- Family and Parenting
Parents vs. Grandparents Who is the winner?
How much control do you allow your parents to have over your child?
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs you'll ever love, we have all heard the old saying One of the most difficult parts may very well agreeing upon child rearing with other family members. Practices regarding child rearing and day to day life with baby are never easy whether you are making them alone, with a spouse or in the midst of extended family. Studies confirm melding parenting styles may be one of the most important aspects of maintaining a good relationship in your marriage. So what happens if the grandparents are involved, as well, and worse yet if they are less than supportive.
A parent's view
As a young single mother over 20 years ago I found myself in the midst of this issue. I relied on my mother for the occasional advice, babysitting,and from time to time even money while attending college. I never realized at the time the trouble I was setting myself up for further problems down the road. At the time I only saw the benefits in terms of the extra help I so desperately needed. Later on when I had my feet under me I found I was caught in a battle with my own mother that lasted almost to the day she died. My mother began to see herself as not only my mother but as a surrogate mother to my child, worse yet it seemed that nothing I did was ever good enough in her eyes. For years we competed for dominance over my child. I desperately wanted to please my mother and make her proud of me. I loved my son with a fierceness that had no bounds but I admit there were times I resented them both.First my mother for loving my child more than me and then my child for making feel as if I was competing with him for her approval. I felt that my mother was over involved and hyper-critical. Later when I married the tug-o-war continued and increased. By this time my mother's influence with my child was set in stone and now it was not only a fight between her and me but a fight between her and my husband. Issues also arose because of the obvious favor my mother showed to my eldest son and not to my other children. It was a never ending constant source of trouble and turmoil in all our relationships and one that we never found an amicable solution too.
A grandparent's view
Well, time marches on and now I am the grandparent of two beautiful girls, I now see the issue from the other end of the spectrum. The situation is a little different with me , my son was married for some time before the first precious baby came along but … I am able to see the issues between me and my own mother differently now. As a grandparent it is easy to step in and pick up the slack, especially at first when you see them struggling as all young parents do. You want to help your child and you want to pass on the wisdom of your many years of parenting expertise. It is also very hard sometimes to say something or anything to a worried hypersensitive child that doesn't sound critical, even if that is not how you meant it. Throw in a few in-laws, or a holiday dinner or two and the situation can spin out of control faster than a two year old can find a cookie jar.
Now to the real victim of this war, the child. It is easy to forget sometimes in the war of generations that there is one person in the middle. Children caught between a grandparent and parent quickly catch on to the dysfunction no matter how much effort is put forth to cover it. The child may react in a number of ways by siding with one family member over the other or by playing one end against the middle. Either way this gives too much power and responsibility to a child in a bad situation and makes them a pawn in the battle waging between the most important people in his or her life. As in my case there may also be differences between how grandparents react to other children thus setting siblings against each other and catching them up in the situation as well.
My best advice is to keep communications as open as possible. For the mom's dealing with the hyper-critical over-involved grandmother set down clear boundaries. Make sure grandma and grandpa know that you love them and you appreciate their concern but this is your child and you need to be the parent. If necessary point out how difficult it is for your child to receive conflicting messages and how much you appreciate their support but in the end it is your decision. If you are the grandparent in the situation I would suggest to tread lightly. Unless the grandchild is in danger, be supportive, be loving and then SHUT UP! Also let your child parent their child, in fact make them, don't rush to bail them out with free babysitting or money.No matter how difficult bite the bullet and let them grow up and be the parent. You may love your grandchildren with all your heart but don't forget to love your child, as well.
Lastly pick your battles. Not every issue has to become a battle with harsh words and hurt feelings. Parents forgive grandma that cookie before supper, Grandparents stay out of the time outs, bed times, and groundings battles. Everyone does things a little different and we all need to love each other because of and in spite of those differences.