Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Grandma Sabotage

If you live near your children's grandparents, you probably know what I mean by the title.  For those of you who don't or you don't have children yet, allow me to explain.

The way your parents raised you in no way resembles how they will treat your children.  Between the time you left the house and the time their first grandchild is born, they have a lot of time to think about their regrets.  If they had only been less grumpy, kept things in perspective, more attentive, more generous with their time, etc.

When I was growing up, I could hardly pass through the hallway with a laundry basket without my mom saying, "Careful not to bump into the walls!"  So it was quite the shock when she let my son jump off of her coffee table repeatedly.  I told him not to and she said, "It's a cheap table."  I said, "He's two.  He doesn't know the difference between a cheap table and an expensive table.  We have a rule that we don't jump off of tables."  She said, "Oh, you're right." and proceeded to look very pained.  I'm sure my son picked up on the fact that Grandma was awesome and we were killjoys.  Every time we returned home, he would bawl and refuse to get out of the car for at least 10 minutes.  He would then act up in various ways for days.

Our kids never have to do any chores at Grandma's house.  She makes sure they are entertained the entire time, makes them chocolate chip cookies, buys their favorite foods, and takes them shopping for books, toys, movies, and more. 

When I was a kid?  "No, you'll have to save for that with your allowance."  But she did make cookies.  The cookies were so good, people begged for them during lunch at school, including my teacher. 

My mom had no problem dishing out consequences when we were kids, but the first time she had to put one of our kids into time out, she could hardly stand it.  She felt better when he came out 5 minutes later as if nothing had happened.  Another time when my son was in trouble, he howled and my mom voiced her opinion about how unpleasant it was to listen to.  One night it was around 9pm and he still wouldn't go to sleep, but we had to be tough.  He cried and cried.  She asked, "Can't I just go see what he wants?"  "NO."  "What if he needs something?"  "He doesn't.  What he wants is to not go to bed.  If you give in, that will just teach him to cry for longer."  After her persistence, we finally told her to go ahead, but she had to deal with the aftermath.  She went into his room and he requested a particular stuffed animal.  She told us, "Oh, he just wanted his stuffed animal."  My husband and I smirked.  Not even ten seconds later, we heard, "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!"  He then had multiple requests.

Said my mom sheepishly, "Oh.  I guess I shouldn't have gone in there."

So how to combat grandma sabotage?  Encourage lots of quality time together.  Your kids' grandparents will get to know them better and get in touch with their inner mean parent you used to know.  With a little sleep deprivation and ten tantrums too many, they'll be snapping at your kids in no time and issuing consequences, rules, bed time, etc. just like you.  You could also try asking them kindly to back you up when it comes to your family's rules.  But remember, they're going to spoil your kids and there's not much you can do about it.  Don't worry, you will get to do the same thing to your adult children someday.

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