My parents are taking it upon themselves to “parent” my three children. I feel like I’m re-living my childhood as I watch them interact with my children. I’m not against them helping the children obey, but I have a problem with the way they do it. I’ve made it a point to do things differently with my own children, but that doesn’t seem to matter to my parents. It’s as if they think I’m not raising my children correctly. How can I improve this situation?
I can certainly hear your frustration as you work to provide the best parenting environment for your children. The good news is that you’re still the parent of these three children, so you get to have the final say about how they’re raised in your home. Here are a few thoughts that can help.
First of all, have you sat down and formally discussed your concerns with your parents? Chances are, they have no idea how their behavior affects you or your children. They may be on “auto-pilot” when it comes to interacting with your children. Even if they don’t know how else to interact, some awareness on their part can at least interrupt the pattern.
This conversation may be awkward, but it can ultimately save you a tremendous amount of time and energy. In the same way that you get to learn how to be a parent for the first time, your parents get to learn how to be grandparents for the first time. Framing the discussion this way can help both parties recognize the need to learn how to do this together.
Initially, you might consider talking about your parenting philosophy and asking them if they can support you as the parent of these children. Ask them what they think of your parenting approach and use it as a chance to help them see that you are purposeful and intentional in raising your children.
Since your parenting approach looks different from theirs, they may assume you have no idea what you’re doing. In fact, they may believe they are doing you a favor by providing your children with some structure. Tell them specifically how they can support you and set your children up for success. They may even have some helpful ideas and observations based on their own parenting experiences.
If your parents are not open to feedback, then you have to decide where you will include your parents in your children’s lives. You might decide to decrease the amount of time you spend with them or adjust the settings where you socialize with your parents.
Please recognize that this particular concern is probably more upsetting to you than it is harmful to your children. Unless your children are being shamed or abused by your parents, they are probably still getting benefit from spending time with their grandparents.
I have one final thought to share. I believe it’s good for children to be exposed to a variety of disciplinary styles. I believe it promotes flexibility and problem-solving skills in children. Your children will still see you as the parent, but they will learn to adapt and respond to new and challenging situations.