My youngest son has helped me a lot with setting up this blog, and today he has a guest post for me about dealing with the parents of your grandchildren. If you like his article, you can read more at his website Let’s Get Happy.
There is a problem in my house right now, and it involves my in-laws. I like them well enough, but we have different ideas about how to raise my one year old daughter, and since they own a third of the house and live right next door, I can’t just close the door on them.
The main problem is on the morning routine of waking my daughter up. It’s currently the winter holidays for teachers in China, so my wife and I don’t have to go to work, and we both like to sleep in in the morning. Fortunately for us, our daughter feels the same way and will usually sleep until 8 or even 9am. When my in-laws don’t show up at 7:30 or so, the routine is we’ll sleep until our baby wakes up and starts babbling. Then we get up and do everything that has to be done.
It works out well, everyone gets enough sleep, and I’ve noticed that my little angel likes to watch her sleeping mommy and daddy for a few minutes before waking us up. It’s relaxed and while it doesn’t follow a schedule religiously, there is a basic schedule involved.
The in-laws on the other hand want a very strict schedule. So they’ll come in at about 8am, while everyone is asleep, wake up my daughter and do all the work. I’m quite willing to admit I’m lazy when given the chance, so I’ll usually keep sleeping if they show up, I keep late hours, and while I can and will get up early in the morning, if there’s nothing for me to do I’ll sleep.
I found out today that this is angering my in-laws. They think we’re abusing their kindness, and that letting our daughter wake us up, we’re not being proper parents. Since my in-laws only speak Chinese, and I only speak English we can’t really talk about these problems in a good way. When we’ve told them to let us worry about the baby in the morning, they’ll stay away for a day or two but come back quickly since we’re not following their schedule.
I know, and most children know grandparents have good advice. You’ve raised us, and most of you did passable to good jobs, so some advice and assistance is usually appreciated. But pushing too hard, insisting the grandchildren are raised in a certain way will usually end in you being pushed out the door.
If you think there is a problem think about it for a little while, and ask yourself these questions.
- Is it life threatening or seriously unhealthy?If you think a toy is inappropriate or that the food isn’t perfect consider if it will hurt the child. If not, suggest once that there may be a problem. Don’t keep bringing it up, that’s nagging and in this situation it’s not necessary. Making a friendly suggestion once, will let them know you care, without getting on the nerves, and most people will consider you a good source for a second opinion or advice.If it is life threatening or could cause serious problems, then push it. Get some info from other sources, plan out a little intervention and calmly discuss it. Don’t just say “I think“, show documents from studies, doctors and other sources, and say “Most doctors say…“. This builds up your credibility and keeps them from simply dismissing you as an out of touch old person.
- Is The Baby Happy?This is where I can’t understand my in-laws. Whenever my daughter see’s her mother or I, she gets a huge smile on her face. When we’re all together she starts smiling, babbling and bouncing up and down in joy. So she obviously understands we’re her parents and loves us a lot. She rarely cries, she likes seeing people and going outside, and she’s developing normally in every way.If the baby is happy, healthy and developing normally, the parents must be doing something right. They could do some things better, no one is perfect, and this is where you come in. Offer suggestions on ways to improve, and show some of these tricks when you visit. If you can show that something you do is better then the way they do it, parents will often listen. Be a writer, show don’t tell.
- When You Offer Advice Do They Roll Their Eyes?If you are consistently ignored when offering advice, there are two possibilities, the parents are rude and uncaring, or you are nagging.Think things over when this happens. How often are you offering advice, is it every time you see them? Do you keep giving the same advice over and over again? Do you insist they do it your way or the highway? If you answered yes to all of these, you could be nagging. No one likes listening to a nag. Step back, bite your tongue, and after a month or two offer a single suggestion when you talk or see them. Wait a few days and offer another suggestion. They’ll notice the change and start paying attention.Now if you answered no, then the parents are rude. I don’t agree with my in-laws, or my mother all the time, but I will at least consider what they say politely. If you’re dealing with this type of situation, then the best thing you can do is step back and enjoy your time with the grandchildren, while ignoring the parents. At this point you do the show don’t tell. Do one or two things in your way, and see if it turns out better than their way of doing things. If it works all but the most unreasonable parents will start thinking you might actually be right.
Remember, your children have to learn to do things on their own, they can’t always have their parents around. Have faith in them that
they’ll do the right thing. Just be ready to offer help when called on, and make a few suggestions every once in a while. You’ll rest easier without thinking the world rests on your shoulders, and the kids will appreciate having someone to turn to for help when they need it.
As for me, I’ve politely insisted to my in-laws that they stay home tomorrow and sleep in, my wife and I can look after the baby quite well on our own. And if that doesn’t work, well I can always bolt the door shut.