We’ve all been there. Whether it’s your mother or your mother-in-law, you are told, “We did things differently when we were parents.” Unsolicited advice is hard to hear from anyone. It’s much easier to pooh-pooh the unwanted counsel at a grocery store from that stranger when your toddler is having one of “those” moments. But, when it’s your mother, or your husband’s mother, it’s not that easy. You can’t just ignore them or ask them to mind their own business, as you might with that stranger on the checkout line. So, here’s some bankable advice next time Grandma offers up her two cents.
Make sure you and your husband are on the same page
When you and your husband remain a united front, it’s not so easy to slip through a “hole in the fortress.” If your mom or MIL tries to alter a rule that you’ve established, it’s easier to catch it and hold firm, as long as you and your spouse agree on what you have secured.
Choose your battles
Decide if some of the unwanted advice can be flushed through one ear one and out the other. You have the control as a parent to choose what to respond and react to. If you are getting parenting suggestions or opinions from grannie that don’t align with yours, you can simply shake your head, tell her “that’s interesting”, and move on.
How to address it head on
If it gets to the point where you must confront grandma, please do it out of your children’s ear shot. Even if you think the kids are absorbed in their separate activity, they are still paying close attention to you. It is very hard for children to witness inter-generational struggles.
Choosing the right time to speak is important, too. If you can “strike while the iron is cold”, you may not explode! By waiting for another day or another moment when you are not feeling heated up, you might have a better chance of having a more calm, productive talk where you can re-establish solid ground.
Remember that your parents feel that their style of parenting was the “right” choice for them while they were raising their kids, as much as you do with yours. It’s not a right vs. wrong, so trying to prove yours is the “better” way isn’t going to change any minds. Remember, those future holiday dinners are more enjoyable without added tensions!
When Grandma meddles from within…
Did you ever say to yourself, “When I’m a parent, I’ll never say/do that with my child”? Well, years later when it’s your turn to speak to your own children are you catching yourself saying those exact words you swore you’d never say? As you hear yourself talking, it almost startles you. “Wow, I sound just like my mother!” It may happen more than you think, and it may go unnoticed most of the time. Our parents can have a lasting impact on us, from afar and from within. Oftentimes, we react and act as if we are our parents, without realizing it!
The fact is that by the time we reach adulthood, we have all had many years to absorb the lessons, teachings, and philosophies from our own parents. I think it’s important to be aware of who’s voice you are using. Is it your own, or one from a generation ago? So, if you find yourself supporting an argument with the line, “Because that’s how it was when I was a kid.” Or, “It worked for me when I was your age”, then chances are you are parenting from one generation before, without being aware of it.
It’s true that your mom and dad may have done a great job with their wisdom and parenting styles. It was right for them at that time in their lives. But, you may see things differently as an adult now with your own family. It’s important to flesh out what feels right for you, in this time.
We all know that grandparents occupy a special place in your child’s life. In part, one of the reasons they remain so special is that they are permitted to bend the rules from time to time, within limits. So, next time grandma offers two cookies before dinner, smile at her and say, “what a wonderful treat to have two cookies, after dinner.”