Ask anyone that has a child and they will admit that parenting is challenging. It can be even more challenging if the parenting is faced by external pressures that come from your parent/s. In this blog we will be covering some tips on how to handle situations where you feel your parents or in-laws may have over-stepped and are hindering your parenting rather than supporting you in raising healthy, happy children.
Well-meaning advice comes across as interfering
Remember, grandparents have already experienced being a parent and therefore have learnt a thing or two from raising you. This may lead to them feeling like they are in a position to guide you, purely based on the experience they already have.
This may come across in the form of advice and instructions on how to tackle different circumstances. Such advice and instructions can be related to a multitude of topics, including manners, meals, discipline, bedtime activities, bathing, screen time… the list goes on. While this may be helpful and therefore an open mind is encouraged, too much of it can feel intrusive and can cause a major strain on your relationship, especially if it goes against your ideas of how you would like to raise your child.
A united front
Have a conversation with your partner about how you would like to parent your child. What rules should the child follow? What dessert is he/she allowed to have and at what time? How will you discipline your child when they misbehave? Being on the same page is crucial for creating a united front on how to behave not only with the child but also with others who interact with your child. A united front also means you will behave and react in the same ways when faced by opposing views on how to parent your child from family members.
Creating and sticking to clear boundaries
Sometimes grandparents may behave with your children in ways that you do not approve of, or that go against the way you wish to discipline your children. When you feel that such an incident has happened, remember that it does not come from a place of malice and therefore you want to avoid reacting in a manner that can hurt them. Instead, it would be helpful to discuss it in a calm manner, when the child is not present, explaining clearly your position and why you chose to parent in this way. When you receive advice, smiling and saying “Thank you I will think about that” can give the grandparents a sense of being validated. After all, just because you listen to their advice, doesn’t mean you have to take it. It’s also helpful to reflect on which activities are definitely ones you do not want your child to engage in and others that are less important. This will support you to choose where to exert your energy and which battles to let go of.
Make the most of their support
If your parents or in-laws show an interest in supporting you in raising your child, seek to use their help in a way that is most supportive for you. Reflect on what their strengths are and how these can be incorporated into their time with your children. For example, if your mother likes to spend time playing with the child, choose to visit at times when the child is encouraged playtime, rather than at nap time.
Seeking external help
If all else fails, seeking the support of a professional, such as a pediatrician or a teacher, can support you in putting aside your quarrels on the best way forward and guide you on the best way forward for the child.
Grandparents often experience the joy that having children brings with it and enjoy being part of the experience of seeing the child growing up. Although this can cause clashes, remember that grandparents are not obliged to take care of their grandkids and such support needs to be treated with gratitude.
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.
Diproperzio, L. (2014). How to deal with pushy parents (Yours!). Explore Parents. https://www.parents.com/parenting/dynamics/grandparents/how-to-deal-with-your-pushy-parents/
Mostafavi, B. (2020). Half of parents report butting heads with child’s grandparent over parenting. Michigan Health. https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/childrens-health/half-of-parents-report-butting-heads-childs-grandparent-over-parenting
Stanford children. (n.d.). Let your children raise their kids. Stanford Children. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=let-your-children-raise-their-kids-1-2281