Every parent knows the frustration of someone else trying to raise his or her child, especially the child’s grandparents or other relatives. There are those moments when you walk in the room and find your daughter watching cartoons instead of doing homework because “She works too hard; let her have some fun.” Maybe your son is eating ice cream while dinner is cooking because “He’s a growing boy; he needs to eat.” These are little things that add up until your head feels like an Elmer Fudd cartoon with the red hot face and steam pouring from your ears, and you just want to scream. Instead of exploding into a fit of cartoon proportions, try these subtle (and not so subtle) techniques for handling the moments when your parents parent your children.
Tell the story that begins with “Oh let me tell you, I have this one friend who…” Spin a story about a friend who has parents, or relatives of any kind, who have parents doing the same thing yours are -- giving extra treats or undermining your authority --and go on at length about how much they hate it, and how happy you are that your parents would never do something so awful. But note, while this will work on many parents, some do not understand subtlety, and others, well meaning I’m sure, will not recognize that they are doing the same thing the parents in the story were. If either situation occurs, move on to another technique.
Sometimes being passive-aggressive can work in your favor. When the grandparent in question does something that pushes your buttons in relation to your child, retaliate in kind. Now, I’m not saying you should do so to the point where the behavior escalates; that doesn’t help anyone. Once in a while, though, if it leads to a greater purpose, letting your child get away with something small can win the larger war. If their grandparents hate letting them outside barefoot and are trying to force a sandal onto a squirming foot, step in and let the kid run amok. Little things that undermine their authority may help lead them to realize they are doing the same to you. Plus, it does give a certain perverse sense of satisfaction.
I know, shocking idea that anyone would actually be able to feel like an adult around their own parents. Only they have the ability to render you back to your five-year old self when you couldn’t tie your own shoes, let alone anyone else’s. But sometimes, just having an adult conversation with your parents and helping them understand what they’re doing, and why it frustrates you, works better than anything else. It also tends to have a more lasting result.
Sometimes, it is easier to just bow to our parents’ “infinite wisdom.” After all, in their day they had to walk five miles in the snow, uphill both ways, just to take their child to the park. Every once in a while, however, they aren’t right. They don’t always know best when it comes to your child. You’re the parent now and that means that when you feel the pressure start to rise, and you feel like you might start hunting that “wascally wabbit,” you might just have to manage your parent.