Grandparents Need to Back Off

By Amy Dickinson | July 14th, 2023

Their nagging is fruitless and risky

family disagreement, from Iakov Filimonov. For Ask Amy article on when grandparents need to back off

The parent of a successful adult son says his grandparents need to back off of their unwarranted criticism – before they alienate him. See what columnist Amy Dickinson advises in “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

I’m a parent to a fantastic adult son who is caring, intelligent, hardworking, and financially comfortable. Due to the nature of his job, he is able to work a fraction of the hours his peers work.

He enjoys his work, and is very good at it. He has much more free time than the average working adult and uses it to his advantage. I’m glad he figured this all out on his own and isn’t being crushed by student loans. I am extremely proud of him.

The problem is my parents. Every opportunity they get, they bring up how he needs to get a degree, or go into a specific in-demand field he’s not interested in. The return on investment hardly seems worth it to my son. He has told them as much on several occasions.

My sister and I have also told them on numerous occasions that he is happy, healthy, and financially independent, and that we are proud of him.

They don’t seem to get it. They are “worried about him” and are critical of his lack of education. He has a substantial amount of money saved, and has time and resources to pursue his interests. If higher ed was an interest, he’d already be pursuing it.

How can I get them to stop offering unsolicited career and education advice to my son? Should we politely shift the focus when they bring it up?

I worry they will push him away if they keep alienating him with all of their good intentions.

— Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck:

Here’s a radical suggestion: Stop caring what your parents think. They’ve already expressed their lofty ideas for and to your son, repeatedly, and you and others have made a good case for him.

It is simply not necessary for them to approve of his life choices, because he is living out his choices — and his life is working for him.

When they voice their opinions, listen but avoid a discussion.

Them: “We’re worried about him.”

You: “That’s too bad.”

Them: “Aren’t you worried about him?”

You: “Nope.”

Them: “We think he could go much farther with a degree.”

You: “Yes, I know you think that.”

The fact is that they WILL alienate their grandson if they don’t stop weighing in. Why? Because it is both boring and dispiriting to hear, over and over again, that the fulfilling life you’ve chosen to live is simply not good enough.

I hope your parents figure this out before they irreparably damage the relationship.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from when grandparents need to back off to dark family secrets and DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

©2023 by Amy Dickinson

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