Should You Step In or Stay Out?
Maybe you live near your children and their families, and you are privileged to see your grandchildren on a regular basis. Maybe you live far away and only see your children and their families a few times a year. Either way, it is unsettling when you see things with your own eyes, or hear things from your grandchildren, that lead you to question the parenting skills used in your grandchildren's upbringing. Should you talk with your child and his or her spouse, or should you do whatever it takes not to interfere? Well, it really depends on what the issues are that are causing your concern. Of course, if you have reason to believe there is mental, physical, or even sexual abuse present in your grandchild's life, you should never waiver in notifying the proper authorities. This may cause discontent in your family; but you may just be saving a child's life.
As one example, let’s say that you are spending two weeks at your child's house so you can spend quality time with your child and his or her family. It's dinner time, the food is prepared, the table is set, and everyone is present to enjoy the meal together. Your grandchild looks at the food provided and pushes the plate away, refusing to eat what was served. Then your grandchild looks at the Jell-O that was served to him or her in a small bowl, and because it was orange-flavored Jell-O instead of cherry-flavored Jell-O, your grandchild throws a second fit. How you would have handled this outburst when you were raising your children is very different from how your child handled it. You probably would have said something like, "This is what's for dinner. You can choose to eat it or leave it, but there is nothing else being served." In total contrast, in response to your grandchild's outburst, your child allows his or her screaming child to choose from something different for dinner and offers several choice, from cereal, fruit, pasta, yogurt, or pizza. You are probably outraged at your child's willingness to give in to your grandchild rather than making him or her eat what was prepared. Should you voice your opinion?
As another example, during a visit with your child and his or her family, it is close to 7:15 p.m., on a school night, and your 7-year-old grandchild was told that in 15 minutes it will be bath time, story time, and bedtime. Your grandchild seemed agreeable. When 15 minutes passed and it was 7:30 p.m., your grandchild was told to turn off the television and get ready for bath time. The child begs to stay up another half hour in order to watch "just one more show" on TV. When your grandchild was told, "No", the whining and crying began. Again, when you were raising your children, you would've turned off the television and escorted your child to the bathroom and followed through with what you told your child. Your child, however, approaches the child, hugs him or her, and says, "Come on now, Honey. You know it's bath time." The child says, "But Mommy... But Daddy..." And on and on it goes from there. A half an hour later, the child is in the bathtub and rather than putting the child straight to bed, the child still is rewarded with story time. In your eyes, your grandchild won and the adult in the situation showed weakness. Should you voice your opinion?
"Should I Say Something?"
In both of these examples, you should bite your tongue. You raised your children; now it is time for your children to raise theirs. As much as you want to rant and rave, there will be no positive outcome as the result of you voicing your opinion. What you need to realize, as a grandparent, is that your child and your son-in-law or daughter-in-law have no interest in hearing your unsolicited advice, opinions, stories, or life lessons from your own experiences in raising children. Think about how your own parent may have offered "free" advice following the birth of your first child. Think about whether or not you liked it. Imagine these people are not your relatives; suppose a friend was telling you about this type of behavior in his or her family. What advice would you give to your friend? It's always better to step back a little and think things through before voicing your concerns or offering advice whenever it comes to parenthood.
Discipline should be issued by your grandchild's parents; not by you, and you should follow their lead whenever possible. That doesn't mean the kids should come to your house and drink out of the milk carton, throw food, or jump on your furniture. When they are at your house, they need to follow your rules.
No matter what your opinion is regarding the parenting of your grandchildren, unless there are issues that specifically affect your grandchild's physical or emotional well-being, it is better to be careful what you say in order to maintain a decent relationship with your child and your child's family. Your role is to support your child's family, not intervene in their decisions.
A Few Other Points To Remember
Never criticize your child's parenting skills, especially in front of the child. Follow their rules as often as possible. Try focusing on the good things you see your grandchild's parents doing, such as being firm but fair. Commend them on things that are working well or when you see a happy family unit in their homes.
If you feel that your grandchild is suffering from questionable parenting, or if you just need to get some things off your chest, contact the counselors at the Orange County Relationship Center. Our team of trained professionals are here to help you get through the rough times in your life. Call today at 949-220-3211 to schedule an appointment, or make your appointment using our online tool. Maybe talking with someone who isn't attached to the family will help you to see things in a different light.