QUESTION: Our two pre-teen boys are going to my in-laws’ house for a vacation and grandma and grandpa spoil them rotten. They let them do things we don’t allow in our home. How do I get the grandparents on board with our parenting style?
BBB: There are so many considerations when it comes to parents, grandparents and grandchildren. It can be a real sticky wicket.
Some years ago I offered a two-part seminar on the subject called “In Laws and Out Laws.” One part of the seminar was for the adult children (now the parents). The other was for the parents (now the grandparents). And guess what?
The seminar for the now-adult parents about their parents (the grandparents) was filled to the brim. The one for grandparents was poorly attended. The reason for that says it all.
We grandparents think we know what we’re doing. After all, we did raise kids, didn’t we? We don’t need our kids to tell us what to do! (Note sarcasm.)
As I said, this is tricky territory. Not all grandparents are the same.
Rest assured, your kids will not become spoiled children because they were indulged by their grandparents. They may temporarily behave in lazy ways or have crazy expectations, but soon enough, upon their return, you will set them straight. They will come back down to earth.
What I can promise you is that children learn best and most from their parents, the people who raise them day to day to day. Their belief systems grow from all the time they spend with you, absorbing your expectations, attitudes, ideas, ethics, morals and values.
While you may fear that your children will become spoiled by your parents, only you can truly make that happen. And clearly, you will not.
There is so much that children gain from being with grandparents that it would be a pity to taint that relationship in any way by muddying the waters. The question is should you say anything, and if so, what do you say to the grandparents?
Of course that is up to you, but I am doubtful that your parents are going to change, regardless of what you say. You know the expression about teaching old dogs new tricks?
If, however, you must say something, I suggest that you simply point out the obvious and add no judgment.
“The kids love spending time with you. In your home they are allowed to do things we don’t allow here at our home. And I just want you to know that it’s a real chore getting them back on track when they return.”
Leave it at that…if you are able. Your parents will either get it or they won’t.
You know that your parents love your children. Unfortunately, many grandparents suffer from the misguided notion that their love is best expressed by giving their grandchildren permissions and stuff.
You can ask, suggest, beg, plead, but some truly believe that their grandkids will love them more, the more they give and allow.
How I wish all grandparents knew that it is just not true!
What is also not true is the expression “It’s a grandparent’s prerogative.”
That is pure bologna! Grandparents certainly have a right to be included in the grandchildren’s lives, but beyond that, the wise grandparent follows the parents’ lead. The grandparent’s prerogative is to allow her adult children to raise their own children in the way they choose, whether or not grandma agrees.
It is the best way to respect your children, keep the peace between you and maintain regular access to the grandchildren.
Now wouldn’t it be great if all grandparents felt that way? Dream on and keep the peace.
Betsy Brown Braun, M.A. is a Child Development and Behavior Specialist (infants to teens), a Parent Educator and Multiple Birth Parenting Specialist. Betsy consults with parents privately, runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers and other professionals. She is the author of the bestselling “Just Tell Me What to Say” and has been featured on the “Today Show.” Betsy and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have five grandchildren, so far. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at betsybrownbraun.com. To submit your parenting questions, email email@example.com.