It can be infuriating to watch your parents or your in-laws undo weeks of discipline in a single afternoon. It can be torture to listen to them criticize your parenting, back up your children in their pleas for whatever they want today. But your children don’t see it that way – they see the unconditional love they need from their grandparents.
“A little snack won’t hurt,” your mother-in-law says, as she feeds your son a few cookies over your objections. Of course, when that same child refuses dinner not an hour later, she shakes her head and says something about not teaching your children proper nutrition.Your tween’s backtalk reaches new heights, and after several warnings, you forbid her from attending the big weekend bash. But now you have to listen to your parents tut-tutting that they never gave you such harsh punishments. (Funny, but you remember your childhood as a little less rosy.)
Let go of the little things
It is incredibly difficult to do, but make every effort to let go of the little things, like the cookies before dinner and the lecture that follows. Unless there’s a medical reason for intervention, let the grandparents spoil the kids a little. They’ve waited a long time for the opportunity, and it gives them great joy.More importantly, however, those cookies you’d love to smash to smithereens make your kids feel loved. They’re not just cookies, they’re a sign that Grandma is visiting, that a few of the rules are relaxed ever so slightly, that this is a significant moment in life. Think back to your own childhood. Did your grandfather ever open his wallet and let you scoop out his loose change? Kids need those experiences and the memories and they create.
Know your own worth
Before a visit with the grandparents, make sure that you and your spouse are on the same side. Just remember that you chose each other, and the whole extended family was included as part of the deal. Resolve to back each other up when necessary.When the criticisms begin — and they almost certainly will — tell yourself what you tell your kids: it doesn’t matter what people say. As long as they aren’t saying anything that will actually damage you, your children, or your family relationships, pay no attention. As hard as it may be, keep a smile on your face (and a glass of wine in your hand, if you need it). You know what’s true, and your kids know who makes the rules that really matter.You’ll also find an interesting phenomenon: Your kids think they can criticize you, but they become surprisingly defensive when someone else does it. So you may hear them standing up for you when you least expect it.
Turn the tables
Want to see a totally different side of the grandparents? Ask for their help or advice. Seriously. Start with something simple like, “I’ve never been able to roast a chicken the way you do. What am I doing wrong?” You can work your way up to, “I can’t get Junior to listen to me. What do you think I should do?” The beauty is that you only have to take the advice for a few days, and it may make the entire visit run more smoothly.Speaking of timing, that’s an important part of any visit: an end date. You can bear just about anything for a limited amount of time, right? So make a little calendar and cross off the days if that’s what you need to do. You can get through it, and your kids will eventually thank you for it. Or they’ll make their own calendars when you come to visit.
Tell us: Do you let the grandparents spoil your children? Comment below!