Q&A with Geoff: Why is My Daughter-in-Law Leveraging My Grandchildren Against Me?

q&a with geoff Mar 15, 2023


My daughter-in-law is angry with me because I can’t just pick up and move across the country to live near her, my son and my grandchildren. She wants help with the kids and I have expressed my desire to be near them. Unfortunately, I have financial and other obligations that prevent me from moving, at least for now.

Months ago she told me that words don’t mean anything, only actions. Since then, she has cut off her communication. No more video calls, texts, or pictures and videos of my grandchildren. She knows how much joy those babies bring me, and I am heartbroken.

I have not confronted her because through experience I’ve learned that she doesn’t do conflict resolution. She feels she is always right. Although I am being punished, I have continued to text a very brief message every week telling them I love them or I miss them or asking if they have pictures to send, asking about them, etc., with no reply.

Is there anything I should do differently?


It is truly heartbreaking to hear stories like this. Even though I don’t know all the details of your situation, enforcing a total ban on seeing your grandchildren can feel excessive when it’s the adults who are struggling to relate. However, if working through the conflict isn’t an option for you at this time, let’s discuss how you can promote peace and healing instead of fueling contention. 

While I hope your messages of love and support are getting through to your grandchildren, I also recognize that your attempts to offer them your love could make things worse with your daughter-in-law. It sounds like she doesn’t trust you or your motives, so it’s possible that she may view your efforts as threatening to her position as the mother.

In situations like these, I recommend you do everything you can to continue building a relationship with her instead of bypassing her to get to your grandchildren. 

Now, I recognize you’ve already tried to talk with her and work out your differences. I’m sure there are logical reasons you’re unable to uproot your life to support her. I also believe there are logical reasons undergirding her reaction to you. Of course, on the surface, her reaction appears immature, entitled and selfish.

I can see how her response seems excessive and unfair, especially when the children aren’t being harmed. It’s hard to understand why she would discourage connecting you to her children when you appear to be so important to her. 

I love the work of Chad Ford, an internationally recognized expert in conflict resolution. He wrote a book called, “Dangerous Love”, which is an invitation for us to learn how to transform fear and conflict into love and connection. I interviewed him on my podcast a few years ago and discovered how his invitation is incredibly challenging to our natural self-protective instincts.

He invites us to be the one that turns first. He’s not advocating that we lose our voice or allow ourselves to be abused. Instead, he’s describing the condition of our hearts and how we feel towards the person with whom we’re in conflict.

Contention is deeper than conflict. Contention is about how we feel about the other person instead of how we feel about the issue. The problem isn’t in having differing views, but in viewing the other person as less than human. 

It would be easy to become resentful and contemptuous toward her for keeping your grandchildren from you. You could easily fixate on how selfish and immature she is for keeping distance between you and your family. You could even build a large army to back you up, as most people would agree that what she’s doing is unfair and entitled.

Instead of only keeping the focus on access to your grandchildren, I invite you to expand your focus to include her experience. 

Instead of seeing a conversation with her as a confrontation where you attempt to build a case and figure out how to get what you want, see if you can turn it into an opportunity to build a relationship with her. If your efforts toward her are seen only to get more access to your grandchildren, it’s likely to go poorly.

If, on the other hand, you can use this boundary she’s set as an invitation to learn more about her pain, you might find a way forward with her. 

Again, the goal can’t be to use her to get to your grandchildren. The goal is to see and understand her regardless of the outcome. The condition of your heart matters more than getting what you believe is rightfully yours. She’s clearly in great pain and it doesn’t appear to make any sense to you. 

Now, I recognize some people refuse to engage at all and will cut off all contact without warning. I’ve been close to enough situations like this both personally and professionally to know how difficult it is to make any movement. However, I do know that the condition of our hearts matters most when we’re cut off from others.

It’s easy to armor up and build stories around our own pain. Instead, if you desire connection with her and your grandchildren, I recommend you work to stay open, non-critical and compassionate toward her experience.

You don’t have to dance around the boundary and pretend this isn’t impacting you. You can let her know it’s clear to you that she’s hurt and you want to better understand her experience. Instead of avoiding her by only talking to your son or trying to bypass her through the grandchildren, see if you can find ways to invite her to share more of her world with you.

This may require one-sided attempts on your part, going to visit her in person, or other attempts that will feel risky to you. I’d encourage you to see yourself as important to her and not just a convenient babysitter.

Hopefully, you’ll be inspired by insights that will help you find a way to improve your relationship with her. I know this isn’t easy and that it takes more time than any of us would like. It’s understandable that you’d feel anxious watching the days tick by as you miss opportunities to connect with your grandchildren.

Stay committed to the ministry of reconciliation so she always knows that she’s important to you, even if she can’t see it right now.    

FREE: 3 Steps to End Your Marriage Argument

Download my free PDF guide and start making real progress to healing

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.