Family & Social Child Developement
What to do if grandparents have different parenting styles from you?
We've launched a campaign to get grandparents and grandkids to bond more. Complete the missions here and stand a chance to win a Staycation + 4 passes to Wild Wild Wet, and some other great prizes!
Just like parents are important in our lives, so is the presence of grandparents in our children's lives. Grandparents are a support system for parents, and they offer unconditional love and support and thrive on attention from their grandchildren. The love and attention that our children get from their grandparents is actually a blessing. Apart from their love and warmth, grandparents are beacons of teaching good values and imbibing cultural values in our children.
But there are always two sides to the same coin - while grandparents can be a big support in your parenting journey, there are times grandparents' parenting style may clash with yours, or even be outdated or wrong. I spoke to a few parents and grandparents and explored a few situations where there may be areas of disagreement and explore some ways to overcome conflict.
As parents, we tend to have different parenting and disciplining techniques with our children, which sometimes may conflict with that of the grandparent. For example, in Asia, spanking was the norm, but that's changing with newer generations as fewer parents opt for corporal punishment. Because of the generational gap, we may be told that either we are way too harsh or lenient making it very confusing for us as parents. Worse yet, a grandparent may take it upon themselves to discipline your child in a way that you feel uncomfortable with.
Solution: The one argument all parents find hard to win: We brought you up in a certain way and you turned out fine! As with all disputes, even if you may disagree with your parent or parent-in-law's methods, don't immediately assume they are wrong. Do seek their advice, take the time to listen to their criticism and validate what might be useful for you, even if you decide on a different method in the end. In the event you are uncomfortable with them disciplining your child, tell them that as grandparents, they may let you know if they are concerned about their grandchild's behaviour, but as a parent, it is your job to carry out the discipline.
2. Quality time
When we were kids, most of our mums were homemakers who had the time to be there for us at all times - when we were back home from school, at meal times and play. These days, as both parents work, time is scarce. As much as we would love to, we cannot spend long hours with our children. At such times, we may be faced with criticism by grandparents that we don't spend enough quality time with our kids - which is actually not true; because as a working parent you will begin to realize the value and potential of quality time over quantity of time. Remember, as a modern day working or even as stay-at-home parents, we are doing the best we can in our capacities. So if we're sending our children to daycare, it doesn't mean we are bad parents, but that we're doing the best we can in our capacities.
Solution: Try to explain the modern challenges that you face as a parent and don't succumb to the criticism of the grandparents who would compare their time as parents with that of ours. Here it is important to remember that our challenges are different from theirs, so the solutions will be different too and you can cordially explain the same to them without being dismissive. If you must argue, do it in private and not in front of the kids so as not to undermine their authority.
Grandparents are notorious for spoiling their grandkids. They indulge them with junk food, buy them new toys, and let them skip your typical household rules you've worked hard to set. But do remember, there was a time when we, too, were kids that would indulge in home made sweet treats made in our grandma's kitchen. Where over-spoiling could become an issue is if it negatively impacts your child's health. With childhood obesity on the rise, a study conducted by University of Glasgow suggests that Grandparents' overindulgence do contribute to problems with kids' diets, weight and physical activity levels.
Solution: In such cases, it is a good idea to use external credible sources to explain to them how a high-fat, high sugar diet is not good for our kids. For grandparents who are not so internet-savvy, print out articles or quote your pediatrician or kids' dentist, and they are bound to understand the gravity of the situation. Grandparents only have their grandkids' best interests at their heart, so suggest other ways that they can demonstrate their love.
As a parent, I am a firm believer that children need to develop emotional and physical resilience which will eventually make them independent human beings. A grandparent's natural instinct is to be protective, but it can be unhealthy if it turns into helicopter grandparenting. Much as some grandparents would want to cling on to their grandchildren lovingly, not allowing them to do anything on their own, it is important for them to realize, that the more we cling on to our kids, chances are we might stifle them with our insecurities.
Solution: An open dialogue is always a positive move. There are many Youtube videos and research articles you can share that explain how overprotecting kids can lead to problems with anxiety in the long-run. While it may be difficult for grandparents to reconcile the facts with the emotions they feel at first, seeing your child happy and proud of their independent accomplishments can also help them understand that they need to adapt their thinking.
In Singapore, where multiracial or multicultural households are common, you may get conflicting advice from maternal and paternal grandparents who prescribe to different parenting ideologies according to their respective cultures. It gets tricky when it comes to contentious issues like what religion(s) to raise your kids, how to celebrate holidays, or what food to serve. As a parent, you don't want to upset one set of grandparents - or worse, both!
Solution: Seek out the advice and experiences of both your parents and in-laws, but have a united front with your partner on what parts of your different cultures you want to adopt for your kids. There are bound to be differences between cultures, but you can celebrate them as a family by encouraging your parents to teach their grandchildren about their heritage and customs without forcing them to adhere to it.
Just like there's no formula for perfect parenting, there's none for perfect grandparenting as well. Thankfully, with dialogues and frank discussions, parents can arrive at a consensus on bringing up their kids by communicating with the grandparents. If grandparents become partners in parenting, it is a complete win-win situation for the entire family.
We've launched a campaign to get grandparents and grandkids to bond more. Complete the missions and stand a chance to win a Staycation + 4 passes to Wild Wild Wet, and some other great prizes!
Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai and a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women's University in Mumbai. She started her career 16 years ago by writing children's books, e-learning, content management for international websites and magazines and writing lifestyle and feature articles. She's the founder of The Lifestyle Portal an e-publishing platform that focuses primarily on entrepreneur profiling, entrepreneur directory listing, workshop reviews, feature stories and more. She's also a Certified Parent-Child Play Practitioner and a Certified Story Teller.
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