It’s almost an American tradition. Probably international, too. Parents have rules for kids, grandma and grandpa frequently ignore them. “Grandma’s house, grandma’s rules,” right? Maybe, but it doesn’t always sit well with parents. Later nights, extra TV and endless snacks may be bones of contention between parents and grandparents.
Growing up, I had one of those grandmothers. The rules were different at her house. A cookie here, an extra hour of TV there. All the kids got away with some things whenever we were there. Okay, we got away with a lot of stuff.
But it was grandma’s house, after all! It was like the vault on the Titanic or the deepest pit in the pyramid. Nobody was going to know. Especially not mom and dad.
But what we might not have known was that mom and dad did find out. And often, they weren’t happy. Sometimes, they made their displeasure known.
Now, while I might have been blissfully unaware of any of this (if it happened at all,) the researchers at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at Michigan Medicine (U of Michigan) are on top of it. They’ve even broken down the clash-worthy issues and how much they cause problems between parents and grandparents.
In the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, it was found that nearly half of the parents polled reported having disagreements with one or more grandparents regarding their parenting. One in seven of the parents polled reported going so far as to limit the amount of time their kids see their grandparents.
The most common dust-ups revolve around discipline, which turned up 57% of the time, meals (44% of the time) and TV or screen time (36% of the time.) Other common areas of argument include bedtimes, safety and health, manners, sharing personal photos or information on social media and treating some grandkids differently than others.
“Grandparents play a special role in children’s lives and can be an important resource for parents through support, advice and babysitting. But they may have different ideas about the best way to raise the child and that can cause tension,” says Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark.
“If grandparents contradict or interfere with parenting choices, it can have a serious strain on the relationship.”
The nationally representative survey got 2,016 response from parents of kids under 18. Within those responses, discipline is the biggest problem. 40 percent of the parents surveyed said grandparents were too soft on the kids, while 14 percent say they were too severe.
“Parents may feel that their parental authority is undermined when grandparents are too lenient in allowing children to do things that are against family rules, or when grandparents are too strict in forbidding children to do things that parents have okayed,” Clark says.
In some cases, the problems arise because of generational perceptions, norms and habits. As you might expect, some grandparents come from the “this is how we used to do it” school of thought as it relates to parenting. Grandparents may not be aware of new or recent research or recommendations as it relates to things like booster seats in cars or how to put a baby down for a nap or for the night.
Some of the parents say they’ve tried to get the grandparents to respect their household rules or parenting choices, but those requests have been met with only partial success. While about half the grandparents made real changes in how they acted around the children and in enforcing the parents’ will, about 17 percent simply objected completely.
“Whether grandparents cooperated with a request or not was strongly linked to parents’ description of disagreements as major or minor,” Clark says. “The bigger the conflict, the less likely grandparents were to budge.”
Where parents experienced outright rejection of their requests, they were more likely to limit the amount of time those grandparents got with their grandkids.
“Parents who reported major disagreements with grandparents were also likely to feel that the conflicts had a negative impact on the relationship between the child and the grandparent,” Clark says.
“These findings indicate that grandparents should strive to understand and comply with parent requests to be more consistent with parenting choices — not only to support parents in the difficult job of raising children, but to avoid escalating the conflict to the point that they risk losing special time with grandchildren.”
As in so many other situations, “this is how we’ve always done it” just might not be the best answer. Parents may want to consider discussing why grandparents think their experience brings value to the parenting paradigm. They may also want to be more open to the suggestions of the parents as they relate to information or techniques which have been found effective in parenting situations.
In other words, it may be of value for each group to listen to and learn from the other. After all, we’re all just trying to raise our kids as best we can!
Keep the faith and keep after it!
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Journal Reference – http://mottpoll.org/reports/when-parents-and-grandparents-disagree