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New Grandma Pushes Parents’ Boundaries

Advice columnist Amy Dickinson always tackles relationship challenges with such wisdom and insight by offering perspectives from both sides. Personally, this new grandma makes my blood boil. She’s one of those grandmas that give mothers-in-law a bad rap! According to this new mom, her MIL is not respecting boundaries and “prefers to do things her way.” She’s breaking the most important grandma commandment: Respect the parents’ rules. How do you weigh in? Share your opinion in the comment box.

Dear Amy: My husband and I recently welcomed our first child. On my side of the extended family, our baby son (“Samuel”) is the fifth grandchild, but on my husband’s side, he is the first.

I am trying to be sensitive to the excitement and extra attention a first grandchild receives. My mother-in-law, “Joan,” has been to our house for a visit of a week’s duration each month since Sam’s birth. Each time she visits, I am more hesitant to welcome her back.

Joan is blatantly disregarding the parenting strategy my husband and I have adopted in favor of her own techniques. She does this against our specific instructions and without discussion.

My husband has stepped up and politely addressed our concerns multiple times with Joan. She either apologizes (without any change in her behavior) or tells him that she prefers to do things her way. I am ready to toss manners, along with any future invitations to visit, out the window, but I do not want to start a family drama centered around our child.

How should I approach the situation? — First-Time Mom

Amy’s Advice

First-Time Mom: Don’t wait until you lose your cool. Talk to your husband and develop a plan for communicating with his mother — together. This presents an opportunity for you two to offer a united front regarding behavior that seems to bother both of you.

Boundaries must be drawn. After you draw your boundaries, you should patrol them — respectfully, but firmly and consistently.

Essentially, you will be training your mother-in-law on how to treat your family. If you demonstrate some leadership now, you will have the opportunity to establish a healthier and more respectful relationship moving forward. If you don’t like the pressure of handling an extra person in your household for a week every month, you should take steps to reduce either the frequency of these visits or their duration.

Also, for perspective, ask yourselves: Five years from now, which aspects of these visits will you regret the most? Try to take the longest view — are there child-rearing matters where you can be more flexible? Are you so bothered by her overwhelming presence that you are missing opportunities to learn from her?

Then, you and your husband should outline the basics: “Mom, we don’t expect you to do things exactly the way we do, but you must respect our choices for how we’re raising ‘Sam.’ This is important to us.” And then every single time she deliberately subverts you, you’ll have to remind her and tell her, honestly, how her behavior makes you feel (disrespected and frustrated). Express your honest hope that you can work things out, because you genuinely want to support her in having an active and positive relationship with her wonderful grandson.

1 thought on “New Grandma Pushes Parents’ Boundaries”

  1. I am a Grandmother of two. My granddaughter is 7 and my grandson is 5. Since she was18 months I’ve suspected something going on. Then when she was 4 and he was 2, they had just come back from the other grandparents’ house and they began touching and getting on top of each other. I researched and found facts about child abuse and made a list. I presented them to my daughter and she just said it was age appropriate what they were doing, and she just thought maybe I was wrong. So I didn’t report my suspicions. I wish I had without consulting them. Because now my grandchildren have anger problems and my granddaughter cries at anything.

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