Offer your assistance positively and avoid accusation.
I talked about interfering relatives in my episode Relative Annoyance. Since then, I’ve received e-mail from many grandparents wanting to know how to help without interfering. It’s funny because I’m also receiving e-mail from parents who want to know how to get their kids’ grandparents to stop interfering. The one thing that is consistent between all parties is that they want what is best for the children. That is great because then everyone is working toward a positive common goal. Part of this goal needs to be keeping the peace. Everyone needs to remember that when there is a differing of opinion, the parents have both the first and the final say. Grandparents, you may truly believe that you know what is best -- but it simply isn’t your decision.
The Importance of Good Communication
The key to keeping everyone happy is an open line of communication. If you as a grandparent are uncertain about something or have the most minimal doubt, just ask. I think most parents would prefer that you offer to do something first before actually doing it. Otherwise, there is a chance that someone might be offended. Make sure your offer is put in a positive tone as well. You don’t want Mom or Dad to feel like you think they aren’t doing their job. It’s better to say, “I want to help. Can I change the baby’s diaper for you?” Don’t say, “The baby is wet. I’ll change him for you.” It sounds innocent, and your intentions may be good, but it could sound to the parent as though you are accusing them of not paying attention to the baby’s needs. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’d happily give up all the diaper changes, but don’t tell me that it needs to be done. Allow your offspring to develop their own parenting style. It doesn’t have to be the same as yours in order for it to be right. If you are a parent struggling with relatives who aren’t cooperating, try some of the tips in my episode 59 that I mentioned earlier. Hopefully, you’ll be able to come to an understanding about who is in charge of the situation.
Parents Make the Rules
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, or anyone else who feels the desire to offer assistance with someone else’s children should listen and adhere to the wishes of the parents. Whether you are babysitting or just visiting, you need to follow the rules set in place by the parents. For example, parents these days are required to use car seats for their kids, and so you must use car seats when transporting their kids, too. True, many of us come from a generation that never rode in car seats. Car seats weren’t around when I was a baby, but they are now. So, just because I made it safely through my childhood without a car seat, doesn’t mean I’ll permit my kids to ride without the available and proper protection. And that’s a decision all grandparents or other relatives need to respect—regardless of whether they grew up using car seats or not. That’s a pretty severe example, but even if you are asked to refrain from giving your grandchild sugar or soda, you should do so. And please don’t make a scene about it. Parents are already struggling to do the best they can without outside influences trying to undermine their best instincts.
So, remember to keep a line of communication open and both respect and honor the wishes of the parents. Offer your assistance positively and avoid accusation. If you are a grandparent, it means you’ve done this before; you know how it feels to be a parent, and you’ve done your job the best you can. It’s time to let your children shine in their own roles as parents. Of course, if you feel that the children are in a dangerous situation, contact the appropriate authorities to handle it. Otherwise, just do your best and continue to offer your love and support graciously. You are appreciated!
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