Setting Ground Rules for the Grandparents

More often than not, grandparents are a godsend for families. They provide support and guidance as our children are growing up. If they live nearby, they are often able to help out when we’re in a pinch, or even on a regular basis. And the love a grandparent has for his or her grandchildren is irreplaceable and immeasurable.

But let’s face it – as wonderful as they might be, their parenting styles and rules might be different than ours. They might let our kids eat corn dogs and fries every time they come over, while these items are reserved for special occasions in our home. They might let our kids play games on the iPad for hours, while the iPad or other electronics are limited or allowed only to reward good behavior in our home.

Grandparents have every right to treat our children and give them special things – it’s part of what being a grandparent is all about! But when they consistently do things that conflict with the rules or boundaries you’ve established with your kids, it can be confusing for your child. And, even worse, if the patterns continue, you will start to resent them.

In order to maintain good relationships between you, your parents and your children, it’s a good idea to set aside time to sit down and talk with them about key issues that are important to you. By being proactive about your rules instead of reactive, you can save yourself from awkward disagreements later on. Here are some key issues to focus on.

  • Schedules. Maybe you keep a loose schedule at home and address responsibilities and “to-do lists” as they arise. Or maybe you keep a more regular routine that involves completing the same tasks, such as making beds and completing homework, at a specified time every day. Whatever your schedule is, your parents need to know it before they care for your children. Knowing the schedule, and how important it is to your family, will make the time they spend with your child easier for everyone.
  • Food. It’s important to let your parents know what time your children are used to eating and the kinds of foods they like to eat. This will not only help them offer options that are consistent with what you provide, but also ensure they don’t make an entire meal your child won’t eat.
  • Activities. It’s never a bad idea to bring some activities, such as games or crafts, your kids can do while they are with their grandparents. Your parents might not have toys on hand, or remember what kinds of crafts children like at different ages. It’s also important to let your parents know what kinds of activities you don’t want your children to engage in. Perhaps you don’t want them to watch certain television shows or play with the iPad for longer than a certain period. Telling them your preferences ahead of time will save you some frustration later on.
  • Discipline. You always hope your child will be on their best behavior when they are with your parents. But if by some chance they decide to hit, bite or throw a crazy tantrum, you need to be upfront with your parents about how to respond. Responding to bad behavior the same way you do will make a greater impact on your child.
  • Rest time. If you have younger children, rest time is an important daily activity. When conveying your child’s daily routine to your parents, it’s important to let them know when this regular rest time usually occurs and how long it should be. The last thing you want is for your toddler to sleep the afternoon away, then resist bedtime later on.

When you share your child-rearing rules with your parents, remember to do it with love and respect. No matter how you both approach discipline, rest time or activities, you both have the same goal in mind – to give your child the best care possible. And by working together and keeping an open line of communication, you most definitely will.

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