When Grandma & Grandpa Ignore the Family Rules

My mom always tells me that her role as a grandmother is to enjoy the kids. She doesn’t want to worry about enforcing “all” of the rules that I have set for them. Many grandparents feel the same way. They’ve raised their own kids and now they just want to hang out and have fun with their grandchildren. Unfortunately, this can create tension between the generations.

Here are some tips for handling your parents (or in-laws) when they ignore the family rules.

What to do before the visit... 

1. Set some family ground rules 

It’s not realistic to expect that all of our rules will be followed, so it’s a good idea to prioritize the important ones. Write down all of the rules that you adhere to and identify the “Essential” ones. These are rules that are fundamental to your family values.

2. Be a little flexible 

Let some of the non-essential things go. For us, this means accepting that our kids will eat cookies - sometimes LOTS of them - when they visit my mom.

Think back to when you were little. Chances are, your grandparents broke some of your parents’ rules... and you loved it. You also survived and turned out to be a pretty awesome person too! Giving grandparents a little space to do something special with the kids is great for their relationship. It will also build some lovely memories too.  

3. Clearly communicate your essential parenting rules

The next step is to tell your family which rules can and can’t be broken. Explain, in clear and simple terms, what you expect and why it’s important to you. Let them know how you would feel if these rules were broken. Describing the impact, rather than attacking the person, is key here.

For example, “I know you like this game, but it would really hurt my feelings if you played it with the kids. It would also create issues for us when we go home because they know that this is simply not allowed.” will work better than, “You are such a bad influence! I hate it when the kids play that game. Why are you making my life so difficult?!”)

What to do when the essential rules are broken...

1. Calm down before you talk to the other person

It’s ok to feel angry or frustrated, but it’s important to respond, rather than react. Calm down by taking a few deep breaths. This simple action burns off some of the stress hormones in your body, enabling you to approach the other person respectfully. It’s best to speak about these issues away from the kids, so make sure you do it privately.

2. Take the other person’s perspective

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Why do you think they went against your clear directive? It’s usually coming from a good - albeit misguided - place. Remembering this before you approach them will also help you calm down and respond respectfully. 

3. Validate their perspective while highlighting yours

People are more willing to listen when they feel understood. Do this by validating the other person’s perspective. Reiterate yours, without blaming them. Offering an alternative can also help.

For example, “I know that you have fond memories of drinking Coke with your grandpa. I’m sure there’s another way to bond with the kids, but it really bothers me. You’re an excellent painter, how about trying that with them instead? I’m sure they’ll remember it as fondly as I do.”

Wishing you all a smooth festive season in Dubai and wherever your travels take you,

💕 Dr. Sarah

Remember, I'm here to support you on your positive parenting and family journey in the UAE. Please get in touch if you would like a one-on-one parenting consultation. I can support you with a range of issues, including planning for and dealing with family visitors! You can read more about that in my last blog post.


ParentingSarah Rasmi