By Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
So you don't feed your children empty calories, but your mother-in-law gives them candy if they behave at her house. Grandpa yells at your children, and you wish he would use a softer voice and a gentler way. You regularly give your children choices, and the grandparents order them around telling them what to do.
How do you handle that disparity in parenting styles? How do you get the grandparents on the same page as you without ruffling feathers? How do you communicate your parenting desires in a way that the grandparents are less likely to take it personally and more likely to go along with your wishes?
Consider the ten tips below. Implementing them with your children's grandparents could go a long way toward harmonizing and standardizing the divergent discipline and parenting styles.
1. Show appreciation for the grandparents' presence in your children's life.
It doesn't have to take a huge village to raise a child, but the more positive role models in a child’s life the greater the number of opportunities for learning responsible behaviors. Having an active grandparent is valuable for a child’s development. Appreciate your parents and in-laws for being a part of your children’s growth, and let them know it.
2. Manage your mind before attempting to manage a grandparent's behavior.
Move up in consciousness before you move in with action. Re-mind yourself that the grandparents were once in a parenting mode with their own children. Because of that experience, they may at times fall back into parenting the way they used to do it. Remember that they're trying to be helpful. They do have positive intentions.
Bringing anger or frustration to this situation or being defensive will not help you work together.
3. Acknowledge their best intentions.
Begin any discussion of parenting by honoring your children's grandparents' best intentions. Let them know that you know they love their grandkids and want the best for them. Jumping directly to the problem and the changes you want them to make will not be helpful.
Communicate your specific desires by first stating what you see as their immediate intention.
"I know you want Billy not to hit . . ."
"I can see that you really want to get Bonita to . . ."
This moves the focus to the end product that the grandparents' desire and sets you up to communicate how you want them to help your child get there.
4. Tell what TO DO rather than what NOT to do.
Paint a picture with your words of what you want to have happen. "I would like it if you would tell him in a softer voice" focuses them on the way you would like it done. "I want you to stop yelling at him" does not communicate the behavior you desire. Stay focused on the desired behavior that you would like Grandma or Grandpa to implement next time by communicating how you would like them to do it.
5. Give specific examples.
Use concrete examples to help them draw a connection to how you want them to respond next time. The more specific you can be the better. They can imagine how to adjust and incorporate a different response.
"I would prefer you give her a choice of how many peas she would like on her plate. Say, 'You can choose one spoonful or two.' Then let her choose."
6. Give them a reason.
When people know your reason for desiring a specific parenting technique, they will be more open to trying the approach and incorporating the technique into their existing parenting style.
"I want you to separate the deed from the doer by telling him you like him and you don't like this particular behavior. I like that better because I don't want him to start believing he is his behavior. Both your grandkids are much more than their behavior. Let's communicate that to them along with the fact that we do not appreciate that behavior."
7. Notice their efforts with descriptive praise.
When you see Grandma or Grandpa parenting in a way that you like, point it out by describing what you’re seeing. Just saying, "You're doing a good job with Bobby," isn't helpful. What do you mean by "good job"? What behavior is it exactly that you want to see repeated? Describe the desired and appreciated behavior in more detail.
"I noticed that when Julie started whining you told her clearly that whining doesn't work with you and gave her the specific words to use."
"I noticed how you redirected Angie toward the toys that she can play with instead of yelling 'No' from across the room."
8. Model the way you want it done.
Model the message. Step in from time to time and demonstrate the parenting technique you want them to use. Seeing how to apply a new strategy is valuable to the learning process. You have the opportunity to hone your skill, your child has the opportunity to learn a new way to behave, and the grandparent has the opportunity to see the behavior firsthand.
9. Make an appeal for consistency.
Remember, your goal is to raise responsible, caring, confident children with gentleness and love, free from shaming or wounding the spirit. When parents and grandparents cooperate and collaborate with each other to reach that goal, you have a better chance of achieving it.
Ask the grandparents to work with you by being supportive of your intentions. It's important that you stay open and consider their ideas and contributions as well. Cooperation means that both parties are willing to look at a goal and explore helpful ways to get there. You and the grandparents can make a synergistic and important impact on the lives of your children if you behave as a team.
10. Thank them for cooperating and working with you.
End where you began by continuing to show and communicate appreciation for the grandparents' presence in your children's lives. Acknowledge their efforts in joining you in the sacred role of parenting. Say thank you frequently.
Parents and grandparents working together for the benefit of children is a powerful energy. Use the ideas above to get that energy flowing in a helpful direction in your life.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The Only 3 Discipline Strategies You Will Ever Need. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free Uncommon Parenting blog. To obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their website today: www.uncommon-parenting.com.