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Are Grandparents Spoiling Your Kids?

When young couples become parents, they have many ideals and ideas of how they want to raise their children. Their own experiences shape their thoughts and what they would like to impart to their offspring. These young parents, usually made more aware with technology, are also greatly influenced by the latest findings reported online and in the media.

However, the same parents who are influenced by all these are also bounded by financial responsibilities and hence, the children may be fostered to their paternal and maternal grandparents more. This pose as some issues, as these young parents will find it difficult to impart their values, since grandparents who spend more waking hours with the children will impart their values instead!

A number of grandparents whom I’ve spoken to have pointed out that grandparenting is different from parenting. By this time, their parenting is done and it is time to enjoy, play and not worry about the rat race of life. For example, grandfathers are often using their roles to play with the young ones, as they have not had the chance to do so with their own children, having been busy with putting bread on the table for most of their years.

But we need to note that none of the grandparents want the worst for their grandchildren. In fact, they want the opposite and that we are dealing with three generations at different developmental stages.

  1. The young ones who learn through play and want to play – they don’t mind more of what is pleasurable.
  2. The parents are now the ones worried about putting bread on the table, setting the foundation for the young ones to go further in life, and ensuring that their children do not fall behind in our world.
  3. Finally, we have the grandparents. They are the ones who are taking things a little easier and wanting to pamper the little ones.

How do we then reconcile three very different stages?

What it’s really about

Firstly, we need to trust and believe that no one is trying to do anyone in. This is important, as many parents I see, complain that their parents or in-laws are “trying to teach my child the wrong thing”.

Values that are not yours are not hurting the children; they are simply different. Remember that your parents or in-laws had used methods that they had thought was modern during their time, and had nurtured and coached you and your partner. There may be values you may like to continue to impart and there may be some that you might want to tweak.

You have read books, the internet, and heard from your peers about the supposedly best ways of breastfeeding, weaning or enrichment classes. Your parents have not heard what you have heard. Hence, it brings us to the second point to establish boundaries and rules.

When a boundary has been crossed

Parenting is to set the boundaries and rules for the current social world that we are living in. Although it’s true that our parents set our boundaries in the past, the key word here is “past”.

Now, YOU need to set the current rules. If you leave the parenting to grandparents, they will use what they feel is best and it may not be what you want. They may use the ways that they are familiar with and perceived that, that had worked.

Many young couples nowadays do not feed their children honey, until they are about three or four years old. But in the past, mothers used to put a little in the baby’s milk bottle to sweeten the milk and have them finish the milk. That little baby could have been you!

Hence, the newly promoted grandmother may want to use the same method and even tell you off by saying, “Thank goodness I did that last time. You turned out fine anyway!” Try to understand that she may not be aware of the fact that the honey may have bacteria that the young stomach cannot fight.

Define yourself and your role

Be specific! Do not use terms or ideas that are vague and then blame the child or the grandparents for not adhering to the values or rules. No one can read your mind. You would need to spell it out for them.

For example, if you do not want your child to have ice cream during weekdays, and only during the weekends, state it clearly. Some grandparents mentioned that they have thought it was not allowed last week because the child was coughing. They then became perplexed that their child was annoyed with them for feeding the child ice cream this week. Routines are therefore great for everyone to follow, and these usually work well for everyone.

Work to make it work

Parenting has no hard and fast rules, and we are all learning. So, be flexible. I have seen grandparents teaching a young child a lot about life and showing them perspective that busy parents are not able to.

If some of the values do not deviate too far from yours, be open and see if you can adapt. Sometimes, you need to allow the grandparents and grandchild to have some fun and secrets of their own. It’s part of the fun of their relationship too. Just remember to incorporate some fun and “rewards” into the routine so grandparents can pamper the little ones legitimately!

Accept grandparents’ role

Last but not least, relax! Trust your parents and in-laws that they want the best for your children. They may not use your methods or ideas, but they have kept you safe and brought you and your partner up well. So, have trust that your children will be safe in their hands.

If you are so uptight about what you are not able to see in your absence, the home environment may become an unpleasant environment. Fostering your child to someone else is never easy. But remember, you will always be the child’s mummy or daddy – that will not change.

Do check in on your anxieties, and where do they stem from. If you feel guilty for not being there for your kids, then make full use of the time when you’re with them. At the same time, enjoy the privilege of having the grandparents around, especially when you’re engaged in other activities!

This article was written by Geraldine Tan, Principal Psychologist at The Therapy Room. The Therapy Room incorporates different psychological techniques to manage the client’s concerns in the most effective way.