What To Do When the Grandparents Won’t Follow Your Parenting Style
When Grandparents Break the Rules
April 1, 2019
When it’s time to visit grandma and grandpa, the kids get excited. Parents, however, may not always feel the same enthusiasm. In fact, if you're a parent, you may roll your eyes when thinking about the rules you will have to reinforce not only to your children, but also to your parents or in-laws.
It gets tossed around as a funny phrase, “But it’s grandma’s job to spoil the grandkids.” But at the end of the day when the kids are back at home, it’s the parents who have to deal with the ramifications of the rules getting bent.
Often, grandparents bend the rules when it comes to things like meals, chores, routines, and bedtimes. When grandparents don’t follow your parenting style, the kids end up getting off-schedule by not having a nap or getting to bed late, or they get a wee bit spoiled through constant treats and gifts. Overall, it’s pretty common for grandparents to allow children to do things they’re not allowed to do at home.
It can be frustrating for you as a parent, especially if you already explained your parenting style to the grandparents and they seem to disregard your feelings. Instead of creating arguments and entering a cycle of repeated behaviors, here are a few steps that can help alleviate the tension when grandparents don’t follow your parenting style.
Assess. Don't accuse.
Take a look at the situation instead of flying off the handle. When you witness the grandparents not following your parenting style, ask yourself a few questions to begin with:
Do they understand that they’re breaking your rules?
Will this impact your children’s expectations for the future?
Is this harming your children?
If it’s a one-off situation, or if it’s a small rule that won’t do much damage, you might want to let it slide. However, if grandparents are putting a child's safety at risk, deviating from an important diet, or throwing the child off-schedule, it may be time to schedule a hard conversation with the grandparents.
Realize your beliefs and values may be different from your parents.
One of the best things you can do when your parents deviate from your parenting style is to realize that it’s not usually intentional. Your parents grew up in a different era, with different values and practices and they’re prone to play those out when they’re with your kids. You may have very different values and beliefs than your parents, which may dictate how they interact with children. Try to remember that it's not personal, and you’ll be better off.
Give a reason for the rules.
When you’ve determined that it’s time to intervene, reinforce your rules with reasons. If grandparents don’t understand a reason for the rule, they may be less inclined to follow it. For example, if your child is on a gluten-free diet for health reasons and the grandparents keep deviating from that, it may help to explain that your child has a gluten intolerance and that eating foods with gluten causes digestive issues for her. Or explain that without a nap in the afternoon, your child becomes overly tired and cranky in the evening, causing more tension in the bedtime routine.
Reinforcing your rules with reasons allows your parents to feel less offended when an accusation is made, and it also helps the grandparents understand the importance of following your standards.
Boundaries can be a great solution because they allow some bending on both parts. If grandma wants the freedom to enforce a more flexible bedtime with the kids, set a boundary that they cannot exceed more than 30 minutes later than bedtime, or that flexible bedtimes are only allowed on weekends. If the grandparents want to buy large toys for the kids that may be difficult to store back at home, set a boundary that toys bought by the grandparents must stay at grandpa’s house.
One great solution for other rules, like keeping clothes clean, is to always bring a set of “play” clothes that are fine to get dirty, and have the grandparents agree to use them for the mud-pie-baking sessions. Boundaries are a great way to allow the grandparents to feel like they have some authority while still staying mostly in line with your expectations.
It’s easy to get annoyed when the grandparents seem to blatantly disregard your parenting style, but staying calm and coming up with solutions is the best way to keep everyone happy—including the kids.
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