Grandparents love spoiling their grandchildren, and often take on the responsibility of looking after your kids when you need a babysitter or someone to care for them while you’re at work. But you know that at some point your kids will misbehave when they’re with them. So, is it okay for them to discipline them?
In general, you’ll probably not have a problem with your folks laying down the law if you’re using the same methods, especially if your kids’ safety is at risk. If you’re lucky, you also share similar values – after all, they raised you.
When parenting styles clash
But as we know, tensions can run high when parenting styles clash, especially if your parents tend to fall back on their authoritarian style of discipline, or they’re too soft with the rules you want them to adhere to and they feel are too demanding or they disagree with.
But one thing experts are clear on is you are in charge when it comes to your kids, and your parents should defer to you even if their approach is different. The role of the grandparent, they say, is to fit in rather than change your family culture.
In other words, it’s your job to parent your child, unless you’ve invited them to do so.
Having the conversation
According to local clinical psychologist Francesca Chetwin it’s your responsibility to empower your parents to contain your kids while they are in their care. But she stresses that it’s important that the discipline is emotionally safe and not punitive.
“Ideally, both you and your parents should be in agreement about the style of discipline for your kids, with you being in charge when you are present, and them doing their best to manage boundaries in the way you do at home when you are not.”
Best advice, says Francesca, is for you to sit down and have an open conversation with them about how they view and approach discipline, and to carefully negotiate any differences up front. She says when you do this, it’s important for to consider that when your kid’s behaviour requires marked ‘discipline’ or containment, it may signal some kind of problem, because feelings always drive behaviour.
“Children who are better able to regulate their feelings (especially big negative feelings), feel secure enough in themselves and have a ‘good enough’ relationship with their caregivers, usually behave within reasonable boundaries, and benefit from knowing what the boundaries are.
“Every home has its own boundaries set by the grown-ups in charge, and when they are reasonable, safe and clearly communicated, kids usually comply.
“When kids don’t comply, it usually signals some kind of difficulty, which needs to be thought about and discussed,” she says.
What moms say
We asked moms on Facebook to weigh in on their folks disciplining their kids and this is what they said:
- “Yes. Kids need to know boundaries in every place they go. More so they need to know respect. Of course we are talking discipline, not abuse.” – Letitia Grundling
- “Absolutely. Children need other adults to reinforce good behaviour and address the bad ones. The saying it takes a village absolutely applies here.” – Carissa Engell
- “Grandparents, aunts, teachers anybody I left them with can and discipline my kids. Kids need to know and learn their boundaries and that rights come with responsibilities, they can’t just do as they please.” – Refiloe Miyako
- “Yes, but according to my rules (which includes their house rules) and methods. My children need to know there is boundaries everywhere, but also that they are loved.” – San-Marie Jolliffe
- “Yes of course!!!Although grandparents tend to be a lot more lenient.” – Melissa Jones
- “If I’m not there it’s granny’s rules in granny’s house.” – Josi Montanari
- “Yes. How else do they know what is socially acceptable? If others don’t assist with discipline then your child just thinks it’s “because Daddy and Mommy said so.” – Joanne Brits.
Content editor and writer on Living & Loving, Sonya has over 25 years experience in the media industry. She edited Living & Loving magazine for six-and-a-half years and is the former editor of Longevity magazine. She’s won numerous media industry awards and is passionate about the health and wellbeing of moms and children.
Outside of work, she enjoys trying out recipes, reading crime mysteries and thrillers, practicing yoga, and exploring new destinations.
Learn more about Sonya Naudé.