What if Grandparents Don't Agree with Your Child's Upbringing?
Fathers and mothers are the primary caregivers of a child. They establish routines, eating patterns, and, in general, the daily functioning of the household. However, it’s common for other family members to have an opinion and want to intervene. So, how do I proceed if the grandparents don’t agree with the way I’m raising my child?
When grandparents advise or support parents, they help improve their emotional health. So, the problem isn’t so much that they have a different opinion or vision than the parents. Rather, problems arise when they try to impose their view or bypass the parents’ authority.
Facing parenting differences
This is a reality that can be really uncomfortable for the parties, but it’s quite common. In fact, according to the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, at least 4 out of 10 parents report having disagreements with grandparents in this regard.
What are the most common points of friction? What issues can generate such a diversity of opinions that they end up in conflict? Well, according to the same survey, these are the most common points on which grandparents don’t agree with the upbringing of their grandchildren.
This is an aspect of parenting that each family approaches from its own perspective. Limits, rules, and schedules are set by the parents, but grandparents may not find them appropriate and may refuse to follow them.
On the one hand, some grandparents err on the side of permissiveness and tolerance and skip the guidelines set by the parents, as they understand that their role is to acquiesce or they feel that such rules are too rigid. Another point is that some grandparents may feel that parental boundaries are too lax and that children need more authority.
This is where daily eating habits come in, as well as permission to have snacks, appetizers, or sweets. Many families take great care in feeding their children and try to instill healthy habits and a positive attitude towards food, and grandparents may not conform to these ideas.
They may offer children foods that parents don’t allow, at times that aren’t appropriate, or offer children too many alternatives when they don’t want to eat a meal. This can generate discussion, as it’s not consistent with what the parents set.
In terms of television and screen use, something similar happens. The most permissive grandparents may allow their grandchildren excessive consumption in order to please them or avoid arguing with them, even knowing that their parents don’t agree. Others, on the other hand, may be shocked to see their grandchildren so immersed in electronic devices and feel that their use should be restricted.
Although we may think that good manners are universal, the truth is that there are some points on which different generations may disagree. Traditionally, there was a tendency to instill greater respect for authority or elders, and certain acts were considered unquestionable (for example, asking children to greet others with a kiss on the cheek).
Today, more democratic parenting styles advocate treating children as equals, offering mutual respect, and encouraging children to set limits with respect to their own bodies. This means, for example, not giving kisses out of obligation.
Health and safety
The health and safety of children also cause discrepancies, as in the past, considerations were different. For example, aspects such as the position in which a baby should sleep or how they should be positioned in the car have changed over time. All these situations can cause disagreements between grandparents and parents.
What do I do if the grandparents don’t agree with the upbringing of my child?
The above are just some of the points that can alienate parents and grandparents regarding the upbringing of children, but others are also involved, such as bedtime or the tendency to treat some grandchildren better than others. In any case, how can we manage these situations? We share with you some keys in this regard.
Understand and try to be empathetic
It’s advisable not to face the situation as a power struggle but to try to understand the other party. Most of the time, grandparents aren’t acting out of simple defiance; they’re doing the best they know and can or they’re just trying to enjoy time with their grandchildren. At this point, as we said, the generation gap plays an important role, as the “right” way to proceed then and now is different.
For example, a study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that parents and grandparents have a different definition of what healthy eating is. And this can lead to discrepancies.
In addition, elders may not be aware of new parenting styles, the latest medical recommendations, or the newest safety measures. They surely see the world from their own more traditional perspective, and understanding this from the start can help you bring positions closer together.
Pick your battles
On the other hand, try to analyze which of these disagreements should be considered major and which should be considered minor. It’s true that for every mother and father, there are some insurmountable limits that can’t be crossed because they’re central to their parenting style. But perhaps other aspects aren’t so relevant or can be relaxed a little.
For example, you may not mind if your children have some candy at their grandparents’ house if they eat well every day. Or you might be willing to let them go to bed a little later on those days. It’s really up to you to define where you’re willing to compromise and where you’re not.
Communicate assertively with them
If the grandparents don’t agree with your parenting, how you communicate what you need from them is even more important than what you’re going to say. If you can express yourself firmly but respectfully, you’re halfway there. In this regard, you can start by thanking them for the love they give your children and the time they spend with them, and then state some objective facts that you would like to change.
Offering clear and compelling reasons and then asking them what they think will also help them to be more cooperative than if you just try to impose.
Focus on solutions
Finally, it’s better to be practical than to get lost in long theoretical discussions. So, for example, you can tell them about books or TV programs that explain your parenting style, recommend places to buy organic products (if this is the diet you want for your children), or show them how to put your baby to sleep.
If the grandparents disagree with your parenting, dialogue is necessary
In short, if the grandparents disagree with the way you raise your kids, it’s important to address the problem as soon as possible, as it can have repercussions. In fact, according to the aforementioned survey, these conflicts between parents and grandparents often lead to the former restricting the time children spend with the latter.
In addition, as suggested by a study published in the Health Education Journal, potential disagreements between grandparents and parents can undermine the collaboration of the former in parenting, which is so necessary for many families.
“Therefore, it’s preferable to dialogue, negotiate, and reach agreements taking into account that we all seek the child’s welfare and that grandparents are the main providers of informal child care.”
-Rutter & Stocker, 2014-
Remember, however, that as parents, you decide what type of education and environments are most appropriate for the child and what boundaries can’t be crossed.It might interest you...
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.
- CS. Mott Children’s Hospital. National Poll on Children’s Health. (2020). Mott Poll Report: When Parents and Grandparents Disagree. http://mottpoll.org/sites/default/files/documents/081720_Grandparents.pdf
- Dunifon, R., & Bajracharya, A. (2012). The role of grandparents in the lives of youth. Journal of family issues, 33(9), 1168-1194. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3462462/#:~:text=Grandparents%20may%20influence%20youth%20through,lead%20to%20positive%20youth%20outcomes.
- Eli, K., Howell, K., Fisher, P. A., & Nowicka, P. (2016). A question of balance: Explaining differences between parental and grandparental perspectives on preschoolers’ feeding and physical activity. Social Science & Medicine, 154, 28-35.
- Rutter, J., & Stocker, J. (2014). The 2014 Scottish Childcare Report. London: Family and Childcare Trust. https://www.familyandchildcaretrust.org/sites/default/files/Resource%20Library/The_2014_Scottish_Childcare_Report_FINAL.pdf
- Xie, H., Caldwell, L. L., & Loy, S. (2020). Latino grandparents’ perception of disagreements with parents in children’s leisure time physical activity. Health Education Journal, 79(5), 543-555.