Dealing with grandparents getting too involved with your parenting? Here’s how to establish grandparent boundaries without stepping on toes.
“My parents won’t listen when I tell them no TV!” a friend vented. Her parents care for her kids in their home. And despite my friend’s request to turn the TV off, they continue to keep it on all day.
For many parents, it’s not just TV, either. They offer food parents forbid, buy too many gifts, and don’t follow safety rules.
That’s not all. I’ve also heard parents complain about grandparents who smoke. Those who have all sorts of opinions about their parenting methods. And those who flat out refuse to follow their routine.
How to establish grandparent boundaries
I use the term “grandparents” loosely. This can apply to anyone who overrides your authority and, well, try to parent your kids their way.
Problem 1: Grandparents insist on doing things the way they did
Times have changed in a short period. Take, for instance, the sonogram: my parents’ generation had no such technology. Neither could they opt for the epidural. Formula was all the rage, giving solids early was advised, and putting a baby to sleep on their tummy was the norm.
So when grandparents hear the new parenting advice, they sometimes roll their eyes. Or at least wonder how quickly advice can change, just from one generation to the next.
The easy answer should be “Because we’re the parents,” but sometimes that isn’t enough.
If your parents insist on doing things the way they did, back your claims with proof. Explain how the AAP now recommends babies sleep on their back. How doing so has lessened the incidents of SIDS. Blame your child’s pediatrician about feeding solids much later. Highlight the convenience and savings of breastfeeding.
Problem 2: “Our house, our rules”
Your parents might not be willing to accommodate your rules when your kids are in their house. This is especially tricky if they watch your kids regularly. What happens if your parents watch television all day, despite your stance against it? Or if your parents smoke? Or insist on giving your child candy or refuses to dice the hotdogs and grapes like you requested?
It all depends.
On one hand, it’d be unfair to expect your parents to change their entire lifestyle for your child. They might be willing to add corner protectors, but not so keen to away every breakable figurine. Imagine visiting friends and asking them to “prepare” their home for your arrival.
But at the same time, hold true to your values. How much do you not want your child to be around a television all day? Or cigarette smoke? Or eating candy? If their disregard convinces you to seek alternative child care, then perhaps that’s your best option.
Because while their house is theirs to enjoy, you also need to exert your authority over your child. Besides the occasional treat, there shouldn’t be many exceptions to the rules. An “our house vs. grandma’s house” kind of thing. Having your rules flaunted is disrespectful to you and not in the best interest of your child.
Problem 3: Grandparents offer too much help
Crazy, I know, but some grandparents offer too much help: They want to come over every day. Or change every diaper. Or stock your fridge with food galore.
To me, this is a blessing—I appreciate when people try to help. But I understand that sometimes it can go too far.
If your parents or in-laws are overstepping your boundaries, let them know, politely. Acknowledge their desire to help and let them know you appreciate it, but specify how they can help best. Maybe they can come over once a week to take your kids to the park, or visit them for dinner once in a while.
But my best advice? Enjoy it. If your mom wants to change the baby’s diaper, let her. Consider it your mini break from one of the many tasks you have on your plate.
Problem 4: Grandparents teaching your kids hot topics
Another co-worker and I were talking about his kids’ nanny. “I’ll come home and find these pamphlets about her religion on the coffee table,” he said. “And my kids have blurted these statements that could only have come from her.”
From religion to sex to drugs, grandparents might be teaching hot topics. Things better left for you to explain.
Yes, kids learn their values from their village, but hot topics are reserved for parents. You wouldn’t expect day care workers to teach hot topics—neither should grandparents.
Some don’t mind these extra teachers. If parents agree with grandparents, these values are reinforced more so. But sometimes they’re teaching values you don’t agree with or would rather explain yourself.
Express your appreciation for their effort and respect their beliefs and views. But if it makes you uncomfortable, ask them to keep their thoughts private and not teach your kids.
Your parents’ lives shouldn’t change drastically for your kids. But they need to distinguish between going about your life and teaching it to the grand kids.
It’s tough dealing with grandparents trying to parent and undermining your authority. But both you and your parents want the same thing: the best for your child. You may just have different thoughts of what that is and what the means of getting there.
Read more posts about parenthood:
- How to Encourage Pride in Your Child’s Culture and History
- Why You Should Definitely Intervene when Adults Overwhelm Your Kids
- How to Balance Parenthood with the Rest of Your Life
- Don’t Get Jealous: Why Kids Benefit from Loving Caregivers
- Would You Use a Nanny Cam?
Tell me in the comments: What is your biggest struggle with establishing grandparent boundaries?
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