You might not even realize you’re doing it, but critical grandparents are rubbing their kids the wrong way.
In the early 1990s, when we were moving back to the US from being stationed overseas, we took advantage of a program that made it easy for returning service members to purchase a vehicle. Sight unseen, we purchased a Chrysler minivan and picked it up from a dealer when we arrived in North Carolina. It had all sorts of conveniences: a sliding door on the passenger side, cruise control, removable rear seats and a multi-disk CD player. It was quite the upgrade from the used Toyota Carina I’d driven in Okinawa!
Of course, all of those cool features seem laughable now. Research and technology have made amazing advances in the automotive world in the last 30 years. Integrated GPS, backup cameras, blind spot warnings: all of these make driving today easier and safer. I’d be willing to bet that the car you are driving today has all sorts of features that weren’t on the car you drove when your children were babies.
Given the chance, would you recommend that your grandchild’s parents get a car like the one you had when they were young? Of course not! You want to make sure your grandchildren are in the safest vehicle possible, the newer the better.
The automotive world is not the only place that there have been advances. Thanks to research and, yes, technology, our adult children actually do know more than we did when we were parents. They have access to better information about nutrition, sleep patterns and brain development. They know more about how to keep their babies safe in the car and at home. They have better sources for up-to-date information about social-emotional development and healthy environments.
In other words, they know what they are doing and why.
Yet grandparents are driving their kids crazy. They might not be recommending their adult children drive a 1992 minivan, but they are too often insistent that the way they did things was good enough. New parents report that they get constant pushback about their parenting choices from well-meaning, but critical, grandparents. Grandparents don’t understand why parents insist on doing things differently. They question anything that is unlike than the way they did things as a young parent, such as feeding methods and sleep philosophies and rules about discipline. Sometimes these critical grandparents’ disapproval is silent. Too often though, they let the parents know they don’t agree with how their grandchildren are being raised.
The damage this can do to the relationship between parents and grandparents is real. These little indications of a lack of respect for a parent’s choices add up, and often cause the parents to pull away. If they continue, a true falling out may occur. Grandparents find themselves wondering what they did wrong, assuming there must have been some egregious act that triggered the rift. Most often, it’s a history of behavior that drives their kids to the breaking point, not a single incident.
So next time you are tempted to roll your eyes over your “over-protective” daughter-in-law’s insistence on keeping the crib free of stuffed animals, think about the car you drove when your son was young. Then admit she probably has the advantage of information you didn’t have when you were a parent, and thank her for keeping your grandbaby safe.
Partnering with Parents, part of New Grandparent Essentials, helps you address many of the topics that can lead to parent-grandparent misunderstandings. Talking with parents about these topics up front can ensure that everyone is on the same team for your grandchild’s early years. Learn more here.