Thursday, December 29, 2005

Prepping for Grandma Problems

Let's face it. You probably have the same problems with your parents as grandparents that you noticed about them as children. My mother is like that. I love her, but there are things that drove me nuts when I was a child. For example, she would tell me (actually she would call me after I had graduated from college and moved far away) that I needed to wear a jacket in cold weather. It was frustrating that she thought she needed to tell me that. Now, she does that with my son. She will call and ask if he is wearing socks, or if I mention having gone out, she will ask if I put a jacket on him. I want to say that I just took him in a diaper, but I do not. I know that she has our best interest at heart.

If you are like me, you probably have those issues, too. It may not be the same issue, but there are things that probably drive you crazy about your mother, or more likely your mother-in-law. If it is the case, there are some subtle and not-so-subtle ways to deal with the Grandma problem.

The first choice is just to tolerate it. That is what I do with my mom's reminders to wear the right clothing. I just say, "okay" and move on. Why? It is not because I am afraid of conflict or because I do not want to deal with my mom. It is more because I know that my son needs a sweater, and it makes my mom feel better to remind me. There is no reason to get upset about it. I have a friend who is the same way. While she adheres to a more free-playing form of parenting, her in-laws believe in hovering over her three-year-old son. My friend has decided that it is easy to let them hover while they are visiting and not say anything.

Other problems are not so simple to overcome, however. Some grandparents believe that it is their inherent right to continue to parent. They often will scold a child even as his or her parents are there. My mother-in-law fits this type of Grandma. When my sister-in-law or her husband fusses at their children, my mother-in-law will start in on them, too. It makes me feel awful for the kids because I am sure that it feels as if they are getting it from every side. My mother-in-law has even fussed at my baby! I have a response prepared for when my baby is a little older, but you can use it anytime. I will simply say, "we really think it's best if we get on to him when we are in the room." I hope that it does not have to go beyond that, but if it does, that is okay. Sometimes you have to decide that you want to put your foot (or collective feet) down. You have to explain that you are the parents and while you appreciate your parents' concern (always add in that you know your parents have your child's best interest at heart), you want to take care of discipline problems.

A final way to deal with the problem is direct confrontation. I would not suggest this method unless you are in a state where you really believe that your child could be in danger or if Grandma does something that you do not believe is right, such as spanking your child. In that case, it is best to be firm (easier said than done, I know). Explain to your parents or in-laws (or have your spouse explain to them) that you do not believe what they did was right. Whether they believe it or not is beside the point, you have made a decision for your children. Being firm should handle all but the most stubborn of in-laws. Remember that if they do not listen, your final resort may be to remove your children from them, which is painful for everyone involved. You should let your parents or in-laws know if that is a possibility. Do not issue it as a threat but let them know that you are serious. Once they realize that, they should be more willing to listen to your needs.

By Julia Mercer

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