Narcissistic Daughter Withholding Grandchildren? (My Advice)

Narcissists can be physically and emotionally exhausting to handle. Unfortunately, cutting them out of your life isn’t always an option.

Your relationship with your dear grandchildren hinges on your daughter’s cooperation. You need to learn how to work with the terms they set if you want to remain part of your grandkids’ lives.

The ideal outcome here is finding an agreeable arrangement with your daughter. Their terms may seem unfair at the start, but their standards will probably lessen over time when you prove you aren’t a threat to them. Brute forcing your way into their family won’t work.

If you manage to get them open to negotiation, steer clear of straight solutions – instead, ask for their plans and work to integrate your suggestions there. For your grandkids, focus on cultivating a relationship founded on care, presence, and affection.

Your daughter has the most power at the moment, so cooperation is in your best interest. You want to be in your grandchildren’s lives, so don’t do anything that could compromise your chances.

Look For The Most Amicable Solution

mother, grandma, and daughter watching TV

With how much of a pain they’re acting, it’s far too easy to perceive your daughter as the problem in this scenario, It might even be a fair conclusion to some extent, but approaching it from that perspective won’t lead to any constructive outcomes.

You’d risk alienating your daughter, and they’d take your grandchildren right along with them.

You’re not fighting your daughter here – you’re fighting the problem in your relationship, or at minimum their perception of one. It’s much simpler to patch things up the best you can rather than trying to brute force your presence into their family’s lives.

Don’t forget that your grandchildren are paying attention to this situation as well, learning from how you and your daughter interact. Avoid setting a bad precedent or otherwise acting in ways that may sour their opinion of you.

This will likely be a bit of an ordeal, with your daughter testing your boundaries, patience, or even pride knowing full well how valuable their cooperation is to you. It’s best to turn the other cheek here, even if their terms start to feel lopsided or absurd.

Approach them in an inclusive, conciliatory manner, and they might ease up on those restrictions and accept your presence in their children’s lives. It’ll probably take them a while to let you in, so just grit your teeth and bear with whatever pace they set for the process.

Avoid Providing Direct Advice or Solutions

If you managed to get them entertaining negotiations, congrats! That was half the battle already, but from here on out you’ve got to be extra careful with how you proceed.

During these discussions, your daughter might start asking you for advice or solutions. We wouldn’t recommend providing them directly. While your daughter might claim to be open to criticism, you can’t discount the possibility that what you say to them might be held against you.

Even if that didn’t happen, giving direct advice will likely end less than ideal for your case. Below are a few examples of what might happen.

  1. They take your insight, ignore it, and judge you for suggesting it.
  2. They apply your insight, to either success or failure.
    • If it’s successful, they’d be unlikely to accept your role in it.
    • If it ends in failure, they’d be very likely to blame you for it.

Instead, try to lead them to discover the solutions themselves. Let them suggest your main plan of action, then simply work to integrate your suggestions into it. You’re supporting their solution rather than providing your own, so let them do most of the talking.

Doing it this way also has the added boon of providing them with the attention and validation they crave, and could prove crucial to swaying the current situation a little more in your favor!

This method lets you put your best foot forward, and even has the potential to mend the strained relationship you have with your daughter. At the very least, it gives you a solid head start!

Understand What Factors Made Your Daughter This Way

woman holding her baby

Narcissism is a personality disorder characterized by low self-esteem, overt sensitivity to criticism, limited empathy, and deep-seated insecurities.

This condition has the potential to be inherited, learned from upbringing, or even developed from a combination of both in certain cases.

Regardless, your daughter certainly doesn’t enjoy being this way. Their relationships suffer for it, and how they react to this could manifest in very poor ways, such as withholding your grandkids.

We just want to clarify that they likely aren’t doing all this solely for the sake of being petulant – give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment.

Learned Narcissism

In cases where narcissism is learned, it’s important to understand that this personality trait actually serves as a sensible adaption to their environment.

Family structures that encourage this type of behavior usually involve domineering authority figures, conditional affection, and extremely high – often inaccessible – standards to meet.

Could your daughter’s upbringing have involved any of these potential concerns? While their attempt to withhold custody is terrible, their problem with you has to be founded on something. Even if they grossly exaggerate the issue, it still needs to be understood and addressed.

Parents slip up at times, even when they have the best of intentions. Children are left to process things best they can, and act in ways that facilitate meeting their emotional needs. Occasionally they develop maladaptive tendencies and mindsets, and it can take years for others to notice.

It’s not just about taking responsibility for what you did or didn’t do – it’s also about taking responsibility for how you made them feel.

Whatever reason they have to withhold your grandkids could be justified or grossly exaggerated, but their hurt feelings remain just as relevant in both cases. Treat their emotional duress with dignity and try to understand things from their perspective best you can.

They might not be welcoming of your efforts, and you could just as easily mishandle the situation from your limited perspective. Try asking friends, family, or even psychologists for insight on how to navigate this difficult issue – don’t rush in to solve this on your own. 

Navigating Relationship With Grandkids

Your goal here is to preserve your relationship with your grandchildren, but that also hinges on your relationship with your daughter. Steer clear of actions that could cultivate friction or potentially undermine your daughter’s roles as parent and provider.

Take spoiling them, for instance. While it might sound great to give your grandkids plenty of toys and treats, you could end up as unwanted competition in your daughter’s eyes – accidentally encroaching on a facet of their responsibilities.

Imagine you were dining with your partner and their father in a fancy, expensive restaurant. Your father-in-law is footing the bill but refused to tip the wait staff. What would happen if you chose to tip the waiter despite them refusing to do so?

It would undoubtedly be a rude course of action, indirectly implying that they lack either manners or money. You’d be seen trying to place yourself in a better light than them despite not doing nearly as much as they did. Even if it wasn’t your intention, the damage would be done.

The same principle applies to your daughter’s family. While you can offer input and the occasional gift, don’t do so to the point of making your daughter feel threatened in their role as a mother. Narcissism isn’t just an inflated sense of self – it also involves very deep-seated insecurity.

You had your turn to raise a family. Let them raise theirs in peace. Respect their boundaries as an independent family even if you disagree with some of your daughter’s methods.

That doesn’t mean you’ll be leaving your grandchildren by their lonesome, however.

What To Do Instead

Your daughter withholding custody may result in a rift in your relationship with your grandkids. It might have both parties feeling the other wants nothing to do with them, and these unwanted feelings will only magnify over time.

little girl video chatting her grandpa

To correct this, double down on getting in touch with your grandchildren!

While you can’t do much if your daughter stringently limits physical contact, calls, texts, and video messages let you communicate with your grandkids regardless of distance. Focus on cultivating a good relationship with your grandchildren while making them feel cherished.

Be mindful of physical tokens like pictures, gifts, and letters. Your daughter could potentially intercept and withhold them, with you and your grandchildren none-the-wiser.

Strive to be present in your grandchildren’s lives. Respect the boundaries your daughter sets, but don’t let them prevent you from showering those little ones with warmth and kindness.

Helping Your Grandchildren Cope

little girl whispering something on her grandma

Narcissism may be inherited, learned, or both, so your grandchildren may likely turn out similar to their mother. At the very least, they’ll have a challenging time growing up – especially with regards to emotional validation. That’s where you come in.

NOTE: Do not speak ill of your daughter or their partner to your grandchildren. Whatever you have to say won’t improve your grandkid’s emotional state, and your words will almost certainly reach their parents’ ears and further complicate things.

Instead, focus on providing your grandchildren with a safe space. Let them be honest about what they feel. Allow them to vent and be vulnerable in your presence.

Be sure to encourage their goals and appreciate their achievements, no matter how small! Children will be starved for empathy and validation in a narcissist’s household – prioritize providing them with both of these things.

Final Thoughts

You’ll need a good deal of finesse dealing with a narcissistic daughter, especially one withholding your grandchildren. Try to settle for a compromise rather than insisting on your presence, and be mindful of the boundaries and limitations they set.

Focus on making your grandchildren feel safe and cared for where you can – spoil them with love and affection rather than material gifts.

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