For the last few weeks, there have been a plethora of questions and comments on the ABCJesusLovesMe Facebook Group concerning relationship with grandparents.
- What do you do when grandparents don’t have the same expectations that you do for your child?
- What do you do when grandparents allow activities you don’t?
- What do you do when grandparents undermine your authority?
These are real concerns that many parents face.
When my kids were young, I fretted about what their grandparents did or didn’t do. I had unspoken expectations based on my experience and my dreams. I was consumed with naps, activities, and other things that were important as a first-time mom. But I lost precious time because I was angry over stuff that doesn’t matter now.
I thought about what I would tell my younger self, and this is the list that I created.
1. Differences Don’t Mean Judgement
Sometimes I took comments about my children as criticism to how I was parenting. I wanted my parents and in-laws to do as I did to validate that I was parenting correctly. I wanted approval.
2. Grandparents Aren’t to be Parents
Because I thought I knew what was best for my children I wanted everyone who watched our children to do it just like me. It was good for my children not to have things exactly the same. They learned new ways to do duplicate activities. And because grandparents aren’t parents, my children had the opportunity to be themselves without having to worry about things like chores. My kids got to do fun things that they didn’t get to do with their parents.
3. Don’t Compare Paid Babysitters to Grandparents
When you are paying a babysitter to watch your children, you have every right to tell them your expectations. When a friend or grandparent watches your children for free you don’t have that liberty. You only have the right to decide if you use their volunteer services again. And if you have access to grandparents who willingly babysit, you have been given a precious gift.
My heart hurts when I hear someone share that they told their parents to do something and they didn’t obey. The Holy Spirit keeps bringing up the word “honor.” Yes, when you marry you leave your parents and cleave to your husband. But you are still to honor your parents (Ephesians 6:20). Telling them what they are and aren’t to do with their grandchild is never going to end well for everyone involved.
That is not to say that conversations shouldn’t happen as you are the parents of these children. Each conversation needs to covered with a blanket of humility, openness, and respect. We need to come to those conversations with love only after we have sought the Lord for wisdom and dealt with the foundation of our anger. We need to explain our concerns, invite the grandparents on board, and not demand that they be our unpaid nannies. Most of the time, an honest conversation combined with respect from both sides will clear up frustration. (Read on if not…)
5. Don’t Underestimate Your Children
I know that when my children get back from “Camp Spoiler” (grandparents) there is going to be a necessary detox time. This is normal and to be expected. They are coming back from an abundant amount of focused time that I can’t give as a full-time working mom who also has to manage a home.
Think about the last time that your child was sick. You gave your child extra attention which may have required some weaning. But would you not love on your child when they were sick just so there was no weaning?
It’s the same with grandparents. Praise God that your child’s grandparents desire to spend time with him/her! Children are much smarter and more resilient that we realize. After grandparent time, adjust and move on.
6. What is your fear?
This is the question that the Holy Spirit gave me this morning in thinking through the multiple post and comment concerning this subject. When my children were young, I was angry over little things. I believe the anger was driven by fear. I encourage you to ask the following questions:
- Are you fearful that your children won’t respect you after spending time with their grandparents?
- Are you fearful that your children won’t love Jesus after having extra attention by their grandparents?
- Why are you putting demands on their grandparents because you want to control things?
Many times, in my parenting journey, I had to tell myself to chill! Take a deep breath and weigh the major and minor aspects of the situation. An extra toy, cookie, or additional TV will not be the difference between my child loving or not loving Jesus.
8. What is most important?
In five years, what will be most important for my child: that their grandparents do it my way (which will likely sever the relationship) or that they had quality time with their grandparents?
But Our Situation is Different?
Not everyone has wonderful relationships with their children’s grandparents. And sadly, there are toxic and harmful situations that would negatively affect a child’s development. This post is not about this.
I am talking about the grandparents who love their children and love grandchildren.
In some situations, we need to let go of demands and be thankful that our parents are desiring to spend time with our children. In other situations, have conversations to help the experience be positive for everyone. Yet in a few situations, set boundaries set to keep the child safe.
Open dialogue is always best, but don’t demand.
Share your concerns, but don’t be disrespectful.
Be the parent, and let them be the grandparent.
And…just like this is your first time to be a parent, this is their first time to be a grandparent. Give them the same grace that you would like to have.