Because I said so!

By Drum Digital
27 November 2014

If your parenting style differs from the older generation, use these tips to create a cohesive family environment

If your parenting style differs from the older generation, use these tips to create a cohesive family environment

Your approach to parenting might be at odds with those of your parents or your in-laws. As a child you might have been smacked when you were naughty, but when your child is disobedient you react by confiscating their smartphone and sending them to their room.

Difference in parenting styles can spark major disagreements between parents and grandparents, especially if Granny and Grandpa interfere too much, Cape Town social worker Anne Cawood says.

“Many parentstell me they’re reasonably confident of their parenting skills until parents and parents-in-law arrive for visits. They feel pressured to parent according to the expectations of the older generation.”

Parents and grandparents are often at odds when it comes to discipline and the use of technology, Randburg psychologist and parenting specialist Lomé Koekemoer says.

“When grandparents undermine the rules of parents, it can exacerbate this uncertainty even more and create conflict between the parents and grandparents.” Sadly it’s the grandchildren who suffer most when there’s discord in the family, she adds.

“Children feel they have to choose between their parents and grandparents.” Here are tips to preserve the peace over the festive season while Granny and Grandpa are visiting,

Advice for parents:

- Discuss your parenting style with your mom and dad, Cape Town clinical psychologist Thembelihle Dube says. “It may be helpful for parents to have a conversation with grandparents to outline their approach and request that grandparents understand the reasons why you choose to do the things that you do.” But don’t have this discussion while your children are within earshot, Koekemoer warns.

- Be confident about your parenting style, Koekemoer says. Decide with your partner which aspects of parenting are non-negotiable, for instance that your 10-year-old child may not watch violent TV shows or movies with an age restriction. Grandparents should respect this rule and apply it.

- Don’t be unreasonable. Be flexible about certain rules. Grandparents should be allowed to spoil your children occasionally, Cawood says. For instance you’re strict about what your kids may eat, but when your mom visits she brings homemade cupcakes. “A reasonable parent would allow this as a special Granny treat,” Cawood says. But this doesn’t mean grandparents can go overboard and ply your children with unhealthy, fattening treats all the time.

- “Ask your parents to share their wisdom,” Koekemoer says. “This gives them the opportunity to share their experience.”

- If Granny and Grandpa interfere or undermine your rules or parenting style, don’t admonish them in front of your kids, Koekemoer says, as it could confuse your children or make them anxious. “Rather, take your mom or dad aside when the situation has cooled down and explain to them what you’re feeling and what you’d like from them.” Cawood agrees. “Hard as it may be, stay calm, but as soon as there is a private moment make it clear that this is unacceptable.” When raising the issue of your parents being too interfering do so respectfully and don’t be confrontational, she says. “Start with something positive such as, ‘I know how much you’re trying to help and that you just want the best for the children.’ Then be more assertive and say, ‘But I feel undermined when I enforce a rule and then you seem to override my authority.’

Advice for grandparents:

- Don’t be too quick to criticise. “Think back to all the mistakes you made as a young parent,” Koekemoer says.

- If you’re worried about your grandchildren because, for instance, they’re overweight and eat too much junk food, share your concerns with your children, but don’t point fingers or be judgmental, Cawood says. Choose the right moment to talk about it when you’re alone. Instead of asking straight out why your grandchildren eat so much junk food, rather say you’re worried and ask the parent if they share your concern.

- If you have serious concerns about your grandchild’s welfare you may have to seek professional advice, Cawood says. “Grandparents have a challenging role. They have no actual legal rights to grandchildren, but they do have a responsibility to draw attention to cases of neglect or abuse.”

- Petro-Anne Vlok

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