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Grandparents Driving You Crazy?

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When I became a single mom, I had no clue how important my own father would become in my daughter's life.

grandfather holding granddaughter

Single Mom Seeking: These days, my 70-year-old dad spends at least one day a week with my kid. They adore each other -- and he's the one who gives her what her biological father has never been able to.

But he's also the one who lets her watch way too much TV and eat A LOT of sugar. While I'm incredibly grateful that she has such a devoted grandpa, our relationship hasn't been easy.

Do your parents play a big part in your children's lives? How do you handle the conflicts?

Take Breanne, a mom in Georgia, who is very grateful to her mother who babysits while she works. Grandma, however, has been known to feed her daughter "piles of sugar behind my back a few times each month. What is returned to me after a visit is a child I hardly recognize. It's something like you'd imagine would happen to your kid if you lost them in the jungles of Borneo for a week. It might have something to do with the fact that my mother sees rules and routine as silly."

Ramona of California finds herself in almost the opposite extreme however, with "two sets of grandparents within one mile of my home."

They are disciplinarians to their core. While Ramona lets her two kids jump on the sofa at home -- "the only thing that helps me keep my sanity is letting them jump around" -- the grandparents reprimand the kids for jumping on the sofa. Another mom I talked to says that she has to remind her father that she doesn't spank.

Parents agree that if grandparents are very involved in your kids' lives, they often think they can call the shots and make the rules. So, what can you do?

Take it easy, say Whitney Moss and Heather Flett, authors of "The Rookie Mom's Handbook."

"Train Grandma and Grandpa to use the stroller, car seat, and coffee maker -- and LET GO!" they say.

"Have confidence that you are making the right choices for your child," adds Whitney, whose kids have three sets of grandparents. "Your mother-in-law may think a bottle of formula will soothe your fussy breastfed baby, or that keeping your baby up past her naptime is not a big deal. If you disagree, say casually, 'Yeah, you might be right, but we're going to stick with our system.'"

"It's hard to stand up for your decisions when you are a first-time parent, but advocating for your child is part of your new job," she says. "Brainstorm with your partner on language you can use comfortably to avoid defending your choices."

Whitney also encourages parents to type up a schedule of your child's routine, including suggestions for food.

Explain that you have this document on hand for all babysitters, so that they don't feel belittled by your micromanagement.

If you have any tips to share about "handling" your own parents, we'd love to hear them!

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28 comments so far | Post a comment now
birdsfly September 21, 2009, 5:17 AM

My MIL keeps complaining that I don’t let her babysit my kids. She thinks a good idea for calming down my fussy 6mo is dipping her pacifier in soda. I have been fighting with her about it since my 4yo was a baby and she just doesn’t get it and won’t stop trying to do it.

PlumbLucky September 21, 2009, 5:56 AM

Well, “subtle” didn’t work with my IL’s. They belive that they can do whatever the he!! they want and its okay because they’re “grandma and grandpa”. Hubby had to point blank tell them that “it is not okay to do X, grandma or not, it is NOT okay, understood?” Or the one time we were in a pinch for a daytime sitter, my MIL asked what type of formula to buy because she “refused to fix bottles of disgusting breastmilk”, to which I replied “then you won’t babysit and I will take the day off unpaid, take your pick”.

This weekend was the kicker - came home from a night out (the first one we’ve taken in who knows how long) to them crabbing because they’d gotten a ticket. Hmmm…what for? They’d gone shopping and put him in the front seat, front facing. (By the way, he’s too young to anything but rear-facing in the state we live in) We had left them the carseat in our car in the “correct” position…they took our car but moved the carseat up front even after the now-six month long debate over the whole rear facing thing. If it were just sugar once in awhile…I’d be thankful.

MarMar September 21, 2009, 7:08 AM

I get the attitude from my parents of “we’re older, we know better, what do YOU know?” As they’ve never stopped thinking of me as an inept child, there’s no way to convince them of my wishes. I don’t have the problems the writer of this has, I just have a constant barrage of statements about how my daughter would never misbehave, would eat better, etc. if I would’ve done this or that different. It’s not micromanagement in my case so much as a lack of respect for my parenting skills.

Susan Adcox September 28, 2009, 7:50 PM

Wow, obviously none of these grandparents are readers of the Grandparents site on, where I tell my readers repeatedly to learn to use car seats, to stay up with current child-rearing practices, and, most of all, to respect the wishes of the parents. I do like Whitney’s statement, “Yeah, you might be right, but we’re going to stick with our system.” It’s a nicely respectful way of reminding the grandparents that the parents are in charge. Both sides need to avoid escalating minor conflicts into major ones. And grandparents definitely need to cut back on the sugar rations—not a problem in my house as my husband is diabetic.

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