2/27/2023 | By Amy Dickinson

Seemingly unaware of the effects of their behavior, these biased grandparents are actively hurting the grandchild who gets less of their praise. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson advises in this edition of Ask Amy.

Dear Amy: 

I have cousins who receive almost all of the attention from our grandparents.

One cousin is at an Ivy League school right now (on scholarship for football). He also has an internship with a firm on Wall Street. The other is a highly-rated high school basketball player.

I haven’t been blessed with those talents athletically, but I am making my own path to success. I am in college, and I will be graduating in May. Then, I will go to graduate school.

No matter what I do, though, I never seem to receive the same level of attention and respect as my cousins do. My grandparents might talk about my successes for a few minutes, but then move on and talk about my cousins for the rest of the time.

I am happy for my cousins and want them to be successful, but it hurts me knowing it feels like my accomplishments and successes are going underappreciated.

This has happened my entire life.

How do I tell my grandparents this without causing heated arguments?


Dear Underappreciated: 

If you fear that expressing your sincere feelings will bring on a heated argument, then I’d say that the issue with your biased grandparents is deeper and more complicated than an attention imbalance.

Parents oftentimes actively promote closeness between their children and grandparents, starting very early in life. Your parents might have been more low-key than your cousins’ parents.

These cousins seem to be succeeding in ways that we in Western culture latch onto. Excelling in sports and heading to Ivy League schools will provide a shorthand for obvious “success” in the sometimes superficial and obvious ways that some parents and grandparents seem to covet and value.

If you want to let your grandparents know how this affects you, you can express your feelings – using “I statements”: “I know that my cousins are doing well, but I’m doing really well, too. I feel like I’m often in their shadow when it comes to you. It would mean a lot to me if you understood that. Your good opinion means a lot to me.”

A few statements like this should open the door. I hope that your grandparents choose to walk through it.

Remember, though, that the most important approval you will ever receive is that which you give to yourself. Keep going on your own path to success.

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. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from biased grandparents to a bossy friend to elder care. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

Amy Dickinson