Ask Fiona: How can I stop my mum from spoiling my daughter?

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman on dealing with a grandparent who spoils too much and ignores the 'rules'

Your mum needs to understand how you feel about your daughter's care

MY mum helps me out by babysitting for me a couple of times a week, which leaves me free to work part-time. The problem is that she's making it very difficult for me to bring up my daughter properly. She spoils her all the time (against my wishes) and tries, in fact, to take over whenever she's there at the same time as me. She will actually push me aside if my daughter needs anything, and if I say "no" about something, my daughter has already learned that if she asks Nana, it will be a yes. The odd thing is she used to be really strict with my brother and I, which while we didn't like it at the time, worked well for us. We both appreciate the boundaries now and think it's turned us into better people. My daughter, though, is in danger of turning into a little brat and I'm finding it hard not to lose my temper with my mum. I know I should be grateful for her support, but other people are beginning to comment on the change in my daughter's behaviour. What do I do?


FIONA SAYS: I'm afraid that being a grandparent and spoiling the child tend to go together – grandparents have been notorious "spoilers" for longer than I can remember. They do it because they enjoy it – with their own children (you), they had to do the hard work. Now they can just have fun. That doesn't make it right, but it may go some way to explaining it. The problem is, as you fully realise, they don't have to suffer the consequences of their indulgence. Think about how often have grandparents said: "And then you can just hand them back."

As your mother is supposed to be helping you, losing your temper isn't going to help you or your child in the long term. Your mum is obviously thrilled at being involved so, somehow, she needs to understand your beliefs about childcare and be willing to go along with them. So how do you go about getting her to respect your rules? Simply asking her to stop spoiling your child probably won't get you very far. You need to find a time when you and your mum can talk things over together without anyone else, particularly, your child, interrupting. If she thinks she's part of the solution rather than part of the problem, she's more likely to listen.

You are going to have to accept that she is going to want to indulge your child sometimes, but explain your concerns about behaviour. Point out what a good job she did in bringing you up and tell her you want the same for your daughter.

Think about what is most important to you – the basic rules on which you really cannot compromise – and make those very clear, but ask her what her rules were for you as a child too. Getting her input into your daughter's up-bringing may help to remind her of her own values once more. You may have to make up the odd little white lie if you clash over something you feel is important but that she doesn't recognise as such – unhealthy snacks, for example. Tell her your partner's family has a history of bad teeth so can she please limit sweet snacks (make sure your partner knows this). Obviously, things to do with your daughter's wellbeing and safety are not up for discussion. She MUST be buckled up properly in the car and not allowed to sit on someone's lap, for example. On such matters, you can lay down the law and, if necessary, threaten to withhold visits until your mum agrees with you. Finally, your daughter needs to be taught the difference between grandma's rules and yours. She can learn quite early on that the two different places have different rules, and special treats like missing naps and sweets shouldn't be expected at home.

Be willing to make some compromises but, if your mum refuses to listen to you and your needs, you may have to get tough, however hard that may be for you in terms of childcare.


JUST after Christmas I started going out with a lovely guy. We became very close very quickly and he asked me to marry him. Six weeks ago, we went to stay with my parents and had a great few days with them but, when we got back, everything changed. He messaged me saying he didn't want a relationship at the moment and I've no idea why he's suddenly done this, as he will not talk to me. I feel so hurt and rejected so what's gone wrong?


FIONA SAYS: It's very hard for me to know what's happened to make him change like this, but have you spoken to your parents? Did something happen or was something said during your visit that you don't know about? Or could it have been that he suddenly realised the implications of the serious commitment he had made to you? It's very sad that he won't talk to you and explain what's happened, but there's no reason why you can't message him. Explain that you do not understand what has gone wrong and that you'd like the chance to find out. If he just wants more time, then you will have to decide if you're prepared to wait for him. If it was something said or done by your parents, then ask for the chance to put things right. You should be prepared for the possibility that he won't answer you at all though - and if he lacks the courage to even do this, then perhaps he's not the man for you.


Since my baby was born five months ago, I seem to have just gone to pieces. I've got no energy, I'm miserable all the time and I just can't be bothered with anything - some days I can't even be bothered to get dressed. For no reason at all I started crying yesterday and couldn't stop, and when my husband got home he was really worried and wanted to call a doctor. I told him there was no point because I don't know what's wrong with me. I've never been like this before and I used to be such a positive happy person.


FIONA SAYS: I would really encourage you to see your GP, as your husband suggested.

Whilst I'm not a doctor, my guess would be that you may be suffering from post-natal depression.

Some people tend to think of this as a minor thing, but it isn't. Its effects are very real and can be serious - and it's a lot more common than you might think, so please don't beat yourself up. Your hormone balance has been affected by your pregnancy, which can throw your whole emotional state out of balance. Support is available and can make a very big difference.

It's hard work looking after a baby too - having to cope with someone who is totally dependent on you isn't easy at all. You need help and while your doctor can do this in part, I'd strongly encourage you to find a mother and baby group to join too, to get some support and understanding and avoid feeling too isolated at this sensitive time.


I WAS raped when I was 15 but I never told anyone what had happened and pretended to my mum that I'd had a fall. I moved on and tried to forget about it – which I thought I had, but since I got married 18 months ago, it's became obvious that I haven't got over it at all. Every time we try to have sex, I end up crying and I think my husband was at the point of leaving me. Somehow, I managed to find the words to tell him what happened, and he's been amazing. However, even though he's been really supportive, I'm still terrified of sex. I don't want to be – I want my marriage to work as I love my husband.


FIONA SAYS: I am so pleased that you've managed to tell your husband because acknowledging what has happened to you is a big step in overcoming it. I would strongly suggest you seek counselling and help from those who can understand what you've been through – and are still going through – and have specialist training in providing the support to help you work through this. The Rape Crisis service will be able to put you in touch with services that can help you in complete privacy, if that's what you want. Their websites (England and Wales:; Scotland:; Northern Ireland: also have advice and information that you might find useful.

It's great that your husband is supportive and seems prepared to wait for you to move on from this. With his kindness and encouragement, plus professional help, I really hope you do.

:: If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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