Singletons

The world of only children

“Grandma Said I Could!” Solving Parent-Grandparent Conflicts

8 guidelines for navigating parent-grandparent differences.

Whether or not grandparents live with you, differences of opinion in how you want your children cared for are bound to arise. Take this familiar scene, for instance:

Mom: “Billy, what are you doing watching television? It’s past your bedtime!”

Billy: “Grandma said I could.”

Parents can clash with their parents or in-laws on rules regarding safety, treats, bedtimes or curfews for older children — in many cases, how you were raised can be drastically different from how you choose to parent.

When Caring Feels Like Intruding

Not only can interference from a concerned grandparent feel like an indirect disapproval of your rules, but also, kids quickly learn to pit conflicting adults against each other.

As adult children with children, parents should be the ones to decide the rules, and be clear with other relatives what standard procedure is when mom or dad isn’t around to have the last word. If that doesn’t work and Billy still finds ways around your rules via Grandma, take a moment to be appreciative yet firm: “I know you have Billy’s best interests at heart, but it undermines my job as a parent. Please don’t take my child’s side when it goes against my wishes.”

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Even though there is a new order with adult children now heading the family unit, parents should keep in mind that grandparents connect the family. Therefore, whenever possible, a group effort that includes making some decisions together is the strongest way to be sure that your children are cared for the way you want. Patience and respect are critical. When grandparents respect their adult children’s authority over the children, they gain their adult children’s confidence.

A Parent’s Checklist for Working Together

Caring for grandchildren can be frustrating at times, but wise parents and grandparents make the situation manageable by building trust and recognizing that the children’s needs and well being come first. 

Grandparents are usually a pivotal source of love, warmth and support in your child’s development. Many are a key source of relief for stressed-out parents. Nonetheless, conflicts arise, particularly in families with young children. 

Here are steps parents can take to create a unified front:

  1. Don’t take advantage of a good thing by overburdening grandparents.
  2. Pay attention to how your parents are holding up. Watch for signs that you may need to lighten the load.
  3. Listen attentively to what a grandparent has to say or wants to tell you about your children.
  4. Admit when you are wrong and a grandparent is correct about something pertaining to your children.
  5. Acknowledge grandparents’ efforts, both large and small.
  6. Speak favorably about grandparents in front of your children.
  7. Remind your children that they are to follow their grandparent’s instructions.
  8. Don’t be jealous of the time grandparents and grandchildren spend together; it helps you tremendously, and is beneficial for all concerned. 

For more information on adult child-parent relationships, see Under One Roof Again: All Grown Up and (Re)learning to Live Together Happily

Related: Filling the Holes Left by Absent Grandparents

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·  See Susan’s latest book: The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide 

Copyright @ 2014 Susan Newman

Susan Newman, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and author. Her latest book is The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide.

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