Even before your child was born, you may have experienced the problem of grandparents who seem to consistently disrespect their boundaries. The situation can become even more difficult when it is your in-laws who are trespassing on your parental privileges. Here are some tips on how to gently, but firmly handle grandparents who have crossed the line into your parenting territory.
Have a discussion with your partner to define grandparents’ boundaries
First, you need to have a discussion with your partner to ensure you are in agreement regarding the boundaries set for grandparents. This is a discussion to have in private, without the kids around, well before meeting with grandparents to communicate the boundaries you wish them to respect. It is hard to fault grandparents for crossing boundaries if the boundaries are not consistent.
Keep any discussions about grandparents’ boundaries respectful
When discussing parenting decisions, you expect the grandparents to respect and not overturn on a whim, do so in a calm, respectful manner without your kids present. Especially for new parents, it can feel like parents and in-laws are constantly bombarding you with unsolicited parenting advice, critical comments or requests that cross the boundaries you are trying to set for them. Keep in mind that for the most part, the grandparents are just excited about their new role and want to help in any way they can. Stand your ground and diplomatically explain that while you appreciate their input, your decision has been made.
This type of discussion can become emotional but with some diplomacy, you can keep it from becoming hostile. If you are politely rejecting unsolicited, outdated parenting advice, bring the grandparents up to speed by sharing the new research that backs up your parenting decision. When breaking the news that you have rejected a request the grandparents made because it crosses the boundaries you have set, firmly state that your decision is final but also find an alternative way the grandparents can contribute. For example, if it seems your mother-in-law is wanting to stop by daily and see the kids, set up a family tradition of meeting for dinner every weekend instead. Your goal is to gently remind the grandparents that you are making the parenting decisions for your child and it is not their right to try to overturn them.
Sometimes, diplomacy with in-laws fails and you may find yourself being a topic of discussions held behind your back. Ask your partner to address this issue by reminding the grandparents that this type of hostile behavior is a poor example for the grandkids.
Severing ties with disrespectful grandparents should only be a last resort
Completely severing ties with disrespectful grandparents should only be done in cases where there is a danger to your child’s physical or emotional well-being. You do not want to send your child the message that it is OK to completely cut connections with family members without a serious reason. Also, kids benefit from a healthy relationship with grandparents and you don’t want to destroy this relationship over a trivial disagreement. If you do have to sever the relationship with a grandparent, carefully plan how to explain to your child why you had to do so. You may even want to seek the advice of a family counselor on how to handle this delicate situation.