Do you think your children are better parents than you were? Odds are, you don’t. According to a 2018 study by AARP, a startling three in four grandparents disagree with the statement, “In general, parenting today is better than it was.” They believe that discipline is worse than it used to be, and that parents today are both too lax and too overprotective.
Luckily, most grandparents respect boundaries and hold their tongue even when they disagree.
Most, but far from all. Another recent study, this time of parents, shows that disagreements about parenting choices are common.
In an August 2020 Mott Poll Report, 43% of parents report asking a grandparent to change their behavior to be consistent with the parents’ choices and rules. Although the Mott Poll Report doesn’t give specific examples of the conflicts, some of the disagreements parents have shared with me include:
“She’d never use the clothing or skincare products or diapers/wipes that we sent with her, and my daughter would get rashes.”
“My daughter had a specific feeding/nap schedule, but my mother-in-law did whatever she wanted because it interfered with her tv/errand schedule.”
“We’ve explained that we want our boys to have body autonomy and not feel obligated to let adults give hugs and kisses unless they want them.”
“He posts pictures on Facebook even though I asked him not to.”
“When I say that a child has a food allergy, I wish they would try harder. They don’t check labels or they ‘forget’ but then if I provide food to make it easier for the grandparents, they are offended.”
“She refused to use the bottles I sent and would transfer the formula to old-fashioned ones.”
“Our in-laws treat the grandkids way differently. One set gets trips, airplane tickets and tickets for theme parks. Our kids get things from garage sales.”
“I keep telling them not to bring a present every time they come over.”
“I took my son off pacifier at 3 months. She went out and bought some to have at her house. Bottle was the same way at 9 months.”
“My mother-in-law smokes like a chimney and then carries my baby after I have repeatedly told her not to.”
“I wish they wouldn’t buy them stuff without asking if it’s okay. Cell phone, gallons of glue, clothes that don’t fit, etc.”
“They make plans with the kids without consulting me or my husband.”
These are all examples of things that grandparents have not been willing to do when parents asked. Would you find any of these requests impossible to comply with?
Sadly, it’s not uncommon: according to the Mott Poll, fewer than half of the grandparents asked to change actually did so. 17 percent flatly refused, and another 36 percent agreed to do so, but then didn’t.
In the worst cases, parents limit their children’s time with the offending grandparents. But even if that drastic action isn’t taken, the relationship between the generations will suffer. When parents can’t fully trust grandparents to be on their team, everyone loses.
In an effort to better understand why grandparents don’t respect boundaries set by their children, we are surveying our readers. We hope to be able to identify how we can help grandparents better support parents and improve their relationship with their grandchildren.
Can you spare a few minutes to take the survey? All answers will be completely confidential—we’ll never let your daughter-in-law know what you said!