What If a Family Member Undermines Your Authority

Family members can be a great source of support, but ultimately, parents are the ones who are responsible for raising their children. So, how do you act when a family member undermines your parenting in front of your children?
What If a Family Member Undermines Your Authority
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

When educating children, it’s crucial that the roles within the family are well defined. Parents are the ones who impart discipline and watch over the safety and well-being of their children. And, at the same time, they’re the first figures of authority and reference. However, this becomes difficult when other adults violate the rules and guidelines that parents establish for their kids. Therefore, it’s important to know how to act if a family member undermines you in front of your child.

The relationship with extended family isn’t always simple. Different generations and personalities come together, each with their different opinions and points of view. And the situation becomes even more complicated when it’s your in-laws who tend to interfere in the way you raise your kids. Nevertheless, learning to exercise assertive communication can help us a lot in these kinds of circumstances.

What If a Family Member Undermines Your Authority

How to act if a family member undermines you in front of your child?

Grandparents, uncles, cousins, and all those relatives who are part of the extended family make valuable contributions to our lives. They provide us with emotional, logistical, and even financial support in many situations. In addition, they contribute in a very positive way to the development of children. And, at the same time, they connect them with their roots and give them a sense of belonging.

However, sometimes relatives fail to respect certain limits which are basic and indispensable. In the end, the responsibility of educating children falls on parents and their decisions must be respected and supported by the rest of the adults in the family. When this doesn’t happen, we can find ourselves in an uncomfortable and frustrating situation that’s difficult. Therefore, we suggest you to take the following considerations into account:

Be flexible

If a family member dismisses you in front of your child, you may perceive their behavior as disrespectful and this may lead to conflict. However, keep in mind that this isn’t usually the intention. Discipline is a parent’s job, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members have a more permissive relationship with children. For the same reason, it’s normal that they want to spoil them and make them happy.

This is natural and it’s important to be flexible about it. Every rule has an exception, and granting certain liberties from time to time doesn’t take away from your authority. Therefore, you can allow your children to enjoy these concessions from their families within certain limits.

Offering to buy them gifts, even if they already have everything, or giving them their favorite snack, even if it’s not the healthiest one, won’t destroy the educational work you’ve been doing, since these are occasional events.

Set limits

On the other hand, there are circumstances that go beyond granting a whim and that clearly go against the values you want to instill in your children. As a mother, you have the right to set limits on their education that must be respected by all. So, it’s important that you communicate this, in an assertive way, at the very moment it happens.

Many times, in order to avoid a conflict, we let situations go by in the hope that they won’t happen again. However, what really happens is that they escalate until they reach a point where we don’t know how to stop them. That’s why it’s important to be clear from the beginning.

However, choose the time and place to talk to the family member you feel is pushing the boundaries carefully. It’s best to have this type of conversation in private. And, above all, away from children. There’s no benefit in them seeing two adults who they respect and consider important in their lives argue.

What If a Family Member Undermines Your Authority

If a family member undermines you in front of your child, maintain a united front

Finally, it’s imperative that parents form a united front on these issues. It doesn’t matter if it’s your family or your partner’s, or your partner him or herself. You must both establish the rules regarding the education of your children and transmit them to the rest of the family. Similarly, in the event of a transgression or excessive interference by another adult, it’s best for both parents to deal with the matter with that family member.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Villamizar, Y. P. (2004). La familia extensa: una estrategia local ante crisis sociales y económicas. Trabajo Social, (6).
  • Papa, Y. (2019, junio 10). Suegras tóxicas. Recuperado diciembre de 2020, de https://lamenteesmaravillosa.com/suegras-toxicas/

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.