What to Do When Grandparents Undermine Your Authority

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Sometimes, grandparents don’t appreciate “new age parenting ideas.” Although they want to follow your rules, they may struggle to do so because they just don’t see a need for them. After all, you probably grew up without wearing a helmet while riding your bike and you didn’t need a car seat when you were little.

Most grandparents want to nurture and spoil the grandchildren while enjoying all the rites of passage that grandparenting has to offer.

And sometimes, that means they may do things that undermine your authority.

So what are you to do when Grandma bribes the kids with candy? Or Grandpa lets the kids stay up way past their bedtimes? Or when both grandparents tell the kids that your rules are silly? Here are some strategies to address these types of issues that undermine your authority:

1. Be Clear About Your Rules

Make sure that grandparents are aware of your rules and give a clear reason for those rules. If you don’t want your child eating foods with artificial flavors, make the reason clear. Whether it’s a personal preference or your child has a health issue, it’s important for grandparents to understand you aren’t telling them the rule just to take away the fun, but that you have a legitimate reasons for the rules you set.

2. Examine the Harm Involved

If your authority gets undermined again, it’s important to consider the harm involved.

If your kids go to Grandma’s house for an overnight visit only a few times a year, watching some extra TV isn’t likely to scar them for life. But, if your parents or in-laws or doing anything potentially dangerous, clearly it needs to be addressed again right away.

3. Communicate Openly and Honestly

Whether Grandma’s bending the rules or outright going against your authority, address it in a direct manner.

It’s best to deal with your parents directly and allow your spouse to deal with the in-laws directly. Otherwise, you’ll risk damaging your relationship with your in-laws. So it’s important for you and your spouse to be on the same page first.

If the issue is with your parents, talk about your concern directly. Don’t hint around at the problem and don’t waste your time and energy complaining to other people. Instead, go direct to the source and say something like, “I’m concerned that Johnny was allowed to eat so many cookies today. We don’t allow him to eat that much sugar. In the future, please don’t give him cookies."

4. Re-Visit the Issue as Needed

Sometimes one discussion isn’t enough and you may need to re-visit the issue. You may also need to discuss the problem again if the issue is interfering with your relationship with your kids. For example, if Grandma tells the kids, “I’d let you watch TV but your mother says you can’t,” you’ll want to address that with Grandma.

It’s important that any adult issues stay between the adults. That may mean grandparents have to enforce rules that they’re not particularly fond of sometimes. If your authority continues to get undermined, you’ll need to make it an ongoing discussion by making your rules clear.

Also, make it clear what will happen if you feel your authority continues to get undermined.

5. Reduce Contact if Necessary

Unfortunately, there are circumstances that sometimes warrant ending contact between kids and grandparents. If you don’t feel like it’s safe or healthy for your kids to have contact, you may need to limit visits. Sometimes limited visits are enough to send the message, but there may be times you have to cease contact altogether. But such extreme measures should only be taken when you are certain that ending the relationship will be best for your child.

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