How to Build a Good Relationship at Grandma's House
In our house, Grandma reigns supreme. Seriously, grandmas are preferred by every child, and sometimes by me too. They are the best babysitters, the greatest spoilers, and most trusted advice-givers.
Sometimes though, it can seem like a battle at the grandparents' house. Have you ever heard the phrase from one of your beloved parents, “Grandma’s house, Grandma’s rules"? I have, and I loath the words.
Though I’m happy to report that I have worked through this battle, and have a really good relationship with both sets of our grandparents--mutually respectful, and still very “fun” for our kids. Here’s a little insight into how we manage to have a balanced relationship with grandma, who is still allowed to spoil our kids and have her own rules.
Two words that are used in almost any relationship that you want to grow successfully. However cliche they may sound, they really are the building blocks of creating a space that is respectful and easily managed.
It's easy to just get caught up in the “rules”. No sugar. No toys for their birthdays. No TV time. But, it’s just as easy to break those rules, when there is no understanding behind it. It can be so frustrating to see your kids go ask someone else for something, that you’ve already said no to. Most of the time, there is no ill intention from the other party, just a lack of knowledge. I find that when I explain how sensitive my kids are to sugar, or how our house is bursting with toys-- the rules are more likely to be followed.
We started this early. We asked both of our families (my husband’s and mine) to ask us first before feeding anything to our kids. It started out as a necessity at first. Our kids had some reactions to different foods so it was a safety concern for us. But, as their sensitivities faded, and they became older, the practice has continued... to an extent.
We’ve followed these same rules with pretty much anything. The phrase, “mother knows best” is not lost in our family. Putting all the decisions on the parents at the grandparents' houses has helped avoid many tantrums, and has prevented the grandparents from having to ever be the bad guy.
Pick your Battles
My other key piece of advice is to pick your battles, and not sweat the small stuff. When we head over to our parents’ homes, I let everyone know what “rule” is the priority, if there needs to be one. Sometimes, after a day full of fruit snacks and popsicles I let everyone know not to give my kids any more sugar, or bedtime will be a joke for me. Other days, the priority is TV time. I know it will lead to an obsession or a tantrum, so I ask right away to keep the TV off.
I have found that when I make it a point to let everyone know my concerns, they are much more aware of their actions and are respectful of my priorities. It’s also easier for me to watch my kids sneak seconds of dessert because my TV wishes were respected.
Advice from a Grandparent
I asked my mother-in-law her take on this topic. She had great insight, and I’m so glad she lent me her brain.
Grandma’s house should be a place of fun, good memories, and lots of love. It shouldn’t be a place where our kids are parented twice as much. Leaving the decisions up to the parents allows the grandparents to sit back and take the fun role.
Unless it is a safety concern, she lets me parent. She doesn’t step in when the kids are fighting, she lets me take care of it. She doesn’t tell me how to discipline, she lets me do my thing judgment-free.