This is about the opposite side of the coin from the toxic parents and grandparents that many people have experienced.

One of the saddest cries for help I hear is from nice, kindly, well-meaning grandparents whose daughters have given in to their controlling husbands.  Their daughters don’t come to visit and don’t bring the grandchildren, they schedule visits and cancel at the last minute, the daughters and sons-in-law won’t allow the grandchildren to receive presents, the sons-in-law blame the grandparents because everything they do offends them and the daughters take his side and become verbally abusive in every attack.

The poor grandparents try everything, but no matter what they do they’re blamed.  When they try to point out what’s happening, their daughters attack them.  According to the daughters, the grandparents are completely at fault.  Their husbands are reasonable and correct.  The grandparents are blamed for what they do and blamed for what they don’t do.

The grandparents see their daughters isolated from their former friends and families, not allowed access to computers and not allowed to have cars.  And yet, their daughters accept that treatment and defend their husbands.  They see their daughters harassed, bullied and abused but don’t know what they can do to stop it.  The frustration and helplessness are agonizing.

What can you do for now?
I’m sorry, but there isn’t much you can do.  If you ever see fresh and obvious evidence of battering or beating, or obvious evidence of child neglect or abandonment you can report that.  But be sure that’s what it is.  You don’t want to get identified as a person who “cries wolf.”  Of course you’ll get blamed, but you get blamed for everything anyway.

You might offer to take the grandchildren on trips without their grandparents.  But beyond that, there’s not much you can do for now.  Since your daughters aren’t minors, they’re entitled to live their own lives, no matter how horrible we think they are.

Stop self-bullying
I’m talking to grandparents who were decent parents.  I’m not talking to negative, controlling, toxic, abusive bullies.  Don’t wallow in blaming yourself or trying to identify the specific incidents of bad parenting that led your daughters to accept their husband’s abuse and to hate you.  It’s not your fault.  Every one of us didn’t like some of the things our parents did and most of us got over it.  Probably, your daughters were fine before they met the sons-in-law.  Your daughters have chosen a different path for now.

Stop the negativity and bullying self-talk.  It won’t make you behave good enough or the right way to finally please your daughters and their husbands.  Forgive yourself when you’re provoked and lash back.

Plan for the future
Keep writing to your grandchildren, keep sending gifts to them and keep a record.  Someday, you may have an opportunity to show them the truth.  Try to hold your tongue quiet and don’t engage in arguments about who’s right or how badly your daughters treat you.  You might say, “I know you look at it that way.  That’s your privilege.  But there’s another side.”  Don’t explain the other side; simply state it.

Allow your daughters to create distance.  Accept the treatment for now and hope and pray for the future.  You don’t want to push your daughters further into their husbands’ control because they don’t want to face your, “I told you so.”

Go have a wonderful life in all other areas.  Keep your focus on the rest of life as best you can.  I know that’s hard but that’s what you’ve been given.  It’s like the weather; snow and sun, drought and hurricanes.  And you don’t get to choose.

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Ben Leichtling, Ph.D. is author of the books and CDs “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “Eliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.” He is available for coaching, consulting and speaking.  To find practical, real-world tactics to stop bullies and bullying at home, school, work and in relationships, see his web site (http://www.BulliesBeGone.com) and blog (http://www.BulliesBeGoneBlog.com).

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