I just got back from a weekend away with my whole family-- not my little family of 4. No, my big family of 7 people, plus their kids, spouses and girlfriends. In one house. For a full weekend. Needless to say, I need a nap. Or a short coma. I'm not picky.
But it's left me with the intense desire to write a post about something I learned this weekend: how you're supposed to deal with other people when they parent your kids.
It's a tricky thing, but I thought I would share how I handled it, what I learned, and how I plan to handle it when it happens in the future.
When to let it go...
So when it comes to other people deciding they need to parent your child, you need to accept the circumstances. The fact is when you're in a situation like mine this past weekend (a vacation home where we're all sharing space), the chances are you're not going to be the only parent around your kid(s) at all times, and they'll probably be around playing with cousins, running to the beach with the grandparents, or trying to snuggle up to their favorite aunt. And if you're accepting that you get a tiny bit of space from your littles, then others who are around them are going to be doing your "job."
When you're letting your littles head out with cousins/uncles/gammy, then just be willing to let it go when they tell your kid to slow down/keep their hands to themselves/share a toy/finish their food/have a time out. It's not going to be exactly how you would handle the situation, but if you're letting someone else watch your babes for a little bit (in any capacity) you accept that they'll do it their way.
What about when you're in a big group with everyone and someone else decides to step in and tell your child to start behaving or to keep their voice down? It can be awkward when you hear someone else reprimanding your little one, but it's probably worth letting go if it's a small thing like a quick reproof or reminder. Even a stern/quick shout to let them know it's not okay to run out to the street is something you should just let slide, because it's better that they said something than to have your little get hurt.
Perspective is important--is it worth it to have contention between you and your family members just so you can exert your parental dominance in small situations? Is it worth it to have to be by your kids' sides at every second during a big family vacation just so you can make sure to ask them to clean up their crumbs instead of someone else? Probably not. Perspective.
When to say something...
Now all that being said, there are situations where it makes sense for you to step in as the child's parent and let whomever is parenting them (for whatever reason) that you can take it from here.
This can be done in a number of ways, and doesn't have to be a big deal, like pushing your older brother away, and inserting yourself in a dramatic way. It can be as easy as a hand on the shoulder, to let them know you're there, and simply doing what you do, and parent.
This weekend, my kids' uncles were very comfortable telling them to stop yelling/start sharing/calm down, and that's all well and good. If I'm not the one saying it, it's no skin off my back. But when one of them (or anyone else) decides they need to start disciplining my child, like yelling, or even spanking, I get to step in. They don't know the way that you handle things in your home. They don't know how your child responds to certain types of disciplining, and it is in no way out of line for you to tell them to stop, and to let you take over.
Most of the time, this doesn't have to be argumentative or confrontational, but it might be. Be willing to accept that. Again, these are your kids, and it's okay for you to be in charge of how they're treated by other adults. So be aware, respectful, and let your parenting take centerstage.