Grandparents are a true blessing but sometimes, whether they mean to or not, they can cause a little trouble for us mommies (and dads too). That's the gift of being a grandparent: you can make mistakes and no one holds you accountable for the most part, plus you get to hand the kids back. Here are a few ways that our most loved and sometimes most contentious grandparents can sabotage the hard work of parents everywhere, and how to handle the grandparent debacle!
The Sweet-Toothed Grandparent
They can't help themselves. Well, sort of. Grandparents enjoy doting on the littles because now they don't have to do the hard work of parenting. Still, it can be infuriating to pick up your child right before dinner only to find out that, lo and behold, Grandpa has given your darling a doughnut, "just because."
Before you get too steamed, know that it's fun to spoil someone you love when you don't have to reap the consequences of said spoiling. Grandpa might not realize it's too close to dinnertime for a doughnut, or if he did realize he might figure a little doughnut can't hurt, although we moms know all too well that a little donut is a big deal right before the dinner hour.
What You Can Do:
If you know Grandpa can't resist handing out treats to your little one, bring treats that you approve for him to hand out as he wishes. This way, perhaps you can trade that doughnut or cupcake in for a lollipop, which is not as much of an appetite-killer as a doughnut!
Another option? Ask Grandpa to halve his sweets before giving to the kids. Explain that you understand his need to "feed," so to speak, but that he's hurting your child's dinner time appetite, which means he's going to bed hungry, and what Grandpa wants to hear that his grandkid is going to bed on just a measly doughnut?
When in Grandma or Pop-Pop's care, do they tend to poo-poo junior's bad actions or, on the flip side, take on an aggressive discipline approach? This is a tough topic to broach with grandparents. For the grandparents who laugh off your kiddo's bad choices, keep in mind that they may simply feel uncomfortable laying down the law with your child because they're not his or her parents. They want to be the good guys and be loved by your kid.
What to Do:
If Gran and Gramps can't lay down the law when caring for your kids, ask them to simply give the warning that all consequences will be given out upon your or the other parent's return, that way kids know a consequence is coming and will be delivered, but Gran and Gramps are free of being the bad guy.
If you can convince the grandparents to lay down the law, it would be better. Perhaps ask them to stick to short-term consequences such as time-outs — and then in situations when your kid really acts out, allow them to warn that a further consequence will be handed out upon your return.
The overly-aggressive grandparent may simply be the mark of personality or generation. Our generation is not resorting to spanking the way my parents' generation did. You may find that your child's grandparent resorts to yelling or threats of spanking when caring for your kid. This is not an appropriate action by a grandparent (or any parent in my opinion), although . . . we all yell sometimes.
You're going to have to be the tough guy and tell the grandparents that there is to be no spanking, no threats of spanking, and no yelling allowed (although a yell here and there is acceptably human). State that you understand how sometimes people yell — it happens — but that you would like them to try to control or modify the amount of yelling and especially the words they're using in regards to discipline. Be sure to emphasize that hitting, spanking, or threats of either are not acceptable, and if it continues you may not allow them to babysit or have alone time anymore.
The fact is that these methods of discipline may seem innocent or appropriate or not harmful to them because that's what they were raised with. Keep this in mind when approaching them and explain that while you understand that they turned out beautiful and great kids, that you and your partner are trying a different approach in parenting with your kids, and you hope they will respect your wishes.
Respectfully address them. Acknowledge generational differences. Keep communication open.
Does Poppy occasionally tell your kids horror stories about the time you did X, Y, and Z, and X, Y, and Z are embarrassing or bad deeds you want no one else to know, especially your kids?
What to Do:
Well, chances are Poppy thinks those little "stories" are funny or he might just have a tendency to spill his guts . . . or he wants to get you back for all the times you worried him to death. Whatever the reason, it's most likely not with malicious intent that he's telling your kids about how you used to make out with your boy band posters as practice for the real deal. Still, you want Poppy to shush it, so here's how to make that happen:
The next time Poppy reveals another grand old story about you, you can tell a silly one about him if you want to fight fire with fire. However, this could become a challenging game for him on who can out-embarrass the other one first.
The most adult thing to do would be to sit him down and explain how, while you know he must mean no harm by his storytelling, it is hurting you and making you look like less of a respectable authority figure in front of your kids. Would he have wanted someone to do that to him? Most likely he will say no and need firm reminders to not spill his guts now and then.
The Grandparent Parent
If you live with your children's grandparents, expect them to be a surrogate parent of sorts, especially if they help with everyday care of your child. Occasionally, though, Grandmother may try to run the show more than you would like her to. Understand first that in many ways, Grandmother is given parental responsibilities and therefore most likely has a good opinion and knowledge of how your child is and what works with him or her. However, you are the mom first and foremost. How do you tell her when she should back off and when she shouldn't?
What To Do:
First, thank Grandmother for being so helpful and involved in the rearing of your kids. Acknowledge that she does more than the typical grandmother and that you are fortunate for her help. Second, consider her opinion. Is she right? Might she be adding two very worthy cents into the pile regarding the rearing of your kid? Third, if you decide she needs to butt out or silence her two cents, tell her nicely that you understand her role as a grandparent may be larger than most but that at the end of the day, you're the mother and you call the shots. If you find Grandmother does not respect your wishes ever, you may have to consider your living arrangement or simply require her to do less in order to have less to "owe" her, so to speak, as well as remind her that it's best for her to let the parent be in charge.
Extra tip? Have an open conversation with Grandmother about the areas in which you feel her opinion may be warranted — such as mealtime behavior or bedtime routines — or where her opinion is not warranted — such as religious practices, etc. Again, this all depends on each individual family and what you need or don't need as a mother.
Be sure during this conversation to ask Grandmother the topics on which she feels she should put her two cents in and also how she would like her role as grandparent and "co-parent" to proceed. Perhaps she doesn't want any responsibility at all. Perhaps she feels taken advantage of. You never know.
Lastly, remind her of what a good job she did with you or your partner depending on whose mother she is, and tell her to have faith in what you two are deciding to do in order to raise your children as you see fit.
Keep in mind that one day you will be a grandparent and will cherish and want time with your grandchildren as well. Try to be generous, loving, and grateful for the fact that your children have active grandparents. As a woman who grew up with no living grandparents, I wish so badly that I could have known them and had time with them. Don't sabotage your children's chances to enjoy time with grandparents who love them even if grandparents sometimes make bad or silly choices, as long as they're not hurtful.