“Spoiling grandkids the way to get back at your kids!” Such memes always draw laughs when we see them on social media. In reality, this may not seem like a laughing matter. Here are ways how you can deal with grandparents who spoil your kids.
Grandparents Who Spoil Kids: How To Deal With Them
1. Communicate Openly
It is true when they say it takes a village to raise a child. If you engage grandparents’ support and help to care for your kids, do work on open communication. Communicating openly about big issues such as discipline matters (e.g. what offense warrants punishment) and nitty-gritty items such as toys, snacks and videos (e.g. what videos can child watch and for how long) will save you a lot of misunderstanding and frustration.
For example, if grandparents are buying too much stuff like toys and games for grandkids, communicate your child’s real needs to your parents. Money can be better spent on a haircut or a pair of school shoes which will meet an instrumental need.
2. Avoid Triangulation
When parents say “No” to their children, the latter may sometimes try their luck with the grandparents. In renowned Family Therapist, Murray Bowen’s terms, this is known as triangulation – when grandparents are roped in by kids to provide the tension relief craved by the dyadic relationship (parent-child relationship).
Ms Portia Martil, Montessori Teacher, suggests for parents and grandparents to communicate privately vis-à-vis in the children’s presence. “Parents can request for grandparents to run things through them before doing or buying things for their kids. Do it offline so that the kids do not get hurt and hold it against the parents,” says Ms Martil.
She further encourages grandparents to take the message back to the kids with the reasons why they are not able to do or buy it as if it is coming from them. This sends the message to the kids that grandparents would not be manipulated and it spurs parents and child to work on resolving any existing tension.
3. Choose Your Battles
Grandparents overindulge grandkids in a myriad of ways – buying too many toys; giving them too much junk food like ice-cream and cookies; allowing kids to skip main meals; condoning their disobedience; allowing them way too much screen time; letting them stay up way past their bedtime; and the list goes on.
Mr Reon Tay, father to a 5-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter, believes that it is important to choose the right battles in order to win the war against grandparents spoiling grandkids. He shares, “I do not like it when my parents buy toys for my children when it is not their birthday. But I do not stop them from doing that because it is not a major issue. However, I make it clear to my parents to not interfere when I discipline my children.”
4. Give and Take
Negotiate with grandparents for a BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). For example, if grandparents want to give grandkids ice-cream treat, instead of a flat no and being a killjoy, adjust the portion size by asking them to give only a small amount or going for healthier alternatives such as homemade sorbet.
5. Expose the Aftermath
When grandparents overindulge grandkids, it can wreak havoc in our homes. For example, if grandma or grandpa thinks it is alright to stretch the kids’ bedtime and let them leave a family party late, you may want to invite them over to have a glimpse of how a delayed bedtime can trigger a meltdown – the wailing in the car ride home, the resistance to bathe, the inability to pipe down and the night terrors from over-stimulation and over-tiredness. Showing grandparents the consequences of their overindulgence can help them understand why you’d rather manage the kids in a certain manner.
6. Remind Gently
Grandparents need their dignity. Avoid putting down or scolding grandparents when they overstep their boundaries, especially in the presence of the grandkids.
Mrs Cai Biyi, stay-at-home-mother to a 5-year-old daughter, relates that it helps when she gently reminds her mother to treat all her grandkids fairly and not be biased in favour of any of them.
You can create happy, healthy and fulfilling relationships across the three generations by drawing clear boundaries. Some of these conversations may seem intimidating to start and you may be tempted to sweep such issues under the proverbial carpet. But rest assured, you will find taking that first step can indeed spare you much heartache.
By Rachel Lim