Grandparents. You want them to babysit as often as possible because they’re always helpful, knowledgeable, loving, full of great advice, and respectful of your opinions and your parenting skills... right?
If you’re laughing at these statements right now, you’re not alone! Sometimes our parents have trouble believing that we could ever know more about raising kids than they do. Even when everyone has the best of intentions there are often conflicts. Luckily, Circle of Moms members have shared some great advice on how to gracefully navigate grandparent babysitting — so that everyone wins.
Bending the Rules
By the time your kids are about three, they have a pretty good sense of your rules. You worked hard to get them to that point, so it can be especially frustrating when their grandparents swoop in and let them break those rules. Still, as Circle of Moms member Crystal L. says, it's important to laugh off the small stuff: “Grandparents have been waiting years to spoil their grandchildren and if [your child's grandma] is like most mothers I know, she probably thinks: ‘I raised you just fine, so shoosh!’ LOL." Crystal advises that you pick your battles: "If it is something as mild as giving candy then I'd shrug it off.” In other words, the key to success is figuring out when it's alright for the grabdparents to bend your rules, and when it's not.
Whether a grandparent's rules are more lax than yours or the opposite, several moms say it's easier for kids to deal with two different standards if their grandparent time happens at their grandparents' house rather than yours. Allowing these visit to happen, and for the rules to be different at the grandparents' house, can help your parents or in-laws feel special while you maintain your authority on the home front. But it also might spell the need for a transition when your kids get home. Circle of Moms member Elfrieda warns that kids often come home cranky after time with their grandparents: "It's normal for a child to be on really good behavior while at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and then collapse into a whiny mess for half a day or so when he comes home." She says a kid will snap out of it within a day or so if you "stick to the boundaries and show him some extra loving when he gets home."
Deciding Where Not to Compromise
Circle of Moms member Lorrom shares this story about her 3-year-old daughter's visit with her grandma: “I found my girl with a water bottle in her hands with the cap in her mouth! (Just heard on the news a year ago [about a] child that died because of that!). Of course, grandma admitted that she gave her the bottle.” As Lorrom and many other Circle of Moms member agree, you won't feel good about leaving your kids with their grandparents until you're sure that they are adequately monitoring your children's safety. Two safety concerns that members say the grandparents commonly don't share are the dangers of second-hand smoke and the need for kids to use car seats.
Kathy K. says she has to remind her mother-in-law about the risks of smoking around children of any age: “We've told her the risks (SIDS, ear infections etc.), but she seems to think that because she's been a mom she knows everything.” Shannen, mom to a 3-year-old, has had a similar problem: after she found her daughter emulating grandma and grandpa’s smoking habit by picking up “anything that is long like a cigarette and pretending to smoke it,” she looked to other Circle of Moms members for advice.
Here’s what Allison C. had to say: “…if it were me I would actually tell them they cannot see their grandchild if they continue to smoke around her. YOU are the mom, and have the right to protect your child however you need to, even if it means hurting their feelings. I think you can feel very confident that you are making the right decision, because smoking is clearly bad for kids, no debate there. And like you said, it sends a REALLY bad message to her.”
Use Car Seats
Another area where grandparents may need a refresher course is car seats. It’s a good idea to go over the proper use, whether your preschooler is in a 5-point-harness seat or booster seat. If grandma shrugs off the need for car seats, Circle of Moms member Catherine advises, “Tell her that, aside from safety issues, there are huge fines for being caught with a child improperly restrained.”
When it comes to safety and other rules you feel strongly about, Circle of Moms members have some great suggestions on standing your ground. There are many general ways to respectfully assert that you are the parent and that they need to respect your wishes. As Tameka D. suggests, “Tell her… ‘You have had a turn at being a Mom, now it is my turn to be a Mom and I choose to parent this way.’ Say it nicely and with a smile on your face. She can't argue with that!”Still, some grandparents try. Here are some tips for diplomatically pushing back:
Invoke the Authority of Your Pediatrician
When it’s hard to tell the good advice from the bad, or when your parents or in-laws just won't listen to you, it can’t hurt to ask your pediatrician. Presenting your pediatrician’s advice on the dangers of second-hand smoke, for instance, can validate the serious nature of the issue, as Circle of Moms member Allison C. suggests. Advice from medical professionals, or articles from parenting magazines and websites can also sometimes serve as the ammunition you need to refute bad advice.
Don't Let Your Kids Overhear Your Arguments
By the age of three, kids are listening — and understanding — even when you think they're not! Circle of Moms members agree that you have to be more careful than ever about what you say to grandma in their presence, and vice versa. Kathy S., a Circle of Moms member who can offer the perspective of both a mom and a grandma, says: "...my mom was always commenting about my parenting practices, generally in front of the kids... I'm a grandmother myself now, and remembering how cranky I used to get with my mom. I make great efforts to keep my mouth shut when I'm visiting my daughter's family." Another mom, JuLeah W., recognizes the impact of tension between mom and grandma on her kids: "Kids pick up on our feelings. If we are agitated, they are often agitated too."
It's a good idea to have a sit down with your parents or in-laws without the kids around — and stick to the policy of no criticizing from either side when your child is present.
Present a United Front with Your Partner
These conversations can be even more difficult when it’s your in-laws rather than your own mom or dad. Once you and your partner have a unified stance (very important!), Circle of Moms member Alyson P. says that it's often easier to let him do the talking: “If possible, the other thing that I have done is to make my husband talk to his parents as well. I have always had to battle with my mother-in-law and I have found that when they realized that my husband and I were a united front, it helped.”
What issues have you faced with your child's grandparents, and how did you resolve them?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.