When there are conflicts between the child’s parents and grandparents, it comes down to who makes the decisions. Many times they won’t agree about the issues related to raising the child (grandchild) they love so much. It is pretty standard that grandparents refuse to accept that the child’s parents have the ultimate right to make decisions about their child and her raising.
It depends on you to find an acceptable way to explain to grandparents which their primary role is. It actually implies to love their grandchild unconditionally and support their offspring in raising the grandchild without making troubles. If they don’t understand their role adequately and can’t make a reasonable agreement good for all three sides, the situation can become very obstructive. The problem is that your beloved one will suffer the most in such circumstances. Think about it.
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A Healthy Relationship with Grandparents
Even if your parents and in-laws act like they are so much better than you in raising the child, keep in mind that they are not some old people who really think so. They are ordinary, reasonable, but very often insecure people who need to:
- Know that their child and grandchild value them
- Feel that you respect them
- Share with you what they have learned during their lives
It is not rare that the child’s parents and grandparents don’t agree about the ways of raising the child. In such a situation, you should set priorities very directly and concisely, and find a way to make your parents and in-laws understand the importance of following the rules.
Be prepared that grandparents will react unreasonably from time to time, but always keep in mind that all of you love the same kid and that these old people deserve a decent and respectful conversation. So, take a deep breath (maybe you should do it twice), and keep in mind all the positive things they can do for your child.
Parts of Your Child’s Upbringing Your Parents Shouldn’t Interfere with
As one of the most important figures in a kid’s life, Grandparents shouldn’t set a poor example. I know that they love their grandchild, but having overbearing grandparents who interfere with the child’s life can be very tough and undesirable. Actually, there are things they should never do.
1 – Suggesting names for a baby – Choosing a baby’s name is one of the most personal experiences for every parent. It is OK if you and your partner decide to ask your parents for their opinion, but it can be weird and awkward when grandparents insist on naming a baby after a distant deceased relative for example.
2 – Advise you to work or be a housewife – Whether your parents like it or not, the decision to continue your career after giving birth or not depends on your and your partner’ agreement. Grandparents have no right to interfere.
3 – Condemning the way you feed your baby – It depends only on you what style of feeding the baby you will choose. Grandma’s condescending opinion about breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding is entirely inadequate and unnecessary.
4 – Buying expensive and gigantic gifts without consulting – If you live in an apartment, it is pretty insane to fulfill a baby’s room with the giant stuffed toys and electric cars. Grandparents shouldn’t do that. Also, when the time comes, you should buy your child a cell phone or tablet. Grandparents shouldn’t buy a high-priced iPad or iPhone for their grandkid without consulting you.
5 – Giving a pet as a present – The new kitten or puppy is not a toy. Parents need to decide if their child is responsible enough to get a pet or not.
6 – Leaving you out of the loop – You should always know where your child is no matter how reliable grandparents are. They merely need to notify you where they go with your child, no matter how this place is fun and safe.
7 – Demanding holiday visits – It is nice going to grandparents during the holidays, but it should not be a rule. If you have other plans, a decision must be yours. Plus, your teen won’t be delighted if she is forced to go to grandparents instead to spend a holiday-time with friends.
8 – Gossiping – Maybe the stories about your misbehavior during the teen period are funny to adults, but these stories are not for your children. You don’t need your own parents to encourage your children to disobey.
9 – Questioning you as a parent in front of your kid – If your parents have to tell you something, they should do it when your kid is not present. Any discussion in front of the child is not the way to handle any possible issue.
10 – Breaking the rules behind your back – This destroys your authority in your child’s eyes and makes confusion in the precise routine your little one has already accepted.
11 – Taking the grandchild on the haircut – Haircut can be an important decision for your kiddo, and it should be parents’ and a child’s choice. Grandparents have no right to make such surprises.
12 – Ignoring etiquette in social media – Some grandparents have profiles on Facebook and Instagram, and it is OK. But, posting inappropriate grandchild’s photos or commenting on their posts on the way your teen feels embarrassed is entirely unacceptable. One more thing! Grandchild’s friends are their pals, not grandparents’, and there is no need for adding them on the friend list.
13 – Using the grandchild for work – It is OK when your child helps her grandparents but sending her to mow the lawn or wash grandfather’s car every time she comes to visit is not OK at all.
14 – Comparing grandchildren to one another – That kind of attitude can influence your child’s self-esteem. Don’t allow such behavior.
15 – Forcing personal beliefs on the grandchild – Grandparents usually believe that they know better how to raise their grandkid than parents do, but it is unacceptable determining child’s opinions, ideas, and beliefs on their own regardless of whether it is about spiritual or political convictions.
16 – Passing on prejudices – Your parents have right on their own attitude, but they have no right to teach your child to become racist, sexist, or to have any unhealthy prejudice. There is no justification for this kind of behaving.
How to Deal With Overbearing Grandparents
If the grandparents cross boundaries, there are suitable ways for you to confront the issue.
1 – Set clear boundaries – Don’t allow anyone including grandparents to cross the limitations you have made related the way you raise your child. It can be very hard convincing them to respect your decisions and keep your relationship at the correct level. It will take a lot of work, love, and understanding.
2 – Treat grandparents as allies – Ask for their help because grandparents can be helpful. Also, show them that you appreciate their support but be clear about your choices. Remember, you should be the team which primary aim is to raise a healthy and well-mannered kid.
3 – Pick your battles – It seems that grandparents look forward to spoiling their grandchild because they finally can stop to be a parent who makes boundaries and restrictions. They want to coddle someone finally. Don’t react on every little thing they do because they just love your little one. This attitude will facilitate the resolution of the more significant problems you will probably have with their behavior in the future.
4 – Involve your spouse in the conversation – It is better when both parents talk to grandparents about the kid. It can be tricky and uncomfortable talking about this issue with your spouse’s parents. But, even though you prefer letting him speak to his parents himself, it is always better speaking to them as a team. It is wise showing grandparents that both of you have the same attitude about raising your child.
5 – Don’t be a drama queen – Keep your emotions and frustrations out of the conversation and try to stay calm. You shouldn’t take the problem as a personal insult if they don’t agree with your point of view. It is on you to explain clearly your specific reasons. They care but can’t read your minds. Be sure that very often grandparents don’t realize that they make problems. Treat your in-laws and your own parents with respect and always keep in mind that one day you will be in their shoes.
6 – Make a ‘sandwich’ and put the issue in the middle of it – Keep in mind that they love their grandchild and your primary goal is not to hurt their feelings but to find a solution which will fit for everybody. So, when you decide to talk to grandparents about the particular issue, you should begin with something positive (show your appreciation and thank them for their excellent care). Then bring up the arguable point, and add something positive in the end.
7 – Keep a balance – Take advantage of the grandparents’ experience. Many suggestions they give to you might actually be helpful. Sometimes they really may know best.
8 – Validate their reasons – When grandparents explain their point of view, paraphrase what they have already said to get a confirmation that you have understood them correctly. Explain that you realize their attention and good intents, but stay firm and clear about your attitude.
9 – Don’t forget a grandparent’s pleasure – Well, you should admit that grandparents actually feel great joy in ‘spoiling’ their grandkid. Their intention is not to have a rude grandchild. Maybe they just need to give her the attention they may not have been able to offer you (your spouse) because they were preoccupied with a career for example.
In the end, if the respectful communication doesn’t give desirable results, you might need an objective third party including a family friend or even therapist to try with finding a solution.
Why If Grandparents Think They Are the Parents?
Unfortunately, sometimes you should ‘press the big red nuclear button’ and forbid contact. I hope that you won’t experience this situation, but be prepared for it if you notice that all other options are not helpful in solving the problem.
Even though grandparents mean a lot to your child, sometimes it is necessary to limit their influence to your kiddo. Keep in mind that people can change and before you decide to take this final step, think twice. After this decision, it will be tough to re-build your relationship again.
Sometimes consultations with child’s pediatrician can help. Invite grandparents to talk to the physician, and let him give a talking-to with everyone. That may improve your relationship due to grandparent doesn’t feel singled out. Plus, the third side will disable the struggle between the parent and the grandparents of the child.
It is always better to organize a scaled-back relationship rather than entirely cutting all the ties. That means that you should ‘press the button’ only in extreme situation when all other options turned out to be ineffective.
If you have tried all the methods without any of improvement, you need to take a break. Just permanently distance your child from her grandparents if it is in her best interest. Be prepared that your child won’t readily understand why you insist at separation. No matter what, she loves their grandparents.
The problem in parent-grandparent relationships becomes huge when parents begin to feel that the grandparents overstep reasonable boundaries. It sometimes looks like the grandparents undermine the parents’ estimates and decisions related to their child. Also, there is an issue with the grandparents’ inclination to claim special privileges which rightfully belong only to the child’s parents.
All the family members should be aware that each of them has only a particular and limited role in a child’s life and should stick to it. Any breaching of boundaries can lead to family disagreements, which can result in an unwanted situation for the child to grow up without her beloved grandparents. Such a condition is not in anyone’s interest, and everyone involved should find a universal solution in the best interests of the child who all of them love the most.