The 5-Step Guide to Setting Boundaries With Grandparents

The bond between a grandchild and a grandparent is so very, very special. If I had a nickel every time my 18-month-old daughter leapt into my mother's arms before mine . . . well, let's just say I might actually be able to afford her college tuition. While the excitement of a newborn may cause some grandparents to spin into a tizzy and "forget" about your very clear and concise instructions when care-taking your child, (I said, "no sugar after dinner," mom!), it doesn't make it OK.

We all know that setting boundaries with our children might pose challenges, but nothing prepares a new parent for telling their own parent "no!" This 5-step guide will help you implement boundaries, establish a healthy dynamic, and cultivate the special relationship between your child and their grandparents (with your free babysitting perks — and sanity — still intact!)

  1. Put yourself in their shoes. Chances are your parents and partner's parents have been hoping, wishing, and praying for a grandchild before you even started trying for a baby. And why wouldn't they? A grandchild is the universe's way of granting them a second chance at reliving the best years of their youth — nurturing, loving, and cultivating you! Garnering compassion for their experience will take the sting out of their snubs and help you communicate your requests more effectively.
  2. Express gratitude. Remember that stressful week (which one?) that you and your partner were in dire need of a dinner for two or epic sleep-in? Remember when your parents offered to take the baby for the night and all of your married life wishes came true? In the heat of the moment, it's easy to forget the countless ways that grandparents save the day. Acknowledge and express gratitude for the big and small ways that they enable you to enjoy the best parts of parenthood, before you address the outlandish gift they bought your child (that you specifically told them not to).
  3. Keep your requests simple. If you make everything important, nothing is important. Work with your partner to discover your nonnegotiable requests and express them to all grandparents clearly, concisely, and often (and when necessary, write them down)! The simpler the requests, the simpler they are to abide.
  4. When a boundary is crossed, address it. This can be the most uncomfortable step of all. When a boundary is crossed, it's imperative that you address the one specific boundary (and forget the many past offenses), use "I" statements to express how violating your boundary made you feel, and repeat step three by expressing a clear and concise request moving forward. Lastly, like you would with your own child, have a plan in place should the boundary be crossed again. Not all boundary violations deserve a "time-out," but all boundary violations deserve to be addressed, realigned, and rectified.
  5. Maintain your boundary. The essence of setting boundaries is to teach people how to treat you. Therefore, you can't set a boundary with someone and take care of them at the same time. Be mindful that once you implement a clear boundary, you will (probably) receive a barrage of push back. Guilt and entitlement are grandparent favorites! Don't allow these tactics to sway your decision or alter your behavior, no matter how grandchild happy they might get. Honor your space, speak your truth — the rest is up to them!