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How do you handle overbearing grandparents?

Grandmas and grandpas are treasures in a child’s life, but when they become a little too involved or judge their own child’s parenting, it can be extremely hard to handle. How can you tell Grandma to back off without hurting your relationship?

Grandmother with granddaughter

Does your mom — or mother-in-law — speak a little too freely about your parenting skills, or make passive-aggressive suggestions in your presence?

While you want your child to have his grandparents in his life, you don’t necessarily need someone second-guessing your decisions or undermining your authority. What’s a mom to do?

Does this sound familiar?

Have you ever heard something like this from your parents or in-laws?

  • Don’t you think he should be eating baby food by now?
  • Are you going to wean him soon?
  • Here, kiddo, I’ll give you the ice cream.
  • Hey Mom, why can’t she ____ ____?
  • I don’t care if he’s crying, I can hold him anyway.

These are all examples of grandparents tiptoeing over the line between parent and grandparent. Mom and Dad set the rules and boundaries by which they raise their children, but it can be hard for Grandma or Grandpa to recognize that their own kids are now the in-charge party of their own family.

Is it really a problem?

Some folks feel that a loving and attentive grandparent is far better than a cold and uncaring one. This is absolutely true, but while Grandma and Grandpa have your children’s best interests at heart, if they undermine your parenting, it can create tension and ill-will between you both. Is there a solution that will help you get the space you need, while letting Grandma know she’s still loved and appreciated?

Pick your battles

You might decide to let some things slide while taking no prisoners in some areas. Does Grandma want to take the baby out in an expired or improperly installed car seat, or feed a young baby ice cream behind your back? These things you can’t compromise on, but when your child is older, if she wants to spoil your child with a few sweets while visiting, then you might give in.

Set the rules

Another thing to keep in mind is setting the rules well in advance of any potential issues. “Parameters must be set and adhered to,” suggests Shirlee Smith, founder of Talk about Parenting. “Often young parents trade their parental vision in order to remain in good graces with the grandparents and the financial rewards that come with them. Parents must stand their ground.”

Communicate clearly

It can take some bravery, but if you feel a grandparent is undermining your parental authority, you should speak up. You don’t need to appear abrasive or mean to get your point across, but at the same time, don’t waffle or sound indecisive. “We prefer to parent this way,” you can say (using, of course, situation-specific terms). Marie Dubuque, certified life coach and writer, advises, “When Grandma starts in with, ‘Well in my day I… ’ you can counter by saying, ‘That is a good idea, but… ’ and go on to explain why you do it your way. So, you are acknowledging her point of view, but you are not giving into it either.”

It can be hard to balance the issues overbearing grandparenting brings to your family, but as long as you make a genuine effort to understand where they are coming from and assert your own point of view, it can make your relationship more peaceful and respectful.

More on grandparenting

Growing trend: Grandparents raising children
120 Top nicknames for grandparents
4 Ways for kids to bond with grandparents

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