You’re probably cherishing your kids’ special bond with their grandparents and you’re thankful that your parents or in-laws are there to take some of the load off you during the holidays. Yet, secretly, you may be dreading the time when kids’ return home. Too much lollies, too much TV, not enough sleep and all of a sudden you have little monsters to deal with on your hands. They have endless energy, question your rules and mention grandma as the ultimate authority every 5 minutes.
Spoiling the kids is considered a normal part of grandparenting. Grandparents don’t spend as much time with the kids as you do, so they don’t see the harm in breaking a rule or two and it simply makes them happy to make the kids happy. It’s ok to let them have a good time together, but there are things you can do that will make your and your kids’ life easier.
Set some rules, but not too many
If you try to enforce all your rules at the grandparents’ place, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s a rare grandparent that will be able to stick with them. Instead, pick what’s really important to you, talk to the grandparents about that and set reasonable limits that may be different from the ones you have at home. TV is on all the time? If this is the habitual routine, you probably won’t be able to change it, but at least make sure that someone is responsible to check that what’s on is appropriate for kids. Ice creams whenever the kids ask for them? Make it one ice cream after dinner or suggest some healthy snacks instead. Kids staying indoors all day? Not ideal, but once in a while it’s ok.
On the other hand, there are things you can’t compromise on – your children’s safety. If your mother-in-law lets your baby sleep on the couch, surrounded by pillows, talk to her until she gets it, quote the doctor or show her articles that prove your point. If your dad is likely to wander off to get a coffee, while your child is sleeping in the car, don’t allow their trips together until he understands the danger.
Ask for help, don’t express disappointment
When you sound like you’re criticising the grandparents’ ways, you’re not very likely to achieve the result you want and you’ll end up with a cold war on your hands. Instead, remember that, just like you, the grandparents have the kids’ best interest at heart. Share the problems you’re having and work out a solution together (which may not necessarily look like the solution you imagined initially).
Make sure your kids know that the rules are different at home
My kids used to tell me all the time, “Grandma said we could do this”, but it didn’t take them long to understand that different places call for different rules. Just like they’re allowed to do things at home that they wouldn’t do at school, there are also things at their grandparents’ that we don’t do at home.
I’ve started my own parenting journey trying to control everything for my kids and I’ve realised that it’s not possible. Now I’m happy to relax and let the grandparents spoil the kids, within reason. In the grand scheme of things, occasional special treat or routine gone out of the window will not turn them into spoiled brats.
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