout at people, don’t go in with guns blazing, telling him, “you are not allowed to shout”. This negative language will mean nothing or even inspire your grandchild to do more shouting. Instead, say something positive and follow it up with a lesson. For instance, you can say, “You seem to be really passionate about this, and it’s good to be passionate about it, but perhaps people will really listen to you and agree if you are gentler and don’t shout”. It’s all about how you say it…

grandmother and kid doing homework

8. Have a rule of “restitution” when the grandkids are around you.

If the grandkids treat each other, other people, or their parents badly, get involved in activating restitution. This means that the offending child has to do something nice for the person they have treated badly. This can be embarrassing for the child but can also help to form bonds where they have potentially burnt a bridge. 

For instance, if you know that your grandchild was particularly mean to his sister and also refused to eat his dinner and threw it on the floor at home, you can spend some time with him drawing apology cards and choosing flowers to pick from the garden to hand over to the people he has upset and hurt (his sister and mother). He will undoubtedly be proud of his efforts, but not keen to upset or hurt people again. 

9. Make them think.

If you give a child the opportunity to think about what they have done, they may surprise you with their behavior after that. For instance, when a child treats you with disrespect, don’t ignore it. Don’t freak out over it, either. Mention that their behavior has upset you or hurt your feelings and that you had hoped they would have reacted differently. Walk away and leave them to think about it. If you show them that certain behaviors change how you interact with them, they quickly learn to alter their behavior.

10. Try to connect on a higher level – this is a great place to develop mutual respect.

For a child to respond well to you, they need to respect you on some level. This doesn’t always come naturally to some children. We have media, social media, modern school, and a whole lot more to thank for that. In order to grab your grandchild’s attention, try to connect on a higher level. Find out what they are really interested in. 

Some children are obsessed with Barbie, while others are fascinated with insects or dinosaurs. Spend some time working on your grandchild’s interests or hobbies with them. The more you connect and bond on this particular level, the more prone they will be to listening to you when you have a life lesson to teach.

11. Work on projects together (give them responsibilities).

A child without any responsibilities is a child that will probably feel lost or aimless. If you are spending time with the grandkids, don’t leave them to linger around and get frustrated. Give them each a task that they have to take care of when visiting you. 

Chances are that they will start to look forward to this task which can be used as a great bargaining chip when they start to hurl disrespect your way. Perhaps your grandchild can help you plant a flower garden and help you weed and water it. If she is rude to you or disrespects you, simply say, “you have been very rude to me, so not today, thanks”, and exclude her from the task. It sounds harsh, but it’s a good life lesson. 

12. Invest in some books that are designed to deliver the message of respect and manners.

There is a myriad of books out there that are designed to teach children the value of being kind, having manners, and giving others respect. Get some of these books for reading time when they spend time with you. 

13. Be direct – have the conversation.

If the kids are a little older and can understand action and consequence or the concept of hurting other people, you can try being a little more direct. Ask your grandchild if you can chat, sit somewhere comfortable and approach the topic carefully. Mention that you have noticed the disrespectful behavior and that it is not acceptable in your home or presence.

14. Try to investigate the root cause and then work on that.

Sometimes kids who are out of control or disrespectful have something else going on. Finding out the root cause can save you a lot of time and heart out. How do you do that? Well, the obvious way is to ask. This must be done with some tact and kindness (and a lot of love). Sit your grandchild down and say something like, “I have noticed you are being disrespectful to your mom a lot. Is there a reason why? Would you like to talk about it?” Being genuine and caring is important.

15. Always be respectful and well-mannered towards them even when it’s hard (lead by example).

Leading by example may seem like a fruitless endeavor, but it’s not. Even if your grandchild has been extremely out of control, you should practice your manners and ensure that you don’t lose your cool. Using the type of behavior you are trying to break to bring about change is only going to be counter-productive. 

mother and grandmother

16. Always apologize when you have been wrong or said/done something upsetting.

If you do happen to lose your temper and shout at your grandchild or even do something in front of them that is considered “breaking the rules” (perhaps you swear by accident), make a point of apologizing and say that you were wrong to behave in that manner. If your grandchildren see you willing to rectify your wrongs, they will be more inclined to feel safe to do so themselves.

All things considered

As a grandparent, it can be tricky territory for you when it comes to teaching your grandchildren respect and manners. Of course, you don’t want to step on the parents’ toes, but if you carefully implement these above pointers, they will probably truly appreciate the end result.  

All in all, dealing with disrespectful grandchildren can be tough, but when you see your efforts paying off, it can feel well worth it. Put in the effort, and you won’t regret it. Good luck!

This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.