Establishing boundaries with your child’s grandparents will make for happier relationships. By Lisa Witepski
Grandparents feel it’s their prerogative to spoil their grandchildren, but while a bit of indulgence is enjoyed by both sides, all too often it can feel as though your discipline is being undermined. How to address the issue without upsetting anyone? Follow these suggestions.
Don’t give hints
Because you don’t want to offend your mother (or, worse still your mother-in-law), you might feel that it’s easier to take a softer approach – say, talking about how dangerous it is to post pictures of kids on Facebook, when what you really mean is that you don’t want your child’s bikini shots – adorable as they are – plastered all over social media. But, giving hints doesn’t help anyone. She’ll probably fail to take your meaning and continue with the behaviour you want to end, starting a cycle of frustration and resentment on your part. Rather, be explicit about what you want or don’t want, and why.
Give them specific tasks
Grandparents reall want to help. The problem is that they often don’t know how. Add to this the fact that you probably have your own way of doings things like, say, the bath, and it’s often different to theirs; and it’s easy to see why their attempts to lend a hand can feel more like a hassle than anything else. The answer? Tell them what to do. If you are happy to do the bath routine but need a little time out afterwards, ask for them to read the bedtime story. Or ask if they can take the baby for a walk while you get some work done. That way, you’ll get some help where you actually need it, and they’ll feel like they are giving valuable input – and you’ll both get to avoid the power struggles.
Relax a little
The fact that you’re still alive, have a job and managed to produce a healthy baby is testimony to your parents’ skills. Yes, parenting techniques have changed since you were a kid, but they still know what they’re doing. And if they allow your little one to watch TV or eat more sweets than you’d like – ask yourself if this isn’t, perhaps, outweighed by the security and pleasure she derives from spending time with people who love and cherish her.
Remember that your parents have no idea of the challenges faced by our generation – they were able to leave their work at the office, they weren’t engaged in an ongoing battle with savvy marketers, and the smartest thing their cell phones could do was take a picture. Talk to them about why you’ve made certain decisions; explain what’s going on in your family; be honest about your fears. But listen, too: your parents have accumulated years of wisdom, so don’t immediately discard their advice as irrelevant and out of date.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.