When your parents disagree with you on how to raise your children

What you need to know:

It takes a village to raise a child. Grandparents share wisdom, experience and love. They are part of the family social system. But if their involvement undermines your parenting, do something to correct the situation.

Bridgette and her husband Paul, are disturbed. Whenever Paul’s parents visit, they seem to take over the parenting of their grandchildren. Bridgette does not want to interrupt her in-laws and thinks time between grandparents and their grandchildren is important, but at the same time, she feels their parenting style is so much different from theirs.

There have been moments of tension. She does not want a confrontation, but as time goes on, it is most likely to happen.

Bridgette and Paul are not alone. Statistics from elsewhere show that almost half of the parents have had a conflict with grandparents over parenting style and the major disagreement revolves around discipline.   

Grandparents are needed in raising children, after all it takes a village to raise a child. They share their wisdom, experience and love. A relationship between parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren, is enriching. They are part of the social system by which we support the family. But if their involvement undermines your parenting, then something should be done to correct the situation, and here is how: 

Communicate your boundaries

You have established boundaries with your children, but your parents do not know about them. To avoid friction, you may want to communicate with them. For instance, you may not want your children to eat certain foods, may be because they are allergic to them or not good for their health.

“My autistic son is allergic to sodas but my father-in-law will buy him all tribes of sodas. It is even more frustrating when I try to involve my husband in the conversation to confront his father and he is unwilling.” says Brenda.

Your children’s rules on things such as bed and screen time should be communicated to your parents simply, gently and calmly. You may say, “Here, the children go to bed at 8pm. We would appreciate it if we all helped them do that because it is what they are used to.” 

They mean well for your children

Your parents want to be involved in your children’s lives and though they may want to do things for them that you might not approve of, always remember they mean well for your children. They are their grandchildren. In the future, you will be where they are. Your children will grow up, leave your home and have children of their own. So cut them some slack and let them be grandparents. Listen to them and get their perspective.

They can be right. Doris, a mother of one says; “I always did not like my father growing up. He was very hard on me we had a bad relationship. Now that I have my daughter, I am tempted to want him away from her, but I remember that I will be in the same place when Daisy grows up. I am careful not to detach her from him. He seems so caring of her than he was to me. And maybe, just maybe, it might be his way of apologising to me.”  

Ignore minor issues but respectfully

You do not want to go head to head with your parents. Some things are not worth fighting over and certainly, you do not want to stress them. Some of their advice may not apply to your children because it is of a different parenting generation. For instance, Alice says she does not spank her children. She is convinced it teaches children that issues can only be resolved through violence.

Her mother, on the other hand, raised her by spanking and thinks her daughter should spank her kids too. “I hated being spanked for the flimsiest of reasons. I do not want anyone to spank my children. My mother thinks spanking is great because she reads it in her Bible. She even says I turned out right by spanking. How absurd! When my children err and she suggests I spank them,” says Alice.

Provide support

In cases where children are delegated to the care of the grandparents as primary caregivers for some reason, for some time, grandparents need to be delegated full authority. Some people will tell you that their life was positively influenced by their grandparents. The parent in this case might want to give grandparents the space to raise the children, with minimum interference, unless the situation is so toxic that parents might want to consider a withdrawal of the children.

Pamela and Daniel say, “We had no jobs in town, so we sent our children to their grandparents in the village. We trusted them to take care of them. Of course, our children would complain about the tough treatment, but I was raised by him and I know they will not die. I do not want to interfere with them in what they are doing.”  

Be on the same page with your spouse

If you are disjointed as a couple, your parents might know it and they may take sides with you or your spouse. This comes naturally but it is not healthy. Let us say that one of you is attached to their parents and wants them to stay longer with you and another does not think it is a good idea. Talk about it, agree in private and then communicate your joint decision to your grandparents, without making them feel they are a problem.    

Criticise not your parents publically

Keep your communication with your parents respectful regardless of what they do or say, more importantly, when the children are around. Talk to them in private, if there is a disagreement. Never criticise them publicly. It is humiliating.

If all else fails and you are dealing with a major non-negotiable factor, you may have no choice but to butt in and limit their interactions. “My two teenage sons love to spend time with their grandpa.

He is a great conversationalist, but a great liar too. Lying is a deal breaker for me. No matter how hard I try to get them away from him, they seem to like listening to the stories. I have been forced to limit their interactions, otherwise they might learn his ways.”

After all that is said and done, parents have the primary authority to raise their children. They have the primary authority to choose what is best for them.  They should take the lead and make it happen.