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When Grandma is a Softie

Question

Our children are very close with their grandparents. We do not live in the same city as them but they are only an hour away and they see them very regularly. We expect our children to use manners and behave according to the standards we set in our own home when they are staying with grandparents. Grandfather is on board but grandmother can be soft. Mainly with the way she allows them to boss her around. I want to trust that they would tell us if our children misbehave or there is a problem. Our children love and respect their grandparents but we want this to last and for them to have a good relationship with them into adulthood. What is the best way to deal with this and what is the proper way to handle this expectation?

Answer

Ah, the conundrum of grandparents reminds me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears--either the grandparents are too strict or too soft...it's hard to find ones that are just right in terms of expectations and child behavior/correction.

Let's recap why grandparents exist: to spoil grandchildren. That's their reward for doing the hard work of raising their kids by correcting, loving and staying consistent (at least most did the right thing with their own children). Now that they have grandkids--grandchildren!!--they are ready to relax and let some things slid.

So let them. Let grandmother allow her grandchildren to be bossy sometimes. Let her enjoy them to her heart's content. That doesn't mean you throw up your hands and not expect your children to behave. You do and you practice/role play at home how to act when visiting grandma/grandpa, and you tell the grandparents to let you know if something goes array. Then trust that they will.

One caveat: if you see that one of your kids is taking advantage of grandma and is being mean to her, etc., then you'll have to step in to deal with that situation. But if it's just a matter of grandma allowing the kids to dictate what they'll do or eat or go, then you let her decide how she wants to handle the consequences of her allowing the kids to make those decisions.

I know it seems counter-intuitive to let things be as they are, but I think you'll find it works best when you allow a little indulgence by the grandparents.

Let me know how it goes, and hang in there!

Sarah Hamaker, Certified Leadership Parenting Coach
parentcoachnova@gmail.com
www.parentcoachnova.com
Author of Ending Sibling Rivalry, out now!

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