When Parents And Grandparents Disagree
A lot of focus is put on how important it is for Mom and Dad to be on the same parenting page — which is definitely important — but a more delicate situation can happen when Mom and Dad don’t agree with how Grandma and Grandpa take care of the kids. There’s a fine balance to be found between wanting our children to have great relationships with their grandparents, as well as the need or desire for (free) babysitting, and generational differences in how we parent. As a parent, you may expect a little more indulgence by Grandma and Grandpa, and a relaxing of some rules, but how do you handle letting your parents know about your safety concerns? After all, lots of us were raised without car seats or helmets. Or, how do we approach issues our families may be grappling with, that the grandparents may not have much experience with, such as severe allergies?
Our parents may have belonged to a generation that actively sought out the advice and input of their parents, and now that these parents are grandparents, it may be difficult for them to wrap their minds around the fact that we have different ways of doing things. When you feel as though you’ve done a just fine job of raising your own children, it can be insulting or hurtful to spoken to in a way that suggests that you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, and as the parents in this dynamic, we need to remember that. But there’s a balance to be had there, too, in the sense that grandparents also need to respect that they are not Members Three and Four of this parenting team (unless that’s how you’ve structured your family…but if that’s the case, you probably haven’t read this far into the article…) and that unless they have serious concerns about their grandchild’s safety, they need to respect that this is how you are raising your kids.
So how do you find that balance between wanting and needing to have grandparents in your children’s lives, and not fighting and arguing over what that’s going to look like?
Keep the lines of communication open. Let your parents know that while you don’t want to insult their intelligence or their parenting know-how, there are some aspects of safety or discipline that matter a great deal to you, and you’d feel much better knowing that everyone was in agreement on how these situations will be handled. There has to be give and take both ways, so realize that there probably will be special “spoiling,” like extra treats and later bedtimes, but also be up-front about letting your parents know if, for some reason, these indulgences are not acceptable today (for example, your child is on a special diet, or you have a big day the next day and everyone needs to be well-rested). Being clear and not making assumptions about what your parents know or will do, or need to know or need to do, will help to keep everyone’s frustrations at bay.
Often, the problem that parents and grandparents run into is not simply about rules not being followed, but about a lack of respect. The issue of the excessive treats or the late bedtime may be annoying in itself, but grandparents have to be aware that these sorts of problems are often seen as merely the symptoms by parents — symptoms of the larger issue that their parenting style and choices are not being respected by the grandparents. Have a conversation about the roles you see yourselves and your parents playing in your children’s lives, and come to an agreement on the stuff that’s not negotiable and how to demonstrate a level of mutual respect. It may be difficult for the grandparents to learn how to redefine their role, especially if they had a different assumption than yours of what that role would be, but it’s important that you stay calm, be clear in your expectations, discuss issues as they arise, and work together to find solutions.
If your parents provide some sort of regular support, whether that’s in babysitting or financial support, they may feel that they have a right to be involved in some of the decision-making when it comes to your children. Learning how to let go of that expectation may not come overnight. Keep the channels of communication open, be patient with one another, and keep in mind that, just maybe, they may have some advice or words of wisdom that will be just what you need to hear.