There are several reasons why grandparents are involved in the upbringing of their children’s children. One, having grandparents look after grandchildren is a cost effective solution to babysitters and nannies; and two, you get peace of mind knowing your precious little ones are cared for by doting grandparents instead of strangers in a daycare centre. Children, in return, get to enjoy the affection and bonding time with atuk and nek, or ah gong and pohpoh.
As perfect as this arrangement sounds, it is not without its challenges. You are after all your parents’ kids, so what happens when they undermine your authority and treat you like a child in front of your own kids? You give in occasionally because what are grandparents if not to pamper their grandchildren. That extra 15 minutes of gaming because ah gong said yes. Okay, you’ll let that one go for today. That snack before dinner given by nenek. Fine, it is just a curry puff. But you will need to put your foot down with matters that will have long-term repercussions on your children’s wellbeing.
A salty situation
Grandparents think they know more than you because they have been there and done it all. They probably even throw in that infamous catchphrase when disagreeing with your parenting decisions: “I’ve consumed more salt than you’ve eaten rice”.
True indeed that your parents and in-laws have a parenting experience more vast and varied than you and your spouse combined, but let it be known that the final decision on what is best for your child is always on you, the parent. Decisions involving important issues like healthcare, education, dietary habits, discipline and safety should come from no one else but the child’s parents.
This is not to make light of any grandparent’s invaluable contribution to your and your children’s lives, but it has been a while since these feisty seniors last did school runs or disciplined naughty four-year-olds. They do know a lot but their arsenal of kiddie care knowledge might not be the most up-to-date.
Times have changed and most grandparents might not be in tune with a new spectrum of health scares and societal ills kids these days are exposed to, which never existed when you were growing up. The education system has changed so much since you left school and research keeps coming out with more effective ways of handling children.
As such, what used to work more than 25 years ago might be too old school for this time and age. You might be new at this game but your role as the actual parent cannot be diminished by well-meaning grandparents. While the dedication and warmth they pour into their roles as caregivers to your children are unquestionable, you must take a firm stand when they overstep their boundaries and undermine your authority with outdated methods and facts.
A different ballgame
Most often, parents complain of grandparents being too lax on the grandchildren and spoiling them to bits. Your kids’ well-planned daily and dietary regimens all fall to pieces the minute they spend a weekend at their grandparents’. It is frustrating having to re-wire them back to the not-so-fun life and to have a tug-of-war convincing them that your words are the edict on the subject, not their grandparents’.
This situation arises because parents and grandparents approach parenting differently. Grandparents are doing this the second time round and familiarity affords them a more relaxed attitude towards their charges; while parents, on the other hand, are bringing up babies for the very first time and it makes sense that they want everything to be done right. In short, grandparents get to be the cool ones because with grandchildren, they enjoy all the joys and none of the worries. You, however, as a parent, are directly responsible for how your kids will turn out and you lie awake at night worrying about their homework, their behaviour in school and how to get them to do house chores.
While they love your kids unconditionally, grandparents might not be too invested in the more mundane tasks of a child’s upbringing – like the little rules and rigour that build character which you hated your strict parents for when you were growing up. So now it’s your turn to be the unpopular adult figure and it is a thankless job that comes with being a parent.
Grandparents may overstep their boundaries and occasionally mess up your grand parenting blueprint, but it is important to take a less confrontational approach in resolving the issue. Amidst all the noise over who knows best, it is easy to forget that everyone has the child’s best interest at heart.
You are in charge of how your kids grow up but understand too that both you and the grandparents are taking two separate paths towards the same goal – that is to nurture a happy, healthy child.