How to Deal With Relatives Who Ignore Your Parenting Rules

Grandparents who don’t follow parenting rules are a long-standing tradition, but polarization over pandemic safety recommendations, social unrest, and controversial choices are some of the many ways in which disagreements between loved ones now have more serious consequences. A grandparent carrying candy to grandchildren whose parents don’t want them to have sweets seems downright enjoyable compared to families where relatives explain to children how voting machines falsified elections or that COVID-19 vaccines contain Satan’s microchips .

These are obviously extreme examples, but the current climate in the United States has created controversy at different levels and tested value systems even for relatives with healthy dynamics in extended families.

Where grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other relatives overstep parental boundaries but generally lovingly do so, what are the best ways to curb this behavior? We asked Dr. Matthew Mulvaney, assistant professor and researcher in parenting at the David B. Falk College of Sports and Human Dynamics, Syracuse University . His teaching and research focuses on understanding how parents and families support the optimal development of a child.

Try to understand a different point of view

Obviously, there are more important values ​​that people will not compromise on, but in some cases, going beyond boundaries can be a simple misunderstanding. Mulvaney notes that minor boundary violations can also be present in co-parenting relationships, where both sides deeply love and care for the child but approach parenting differently.

“I think by asking all these questions you are trying to approach it as openly as possible, to meet with them where they are and get their point of view before expressing your point of view,” he says.

In the relationship between parents and grandparents, especially in relations between generations, there will always be differences due to different life experiences. When boundary violations are not malicious in nature, it is important to have some level of empathy for the way they are designed.

Parents can and should draw boundaries that they feel comfortable with and feel are important to the well-being of their children, but even when those boundaries expand or cross, one can still try to figure out where they come from.

“Try to meet them where they are and understand their point of view before placing the stake in the ground,” Mulvaney says.

Communicate and speak up for what you want

A good first step in setting parental boundaries that cannot be crossed is to explain your position and reasoning. Mulvaney says that according to most research on the topic, most grandparents pretty much understand that their role is not to circumvent the wishes of their parents.

“I think it’s fair for parents to basically say what they want, and much of the research on parenting shows that it works better when grandparents obey the parents’ wishes that they remain in the shadows and can intervene. where and when it is needed, but grandparents have an incentive to respect parents and what they consider safe or unsafe from their family’s point of view, ”says Mulvaney.

Mulvaney also advocates the use of self-affirmations as often as possible. Self affirmations are ways in which you can express your feelings and reasoning as clearly as possible without blaming or defending yourself.

“As with many conflicts, being firm but respectful of your position [is important],” he says. “In fact, try to highlight why this is important to you:“ I feel this is important to me and my family ”or“ I think this is a really important security issue ”; such things go a long way in conquering grandparents. “

I agree I disagree

There are some problems on which it is impossible to find common ground. Vivid themes of political or social justice are a good example of this. Often the best way to avoid passing on these values ​​to children is to end the conversation and make it clear that close relatives cannot force certain things on children.

“Have reason to agree – disagree,” says Mulvaney. “There is a moment when we ignore, and if there are more, I would then talk to the children. These are deep, complex and systemic problems that remain unresolved, but it is also important for children to have a good relationship with their grandparents. So change the subject or change the conversation and then talk [to the children]. ”

Understand When Disagreement Is Good

Mulvaney notes that it is important for parents to understand the difference between “disagreement” and “conflict.”

“I think disagreement and disagreement is really helpful; it is good for children to see that people have different points of view and how they resolve these differences, ”he says. “Conflict is bad, [but] if it’s not a conflict, then I think it’s good for them to see you resolve and deal with differences, and that people who care about them may have differences.”

In disagreements between parents, grandparents, or other family members, if children witness and see these interactions run in a healthy and positive way, this is a good time for them to learn and how to deal with these situations as they get older.

“If kids are too protected from hardship or hardship, it’s not good for them,” Mulvaney says. “People can still have the same ultimate goal of their well-being, but achieve it in different ways.”

Consider the ultimate goal

Mulvaney notes that it becomes “another conversation” if repeated requests to stop crossing a certain border go unheeded, but that most conflicts in families where the intent is not malicious do not reach this level.

Ultimately, it is important for parents to remember that they have to make decisions, especially in difficult situations, but also remember that good relationships with loved ones are an important goal for most families. The main goal in healthy family dynamics is simply to ensure that there is a positive relationship between the child and the grandfather, grandmother, or loved one.

“If you really go up to them [a relative] and explain your rules, in general they will accept them,” he says. “It becomes a bigger problem if they are so resistant, but most situations can be brought [at least] to the point of ‘agree to disagree, and let’s not repeat that in front of the kids.’

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