Can Grandparents Overstep Parenting Boundaries?

PHOTO Liz Pryor was chosen as GMAs new advice guru on Good Morning America.PlayDonna Svennevik/ABC News
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Liz Pryor of Studio City, Calif., is the recently-appointed GMA Advice Guru and she is here to help with life's tough questions. Read her responses to the viewer-submitted questions below!

Dear Liz,

Last summer, my adult son got into a verbal shouting match with his 16-year-old daughter while driving her home from work at 11:30 p.m. He booted her out of the car, took her cell phone and left her alone a mile from their house.

When I found out about it, I told him if he ever did that again, I'd come get his daughter even if it meant bringing the police. He hasn't talked to me since. Did I overstep as a grandparent?"

- Susan in Florida

Liz's Advice:

Dear Susan,

I can totally understand how incensed you would feel hearing about this confrontation. You are a loving, protective grandparent who thought your son's judgment could have endangered your granddaughter. The problem is certainly not in how you felt about it, it seems to be more in how you chose to handle it. It's so important to remember what it is you want to accomplish when you react to a situation as loaded as this one.

I imagine you wanted your son to know you didn't approve of how he handled it that evening, clearly. But you also probably wanted to feel assured he would never do this again. More than overstepping your boundaries, did you effectively help ensure this wouldn't happen again? If we re-played it, might you be able to figure out a way to let him know you didn't approve, and point out why it wasn't such a great idea?

Last summer since you've spoken to him? That's quite a long time. I'm guessing you are going to have to apologize for threatening your son. Explain to him what was going through your head, and admit you could have handled it differently. He will be likely to forgive you, if you present in a way that your greatest fault is that you love his daughter so much. Then, try and work on his tactics in a way you feel will be effective.

The fact that you would write to me and ask for advice leads me to believe you are open and willing to make efforts. Most importantly, I imagine you want to be in your son's life. You made a choice that wasn't the most productive. Fix it, get back in there, enjoy your family, and think it through more carefully next time.

Good Luck, Susan!

Your Questions Answered

Dear Liz,

What to do you do if your old boss whom you did not get along with says derogatory comments about you to your future employer if they call to do a reference check?

- Kendal in Washington

Liz's Reply:

Dear Kendal,

My thought on this: Don't worry until you have to. To try and play interference here could draw attention unnecessarily. I think if your new employer has questions for you, he will come to you.

I would say be prepared if that were to happen. Meaning, know what you will say if he does approach with information from the former boss. If he happens to share some concerns from the old job, don't get specific or give details. Try to keep your answers and explanations broad. It's simply unprofessional to share stories and experiences, unless of course he were to mention a specific event. Then indeed feel free to offer your side.

It is not uncommon, Kendal, for personalities to clash, and for people to rub one another the wrong way. Take that stance. Make sure to look him in the eye and remain confident.

Dear Liz,

This situation has been stressing me out for months. I hope you can help. I have a 17-year-old daughter who is ranked 11th in her class, and is a top-20 cross country runner in our state. I feel with her success and ability she has earned the right to go out and apply to any college, and after all the financial packages are in to pick whatever we can afford, and to find a place that she would love and have that full college experience.

My problem is that she has put minimal effort into this process because she has decided she wants to go to a local, very large university and live on campus, which is 20 minutes down the road. Here sole reason for picking this school is to stay local so that she is near her boyfriend, who is going to another local university. Up until two years ago she was all about going away to school.

It gets more complicated. This boy she has dated since the end of her freshman year has become disabled during this time and has difficulty walking. He depends on her while in school to get around.

I have no objection to their relationship other than it shouldn't be the sole reason for choosing a college. I feel they should each have their own experience, become adults and see where things are when college is over. Staying local, she will make her social decisions based on when they have time to get together rather than getting fully involved in campus life, as they spend all their social time together. She is very stubborn and naive. Please help!!"

-Maria in New York:

Liz's Advice:

Maria, hi there, wow, wow, wow. This is so very tough. You make perfect sense in your thinking here, and every mother on the planet would read this and most likely agree with you. The problem, however, is how do you encourage your daughter to see her life from your view? I firmly believe this is the single greatest obstacle to overcome in parenting. We do know more than they, we've lived longer, we know the aerial view, and where and when the choices they make are not the best, and for which choices they will surely feel regret. Yet often when we share this information, it can tend only to solidify for our children that it is their lives, and they will do as they choose.

You know that you can't really demand or force your choices for her life, unless you are the type of parent who feels that you can make demands because you are footing the bill for housing, food and education.

If you were that parent, I assume you would not be writing to me, so here is what I would say. You can try to get your daughter to see some of the view you have, and you can indeed hope that she will choose to turn this decision around.

The first suggestion I have is for you to try a new dialogue with her on the subject. I imagine she knows at least that you would like her to consider a different college. If this is so, she will already be defensive. But commit to this Maria, and try and talk to her with a different tone, a different manner, anything to get her… not to do what you say, but to hear what you are saying.

Remind her of all the work and commitment and self-discipline she has shown over the years. Remind her of her dreams when she was younger, not in a way to convince her, but to see if you can tap into that part of her.

See if you can get her to question herself. Tell her the truth, not as a warning or threat, but as a support. If she has respect for you, which she may hide, she will hear you, and at some point think about it.

And remember, teenagers tend to process late, so don't imagine she'll show any change in the moment. IF the conversation goes even remotely well, you might suggest that there be a compromise made. If she won't leave the state for college, might she consider going to a really good college in the state but not locally? Anywhere you can find compromise would be a win here.

Maria, realistically, I imagine you should also prepare for her to stay and go locally to college and be in love with her guy. I say this because sometimes, maybe a lot of times, when we are finally forced to let go of what we feel so strongly about, it tends to force a shift in those around us.

I don't even want to write it, but I have to. Eventually your daughter has to make her own mistakes. As much as we love them, and know what is best, we as parents have been known to be wrong. Hard to imagine that in this case, but life is long and surprising. I can't tell you how much I feel for your situation here, and I hope I have been of some help. Remember, she will most likely thrive and prevail and make mistakes and achieve greatness, and all the while you'll worry and often times she will surprise you. Love her through this, and hang on to the faith you have in who she is, and who she can be!

Much luck and patience for you.

Question from : "Years ago in my marriage I was faced with the knowledge that my husband had been unfaithful AND partied like he was single with his single buddy. We faced our problems with what he had done and have kept our marriage together and we are so much stronger. Now, years later, this said friend has come back into my husband's life via the workplace. My husband still wants to be friends with him ... I DO NOT want this man in our lives again. What should I do?"

-Dee in Texas

Liz's Advice:

First of all, congratulations. Weathering such a challenging time in your marriage, keeping it together and coming away stronger, is an enormous accomplishment. I can entirely understand what kind of threat this friend resurfacing must trigger for you.

I wonder if your husband wouldn't entirely understand and be on board in terms of not engaging with this friend socially. Have you asked him? If not, I would indeed approach the subject soon.

A great opener would be to ask him how he feels about the guy now, how it is seeing him etc. If he claims the friend has changed and he likes him, etc.

Then ask him how he thinks you might feel about him hanging out with this friend. This might stop your husband for a second. Rather than you telling him, let him think about how this might settle inside you. It may really help in making the point you need to make, and then see where the conversation goes.

Dee, somewhere in here, if you must, you simply tell him your truth. It is so not worth having you questioning everything all over again, and this request is such a great way for your husband to show you the respect you deserve. Don't forget, he did the work, committed to the marriage and succeeded through a rough, rough time. And you, by the way, stretched as far as a heart can, by forgiving and moving on. The least he can do here is honor your needs.

You guys are a strong team, and you're asking him not to hang out with the guy, period. No threats, no going back down the bad memory lane. Just lay it out. Always follow your gut, Dee. Even I can see your gut on this one.

Stay strong and good luck!