My 4-year-old son says he wants to live with his grandma

[deleted account] ( 13 moms have responded )

Hi, I'm a single mom in Minnesota. I've had some problems in the past with my son telling me he doesn't like me and he wants to live with his grandmother. She lives nearby and she helps me a lot by watching him when I need it, but her discipline methods aren't the same as mine. Particularly, I don't accept whining as a form of communication and I call him out on unacceptable behavior more than she does. I recently managed to get a divorce from an abusive husband and it's been a real struggle for me. For me, my son is the center of the universe and everything I do, I'm doing for him even if he doesn't know it and is too young to see the struggle. I've felt like our relationship has gotten stronger since I left my husband. I read to him and play with him. We're affectionate with each other all the time.

Today was a bad day -- he stayed with grandma last night so I could work and today in the car on the way home from daycare he yelled and screamed that he doesn't like me and wants to see his grandma. At home, he put his coat back on and grabbed a few things and let himself out the patio door to walk to her house. I know I'm the adult here, and a 4-year-old doesn't understand how what he says can hurt someone, or that he can't find grandma's house by himself in the dark in the cold and snow, but I really wanted to let him go by himself so he could "learn his lesson" and realize what he was doing. Of course -- I DIDN'T DO THAT, and i followed him, and eventually got him to come home by telling him grandma wasn't at home.

I don't know what to do. I don't know how to get rid of the heartbreak I'm feeling right now, or how to deal with this problem. He has a great relationship with his grandma that I want to allow to grow and develop. But oh god, I feel like he's rejected me. Does anyone have any advice?


User - posted on 01/17/2013




I'm a Grandma and I really like Jennifer's answer, get your Mom involved in the answer. 4-year-olds aren't thinking about you; they're thinking about themselves. At home, your son has to do his chores, obey you when it's time to go out the door or get dressed, or brush his teeth or go to bed, sit still for dinner and all the things that go with raising a well-mannered child, all while you're earning a living and recovering from an abusive relationship.

At Grandma's, even if your discipline styles were the same, life is different. Grandma likely doesn't have to make a living anymore or raise her own children. All she has to do is devote her time and attention to your beautiful 4-year-old. She probably thinks she's helping you not only by taking care of her grandson from time to time, but in relieving you so you have time to do the things you just never have time for with a little one underfoot. Taking a nice, long bath, for instance? And, maybe she loosens the rules to help heal a little 4-year-old boy also escaping from an abusive relationship, even if he only saw it on his Mom, didn't experience it himself.

It's not just that you need to ignore the hurt when a 4-year-old tells you he prefers Grandma. That's hurt that, in your tender state, is probably hard to ignore. But, he's not really your whole world. You are. You are the brave woman who escaped the abusive relationship. Your son is the joy you are blessed with. Let him have his feelings. Just know that, really, it has nothing to do with you. It has to do with two environments the way a 4-year-old sees them. It's not reality.

Reality is the brave choice you just made to establish a healthy family life for your son and yourself, the fact that you have to raise that precious son. He has no idea what that takes. Your Mom probably does and is trying to help. Let her in on what you and your son need - her support, not a place your son thinks he can move to. He does not understand this reality. It won't hurt for him to know that he can't live with Grandma, but she loves him and will take care of him as much as she can. A child's reality is what the adults in his life let him have, not what he claims he wants. He doesn't know what he's asking for nor why it hurts you so much.

And, congratulations for the wonderful, strong choice you just made to raise your son in a healthy family, not the destructive one you just left.

Jennifer - posted on 03/06/2010




I have 4 children and I have been through this with my older 2 that they wanted to go live with gramma and I had to have her sit down and explain to them that although gramma loves them very much they can not go live with her...that she will still be there for them if and when they need her but she will not take them away from their mommy. My mom explained to my girls that I would miss them and would cry if I didn't have them but she would come visit and play and they could visit her when they like...but they needed to stay with me. Hopefully this helps you....I wish you luck and prayers.

Meghan - posted on 03/05/2010




wow, I am waiting for this to happen with my son! My ex let's him get away with everything and couldn't say no to save his life. I wish I could have happy playtime with my son all the time but you can't. I remember when I was younger-both my parents where VERY strict (not to say that you are) and I always told them I wanted to live with my uncle. One time, my mom smiled and said I love you and I really would love for you to stay here with us! Sill remember that..and now looking back I have actually thanked both of them for sticking to their guns! You are doing the best thing for your son even if it doesn't feel like it!!!

Sarah - posted on 08/01/2012




I still wish i lived at grandma's and im 27 lol Most young children dont and cant understand there words/ actions .Maybe because your working and hes at grandmas he might mean he is missing your full on attention. Ive not long ago started work n my 6yr thought it was great , treats off grandma the day care taken her on trips and little treats from me with the extra cash e.g. new story book , sweets etc. now a few months in she screamed at me @ 11pm i was a bad parent ! i burst into tears then pulled myself together and explained that it was a horrible thing to say and that it upset me. she was finding it hard not having my attention 24/7 and because things had changed suddlenly.

best thing i can think of is keep telling him you love him and miss him when hes at grandmas and if you can try taken him some where where you can both spend time together with mums and children of the same age so you get support while he;s busy playing and enjoying that your together.

happy mammy = happy child


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Jennifer - posted on 01/12/2013




I wish I had advice for you but I'm in the same situation kind of .. My mother lives with my husband I and we have. 5 year old daughter . My mother has lived with us a few months and ever since she has been here our 5 year old wont go anywhere with my husband and I she would rather stay home with grandma and grandma always does what she wants no matter how she talks to her or acts . If she wanted to to sleep on the floor she would . Now my husband and I have always loved and sued with her . She is our world and would do anything to make her happy but like I said since grandma came her attitude has changed towards us , she is hateful , and just a different child . I'm not sure what to do if I say something to grandma she will take it the wrong way , but I get my feelings hurt every day because of my daughter not wanting to play with her or do anything for her . She wants grandma and that's it ! Before she always wanted me and my husband , hung out with us and wanted to go everywhere with us . Any advice would be appreciated . I am glad she helps out but I see it kind of making this worse as far as relationships go with our daughter . And I forgot to mention its impossible for me to just take her somewhere just us without grandma going or daughter wanting her to go . Which may I add sit in the backseat every time cause my daughter wants her to , and sometimes even in the middle of the seat . It's jut annoying to me !!

Liz - posted on 03/07/2010




HEY! What kid DOSNE"T Want to go live with grandma? It's just another way to get you to do things his way.
Don't break your heart over it. They all pull this one out of the hat now and then.
Just roll with it and don't take it personally.

KATHY - posted on 03/06/2010




I am a single parent with 4 kids. I been through that so far with 3 of them. My oldest is turning 16 next week and when he was 4 he said he wanted to be with his father. I didnt know what to do but just let him go. My second oldest did it when he was about 5/6, it hurt me all over again and made me feel like im not doing anything right. Then my daughter did the same thing. Kids really dont realize that no matter how many times you go through it or how many times each of them say it, it still hurts like it was the first time. My daughter does it with her dad, he gives her everything she wants, so when she comes back home she expects me to do the same, but i cant. Im struggling trying to take care of my kids. I love them very much, but hate when they talk like this. Now i guess im waiting to see if my youngest does this too...

[deleted account]

Hi Meghan, I like your comment a lot. I haven't really thought about what, if anything, he will remember about this period in his life. Knowing that you remember so much about your parents and appreciate later the things they did that you didn't like at the time -- that helps. I agree I should just stick to what I think is right, and maybe instead of allowing myself to wallow in sadness over things he says that hurt me, turn the conversation into one where I tell him how much I love him. I haven't tried that yet, but since what I'm doing doesn't work, it's great to have another approach to try that has proven to work in your case.

[deleted account]

Christine -- great idea about counseling. It's not possible for me at the moment but I'll keep it in mind as an option later if this problem doesn't go away over time, which is what I'm hoping will happen.
take care,

[deleted account]

Hi Dominyque, thank you so much for your advice and sharing your experiences with me. It's comforting to find out that I'm not the only person who faces this problem. I like your idea of creating a special time with my son or spending a day with him -- I think that's a great point and i'm going to try it. I'm also going to try to stay patient (even on those days when I feel like I have no more patience left inside me!).
I wish you the best and take care,

Christine - posted on 03/04/2010




I have a similar problem with my four year old daughter. It is a matter of your son feeling secure. You've had a lot going on, especially having an abusive relationship and are probably a little stressed. Children react to that. My daughter certainly does. I have recently started my two daughters ages 3 and 4 and myself in family councelling. I've only had a couple of sessions, but already it feels like the world has been lifted off of my shoulders. I don't feel alone anymore.

My daughter has also told me that she wants to live with her grandmother. And she has said a few hurtful things to me as well. It makes me feel inadequate as a mother. If you are able, counceling a good choice. If not, try to find other mothers in your area from whom you can find support. I'll keep you and your son in my prayers and please don't worry too much. I know it is difficult but it WILL get better.

Dominyque - posted on 03/04/2010





I totally know what you are going through with your son and my oldest does that also. He started doing that about a year or so ago and everything we would leave my moms he would cry so loud that I had to drive with the windows down or pull over because it was too much. It is very hard being a single mother....i love my son to death and I know that he loves me, but sometimes it just seems that he would rather be over at his grandmas then with him mommy. It as been a good few months that he stopped crying when we could leave, but recently he started the crying again and wanting to stay with her.

It drives me crazy and at times gets me really frusterated and hurt when I have to deal with it...but I have realized that when something new happens that hes not use too his grandma is great with him and he likes to go to her for comfort. And like you when he throws the fits I would just rather him be there instead of hearing him cry, but I know that I enforce more discipline because I dont want my son to run all over me and at grandmas he could get away with a whole lot more. Something that might work that works with my son is having days to spend together. Maybe take him to a favorite store or get a new book to read together. It soothes my son most of the time. But know that it won't last forver, this is a change that your son hasn't quite adjusted to and with time he will see what you have done for him over the years. Just stay strong and be patient and know that time will mend broken hearts. Help him find a way to adjust to this new change. Good luck and if you ever need to talk about that just send me a message, I know it's like. Hope that helps

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