How Parents, Grandparents Can Work Together
By Rupal Patel
Raising a child is a difficult task that can bring a family together—and just as easily reveal rifts. Suddenly, differences of opinion can lead to squabbles, particularly between parents and their own parents. Grandparents can be a special and unique fixture in children’s lives, but the relationship is not always easy to manage. Many parents complain about their in-laws or parents:
“My in-laws are at her beck and call and get her everything she wants,” some parents complain. “She will turn into a spoilt brat.”
Or the other extreme: “Grandparents nowadays are just in their own world,” others say. “None of them volunteer to help with the baby. It is so difficult for us to manage all alone.”
Grandparents, for their part, sometimes take issue with the parents’ parenting style, which they find either too rigid or too lax. Others simply feel they have more experience and therefore know better.
Each side thinks it is right, and each side wants its way. But in this a war of wills, there are no winners. Maintaining harmony across generations is in the long-term best interests of every member of the family.
Dedicate grandparent time. Set aside time for your child to spend alone with her grandparents, so she can form her own special bond with her maternal and paternal grandparents. Don’t worry that it will reduce your own bond with your child; strong bonds with other adults will only increase your child’s treasury of adults who love her, which in turn only increases her sense of self-worth and security.
Work out a mutually acceptable schedule so it doesn’t come in the way of anyone’s daily routine; the bonding time will be more precious if everyone feels accommodated.
Don’t outlaw pampering. Remember, it is the grandparents’ prerogative to spoil their grandchildren. They followed all the rules and discipline with their kids—now it is your turn.
Pampering from grandparents will not adversely impact a child’s demeanor as long as you have forged your own strong bond with him. If your values are strongly ingrained and your discipline technique is consistent, those efforts won’t be undone by a little grandparental pampering.
Appreciate what grandparents can provide. A grandparent-grandchild bond is a very special one. Have gratitude that your child has other adults who love and care for her. Her relationship with her grandparents is much more time-bound than her relationship with you, which makes it uniquely special.
Demonstrate respect. Talking to and treating your parents and in-laws with the utmost respect is the best lesson you will give your children, who will respect you even more when they see your example. (Also, remember someday you are likely to be the grandparent, too.)
Our parents do have a storehouse of parenting experience that’s not completely obviated by our changing world and faster pace. They may not be up-to-date with the latest views, but respect them enough to listen to what they have to say, consider it with an open mind, and explain your point of view gently.
Understand grandparents have a life, too. Some grandparents may have a routine of their own, and may not be able or willing to drop everything and babysit your children. Some of them may enjoy doing it all the time, but do not berate the ones who have other interests. Let them live their life without any added expectations or responsibilities.
Discuss your role as a grandparent. Sit down and discuss with your children what part you should be playing in your grandchild’s life. Don’t run yourself down in an effort to keep up; be upfront about your health and other commitments and take on the right level of interaction and responsibility for your grandchild accordingly. Only when you take care of yourself – physically, mentally and emotionally – will you be able to give your best in every area of your life, including in the role of a grandparent.
Respect your children’s parenting style. Your children may be bringing up your grandchild in a manner different from yours. It could be a better way, or it may not be. Even it isn’t, let them learn from their mistakes. Guide them, support them and make suggestions—but don’t try to enforce your rules upon them.
Respect the decisions they make for their child, the routine they set, the values they choose to inculcate, and the discipline techniques they follow. For example, don’t get upset because your grandchild is not allowed to watch television while eating or because you feel he has too many play dates. Respect the way in which your children – the parents – want to raise their child. And likely, they will respect you more, too.
Maintain discipline. While it is your prerogative to spoil your grandchildren, that doesn’t mean intentionally overruling his parents’ boundaries. Follow their rules as much as possible. Remember, the parents are doing what they believe is best for your grandchild. If you disagree, make a gentle suggestion, but let the final decision rest with them.
Learn to let go. As children grow older, they become busier in their schoolwork, classes, and friends, and will have less time to be around you. Don’t blame the parents or berate your grandchildren for this natural progression, and avoid trying to convince them with emotional or guilt-laden talks. Instead, make the moments you have together as joyous and happy as possible, and they will willingly spend as much time with you as they can.
Parents and grandparents have a common cause: both love the child and want the best for him or her. When you keep that common goal in mind, and work toward it with unity and love in your hearts, small differences will fade away.