By Kerry Hart, LLMFT
Ah, the joys of unsolicited parenting advice! When those doling pointers on how to rear your little one happen to be your older family members, it’s important to know your boundaries and set them. Sometimes, a relative’s best intentions can lead to disrespecting a parent’s rules or requests in regards to their child, but there are ways to deal with it gracefully and tactfully.
Get on the Same Page
If a family member provides child care, they may feel entitled to discipline or make parenting decisions without your consent. This issue often pops up when multiple generations live under the same roof; it’s not uncommon for new parents to share housing with family members when confronted with financial or lifestyle transitions. Initiating a conversation about expectations regarding the kiddos helps all parties involved avoid unpleasant surprises along the way. Ensure that the rules of the house are known and followed by all. Do you expect your middle schooler to have their homework completed by 5 p.m.? Let other family members know so they can enforce the rule with you. Is your little one grumpy in the morning if they don’t make their bedtime? Get everyone on the same page so your kid is tucked in and snoozing at the same time every night.
Share the Milestones
One of the greatest rewards of parenting is witnessing your child’s firsts; first words, first steps, first school play, etc. Parents enjoy and have the right to be with their children for their milestones. Invite your family members to share in these moments, but be sure to communicate your wishes when you would like privacy with a given experience.
Ensure that the rules of the house are known and followed by all. Do you expect your middle schooler to have their homework completed by 5 p.m.? Let other families members know so they can enforce the rule with you.
For instance, if you would rather not have company while you relish watching your little one ride a bike for the first time, say so! Just be sure to allow your kiddo to show off their new skills to family members later so they too, can share the love.
Start from a place of agreement on the best way to tackle issues when they arise. If you come to an impasse on what is best for the child, arrange for a time when the adults can get together for a conference. Allow each member of the discussion to freely state their wants without openly passing judgment.
Should the conversation get heated, use “I” statements to avoid placing blame on others (i.e., “I feel as though you are stepping over the line,” as opposed to “You are stepping over the line.”). Discuss your feelings and positions while thanking your family member for looking out for your child, being sure to firmly let
them know you are the parent and the final decision lies with you.
Kerry Hart, LMFT