Parenting and grandparenting: there is a difference

The difficulties you are describing are coming up because the line between parenting and grandparenting is being blurred...

My parents are providing some daycare for my kids in order to help me out. I appreciate their help, but I am having trouble with some of the things they do with them. For example, I have told them that I don’t give my kids sugary treats, but my mom keeps feeding them cookies and candy.

Another example is I have told my parents baby goes down for a nap right after lunch, but they only have her napping when they think she is tired and this is messing up her schedule at my house. I don’t know how to handle this so that it doesn’t cause bad feelings.

From what you have written I understand that the assistance your parents are giving your family is valuable to you and you would like to have it continue.

I also understand that you would like your parents to follow your lead in how they care for your children. At this point they are not doing everything the way you would do it.

I think that what you are up against here is the difference between parenting and grandparenting.

As a mother it is your job to be concerned about your children’s diet, sleep patterns, discipline, and so on. As grandparents, your mom and dad are focused on enjoying their grandchildren without the responsibilities of parenting.

The difficulties you are describing are coming up because the line between parenting and grandparenting is being blurred when your folks are providing daycare.

Perhaps the place to start in sorting this out is a discussion with yourself about your bottom-line expectations. Some of the things that are bothering you about your parents’ care of your children may not be very important in the long run, while others may be essential.

An example, and not one you have brought up, is discipline. It may be OK that the kids get away with more at their grandparents, but not at all OK if the grandparents hit them. In other words, you need to decide what you can let go as “grandparent stuff” and what you will insist on.

Once clear in your own mind about your bottom-line expectations it will be time to talk with your parents. It might be important to first acknowledge that you are asking them to stretch their roles as grandparents and that this might be a little uncomfortable for them. Then you can lay the things that are important to you.

For example, because the baby’s sleep schedule is thrown off if they do not maintain it, putting the baby to bed for a nap after lunch may be an essential. At the same time, some other things may not be and you can just let them go.

As you decide how you will deal with this an important thing to keep in mind is that children can usually adapt to different rules and expectations in different settings. If you think about it, kids know that what is expected of them is a little bit different at home than it is at school, and that their friend’s parents have different rules than their own parents.

They can adjust to the expectations in different settings. Their statements that go like “but Grandma doesn’t make me do that” can be answered by “this is our house, not Grandma’s and these are my rules.”

Hopefully with some thought and discussion you and your parents can come to an understanding about your expectations for their care of your kids without any bad feelings.

If you wish to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at info@pacifictherapy.ca. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Sara Lynn Kang at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Friday in the Record.

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