Q: Grandma and Grandpa are spoiling my children. They give them whatever they want, sometimes in complete disregard of my wishes. How do I address this without alienating my parents?
A: Almost every grandparent occasionally overindulges their grandchildren. There’s usually little harm in this as long as everyone understands that such occasions are to be viewed as exceptions and don’t become expectations. Your reference, however, to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s “complete disregard of your wishes” leads us to think that you may be dealing with a bigger issue. If they’re deliberately undermining your authority as a parent, you need to take decisive steps to address the problem — and soon.
We suggest you get a baby-sitter and schedule a dinner out with your parents. Begin the conversation by letting them know how much you love and appreciate them. Then explain that something’s come up that you’d like to discuss.
Tell them you are working hard to teach your children the importance of obedience, discipline, and respect for authority. Explain that although you appreciate their generosity toward your children, you feel that their actions are hurting your efforts. Identify some specific incidents and share how this made you feel as a parent. Provide reasons for the rules you’ve established and help them understand why you feel it’s important to maintain a consistent standard.
Finally, before having this conversation, take time to consider things from their perspective. If they grew up in depressed circumstances or lower-income homes, they may be simply trying to compensate for their own childhood deprivations by lavishing luxuries on your children. It’s difficult to say how they will react. They may feel hurt for a while, but it’s critical that you address the issue before even greater resentment is allowed to build.
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