When you take care of your grandchild, do you ever break the parents’ rules? If so, do you confess or just let it slide and hope it doesn’t get back to the parents by invoking the popular mantra: “What happens at grandma’s, stays at grandma’s.”
Here’s a story where the grandma defied the parent because she didn’t want to spoil the fun and enforce the rules. A young mom friend complained that her mother-in-law undermined her efforts to potty train her two-year old son. My friend works four days a week and Grandma watches the little boy one day a week. The toddler just started wearing big boy underwear and has been able to stay dry at home and at preschool with a minimum of accidents.
The mom explained the training process to her mother-in-law and she agreed to follow the plan. But when the mom picked him up at the end of the day, grandma told her she just put him in a diaper because she didn’t want to deal with any accidents. Her excuse was that she wants to be the “fun grandma” so if there’s something the child doesn’t want to do, she doesn’t want to ruin his day by pushing him to do something unpleasant. She felt that if she asked him to go potty and he said “no,” then she would rather not argue with him so they can just keep having fun.
My friend was furious with her mother-in-law and I could understand her frustration. Grandma was undermining her efforts to potty train her son because she didn’t want to spoil their fun. I hear this excuse a lot from grandmas — they just want to be “special” and not have to be the “enforcer” when their grandchild visits.
In this case, since the grandma is a regular care provider, she needs to follow the mom’s rules when she’s watching her grandson. She had her time to be the parent but now she must defer to the mom’s rules no matter what she feels.
Grandmas often fail to understand that spoiling their grandchildren is not the way to win their affection. You can enforce the rules and still have fun. Children need boundaries and consistent behavior in order to feel secure no matter who’s watching them.
Grandmas need to remember that our grandchildren will love us even if we occasionally have to do “unfun” things, like taking potty breaks and offering healthy snacks instead of non-stop goodies. We have to follow our adult children’s rules even if we don’t always agree with them. That’s how we earn their trust and respect so that we can continue to enjoy the privilege of spending time with our grandchildren.