What Do You Do When Grandparents Think They’re the Parent?
Grandparents get stereotyped a lot. They might try to spoil your kids, bend the rules a bit, or offer them dessert before dinner. While some of those stereotypes are more realistic than others, having your parents or your partner’s parents involved in your kids’ lives can be great.
Unfortunately, some other common stereotypes associated with grandparents can cause tension within your family. While it’s often normal for grandparents to offer advice, there’s a fine line between helpful encouragement and overstepping boundaries. So, what do you do when grandparents start to think they’re the parent? How can you keep them from interfering and undermining the way you raise your kids?
Deal With it Immediately
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is letting grandparents “get away” with this behavior for months or even years. The minute a grandparent crosses over a boundary, talk to them about it. When you do, you’re likely to be calmer and less likely to be upset. If you let them try to control your parenting efforts for a long period of time without saying anything, your emotions will start to build up. You’ll become frustrated and might even end up resenting them. That can lead to a contentious relationship and strain within the family.
Give Them Rules and Boundaries
Some grandparents might offer too much advice or overstep their boundaries without realizing it’s a problem. Even if they’re doing it from a place of love, that doesn’t make it okay. It’s still important to give them clear rules and boundaries to remind them that you’re the parent. Boundaries don’t have to come across as “harsh” or rude in any way. Be kind but direct, and expect the grandparents to respect your wishes.
As you set up those boundaries, remember that you’re from two different generations. Don’t be so quick to dismiss all of their ideas. Rather, suggest newer ones that you’re more comfortable with, and don’t be afraid to explain why some of their ideas might be outdated. There will undoubtedly be some things you disagree on. At the end of the day, you’re the parent, and you make the rules for your child.
Be a United Front With Your Partner
Unfortunately, grandparents overstepping can often cause rifts in relationships. For example, if your partner’s parents are the ones causing issues, your partner might be more willing to be lenient or give in to their ideas than you are, and vice versa.
It’s essential to be a united front as parents. Remember that you’re on the same team. Before you talk to the grandparents, discuss your feelings with your partner and decide what’s best for your children, your relationship, and your family. You should never undermine your partner in front of their parents or your own, and you need to respect each other enough to compromise when it comes to grandparent issues.
Adjust With Consequences
Ideally, once you’ve spoken with your kids’ grandparents about any issues and you’ve put boundaries in place, things will get better. However, that isn’t always the case. If grandparents continue to overstep and act like they’re the parents, it might be time to adjust their involvement in your kids’ lives. That might include limited visitation or not allowing them to spend time alone with your kids until they’re willing to change their behaviors. It might seem extreme initially, but remember that they’re choosing to disrespect your boundaries. Until they’re willing to make a change, consequences must be implemented.
Again, grandparents can be a wonderful part of a child’s life. But their involvement shouldn’t overstep the rules you’ve established as parents. Keep these ideas in mind if you’ve been dealing with these problems in your family, and don’t be afraid to take control of the issue.
Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey , New York, and Pennsylvania via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.