How to Deal With In-Laws That Favor One Grandchild

When grandparents favor one grandchild over the other, the results could be damaging.
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While people are quick to define in-law relationships as difficult and contentious, for some this may actually be the truth. When a daughter-in-law feels as though her in-laws favor one grandchild over another, all family members may find it difficult to get along. In an effort to spare her child rejection from the grandparents, a daughter-in-law may struggle with confronting her in-laws or limiting contact altogether. The parents and the grandchildren know who's favored, and who isn't, according to Linda Sonna, Ph.D., in her book, "The Everything Parent's Guide to Raising Siblings: Tips to Eliminate Rivalry, Avoid Favoritism, and Keep the Peace," as cited on

1 Try to Understand

If you're in a situation in which you feel as though your in-laws favor one grandchild over another, try to understand their motives. Maybe they feel as though they have to overcompensate for because your sibling-in-laws don't spend much time with their children. If your in-laws favor a child within your own family, maybe it has to do with a perceived stronger genetic connection. Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara found that "a grandmother will naturally prefer her son's daughters -- with whom she shares 31 percent of her genes -- to her son's sons, with whom she shares only 23 percent, suggesting she will most nurture the grandchild who inherits more of her genes." Similarly, maternal grandparents tend to be closer to their grandchildren than paternal grandparents.

2 Talk to Your Spouse

If your natural inclination is to confront your in-laws about their behavior, think twice. Doing this may cause more problems and put your children in the middle, and they may feel even more at odds, especially if the favoritism is causing them to ask, "What's wrong with me?" Talk to your spouse about what you're noticing. While you may seek to understand on your own, your spouse may have greater insight into his parents behavior. If you and your spouse decide to talk to his parents, have him begin by explaining how their behavior is perceived and how it makes your family feel. See if your spouse and in-laws can come up with some solutions to the problem together.

3 Other Grandparents

Make sure that you expose your children to grandparents who provide the love and care you desire for your children. If your parents are around and available, make sure you make regular visits and include them in your lives. If they're not available, check out your local senior center to see if there are "foster grandparents" who would be willing to spend time with your children.

4 Focus on the Positives

While it may be difficult to find any positives with the situation, there are some. If your in-laws don't enjoy spending time with your child, you're relieved of many family gathering obligations. This frees up your family's time to make memories together. This could also mean that your in-laws won't hover over you or question every decision you make as a parent. Having that kind of freedom is priceless!

Ashlea Campbell writes about families, relationships and health-related issues. In addition to writing professionally, she teaches writing courses at Collin College in Plano, Texas. She holds a Masters degree in English education from the University of Kansas.