My parents came to live near us about six months ago, in large part to help out with the grandkids. They’re a huge help, but….they don’t parent the same way my husband and I parent. They’re a little more “old school” in terms of discipline. How can I address this without seeming like I don’t appreciate my parents and all the help they’re providing?
It can be a great support to have family nearby, and the benefits to the grandchildren are typically very positive. It is important to establish some boundaries, and the earlier the better. Try not to put off difficult conversations or discussion points, as it can allow bad habits or patterns to form that will be harder to address down the road.
Perhaps you can try having a family meeting. Summer is the perfect opportunity, as kids are out of school and will have more free time. If you and your husband can come up with a list of things that involve the kids and family, you can identify the things that they can help with. This might be specific activities or days of the week. This will give your parents a clear idea of how they can be helpful. You can explain the importance of having a routine that involves them as well as time for just your household.
Once you have established how they can be helpful, you can address some ground rules for how you choose to parent your children. Putting things in writing can be helpful and serve as a good reminder. If you use certain techniques or reward/discipline, make sure they know what that system is and how they can participate. It is okay to let them know that you parent differently and ask them to respect that. It would also help to let them know of any red lines that you absolutely do not want them to cross. This is often something verbal or physical, but again, clearly outline the expectations.
Having raised three boys, I realize that they are not always perfect angels, so if there is a behavioral issue or disciplinary problem they feel needs to be addressed, let them know how you would like that handled. Ideally, with open communication and clear boundaries, things will work into a nice routine, and this will be a positive experience for all of you.
While some of your conversations are for the adults, be sure to ask the kids for input. Ask how they are feeling about the grandparents being a more active part of the daily schedule and how that’s working for them. Make sure they are comfortable. This will allow you to identify any possible issues before they turn into a bigger problem. You should also remember to check in with your parents and ask for feedback on how it is going from their perspective. If your parents have specific rules at their house, talk to your kids about these; make sure everyone is on the same page.
Open communication, active listening and observation is really key in creating a successful dynamic and dealing with any challenges that do arise. Family support is great, but we all have different ideas and expectations, so just be sure to identify those and make some adjustments along the way.