Parents vs. Grandparents: When Parenting Practices Collide

By Kelly Goede

You’ve done it. You’ve become an adult, had kids of your own and are now attempting to parent them. Undoubtedly you’ve cherry picked parenting methods from a variety of sources and are now settled on how you will navigate your babes from infancy through college.

All is well until you find yourself at odds with Grandma or Grandpa over your parenting choices. They spanked, you don’t. You provide structure and they don’t. There will probably be at least one issue, if not many, that you will not see eye to eye on with the folks that raised you regarding how to raise your own.

Although it would be helpful to have everyone on the same parenting page when grandparents come to visit, a short-term visit might be a time to overlook small discrepancies, especially when it comes to food.

My friend Amy’s parents play an active role in her children’s lives, even though it’s in short bursts of time.

“My parents tend to feed the kids whatever it takes to get them to ingest food, whereas we typically have a ‘You don’t eat what you are served, then you will be hungry’ attitude,” she shares.

On a recent vacation, when Grandma and Grandpa fed the kids pizza eight out of the 12 nights, it wasn’t worth it to cry foul.

As Amy says, “If my parents do something I don’t agree with, I just make sure the kids know that those kinds of things only happen when they are with Grandma and Grandpa and not to expect it on a normal basis.”

Sometimes maintaining a good relationship means letting go of small things. Children are savvy little creatures and can differentiate between your policies and Grandma’s.

According to Grandma

“If my daughter and I differ on our parenting styles, I would love for her to tell me so we can talk about it. I also want to enjoy my grandchildren and spoil them once in a while. As long as we can agree ahead of time what’s expected, then I will know my limits and try my best to operate within them. And if I overstep my boundaries, remember that I was a parent first and still want to be treated with love and respect when you call me out.”

-Patsye Dulmer, grandma of 4

What if Grandma and Grandpa play a daily role? And what if your stylistic differences extend beyond dessert choices? An honest and open conversation is the best route to take, as neither party is a mind reader. If you don’t communicate your expectations with your child’s grandparents, they will have difficulty living up to them.

If you can’t address your concerns prior to the offending behavior, then a discussion (out of earshot of the children) is in order afterward, peppered with grace and kindness and being specific about what you’d like to see happen. Telling Grandma, “We don’t allow Junior to flip over the sofa at our house. I’d like for us all to be on the same page so he will be courteous and safe no matter who is watching him. Please remind him that the sofa is for sitting,” is a great way to politely make your expectations known. And if your child’s safety is on the line (i.e., allowing Junior to ride in the car unbuckled), be firm with your expectations, staying true to what you know will keep your child safe.

Above all, if you want the care and discipline of your little ones done a specific way, take the time to have that important (and yes, sometimes awkward) conversation so grandparents and parents will both know what is happening on Grandma’s watch.