Every parent goes from being a "newbie"—inexperienced and unsure of one's parenting abilities—to less anxious and more sure-footed as the kids grow older and parenting skills become more second nature. But as your confidence grows, so might your divergence from your in-laws' (or your own parents') ideas about parenting. So when the grandparents don't follow the rules you've established, consider the following:
Clarify which rules are set in stone and which can be modified as needed. If your child must not have a certain food because of medical reasons, make sure the grandparent understands that "just a little bit of peanut butter" can be disastrous. Other rules, such as bedtimes, snack times, amount of television or video game time, might be a judgment call.
Don't automatically equate lack of following your rules with lack of respect for you. Every parent makes rules and every parent modifies the rules spontaneously once in awhile. ("OK, you can talk online to your friend for another 15 minutes, but then you have to do your homework.") A good parent isn't rigid but uses discretion. Perhaps a grandparent who didn't follow your child-care rules was simply using discretion. Give the benefit of the doubt whenever reasonable to explain a grandparent's decision more favorably. If the grandparent changed a rule similarly to the way you might have changed it had you been in charge, be flexible with the grandparent, too.
Whenever possible, have your spouse speak to your in-laws when you have a complaint. When your spouse's parents are going against your wishes, it is important that your spouse be the assertive one. You can speak up, too, but if you are always the one to do so, it suggests that your partner is trying to keep the peace by staying out of it, and you will appear to be the inflexible one.
Allow grandparents to "spoil" the grandkids. Perhaps "enjoy" is a better word. It is wonderful when a child and grandparent have fun together. If a grandparent gives a child extra time or extra gifts or extra treats, it can actually make it easier for a child to tolerate not having those things at home as often. A 10-year-old who knows he can stay up late at Grandma's may be more willing to go to bed on time at home.
Praise grandparents whenever possible. On average, every grandparent is doing his or her best and needs praise when things go right—and understanding if they don't. If you like some of their child-rearing ideas, then say so. Even if you have some misgivings, saying, "That sounds interesting, let me think about that," can be a pleasant way to avoid an unwanted debate.
Try to figure out why it bothers you when the grandparents don't follow your rules. Are you feeling insecure about your parenting skill? (That's a very common feeling to have, since parenting is the most important job we'll ever do, and the training manuals don't even agree on the best strategies.) When someone else doesn't agree with your rules, you might get upset because you really fear you may be doing something wrong. Or are you angry with your in-laws for other reasons, and it's showing up in your views about their caretaking skills? Addressing the real problem is necessary.
Be firm when you have to be. Yes, grandparents deserve respect and flexibility but you are the child's parent, and you have a right to insist that rules be followed. A well-meaning grandparent is usually willing to follow your rules, even rules that he or she may feel are arbitrary or a bit too lenient (or too strict). It's helpful to explain your reasons—not because you have to justify them, but in hopes that the grandparent will say, "Oh, now I understand why that rule is so important." And keep in mind: If a grandparent seems consistently defiant or always questions your judgment, "Because I said so" is appropriate.
Try not to micro-manage. Every child's caretaker must make many decisions in an average day. The more you micromanage or second-guess another caretaker's decisions, the less faith you will have that anyone can properly care for your child.
There is no need for parents and grandparents to be on the same page with every aspect of childrearing. Children learn very easily what to expect from one person compared to another. (A child who can be a handful at home can easily be "an angel" in school.)
A child can learn to instantly behave with one person, even while just-as-instantly giving another a harder time. It's all just part of the "fun" of parenting.report abuse