How can grandparents tactfully offer advice?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  March 9, 2011 06:00 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Is it OK for me - the soon to be mother-in-law - to send an article on positive parenting: "Dealing With Power Struggles" (concerning a 2-year-old) to my son and his fiance? They have a son, 26 months old - our grandson.

We spend time with our grandson and can see some alarming effects of their parenting style. They are young parents and are isolated - no daycare, no playgroups, no seeking answers -- wanting to do it all on their own. He is throwing BIG tantrums, and it breaks our hearts knowing things could be avoided. We are worried about the long-term effects of this overpowering attitude they have taken to "control" their son.

From: Lucy, Freeport, ME

Dear Lucy,

In my experience, parents of toddlers are exhausted and happy for whatever help they can get, including parenting strategies. But it depends on the people (some people hate getting anything forwarded to them) and the relationship: Have they ever talked to you about parenting strategies? Do they come to you for advice or with questions? It sounds like they are operating with some sense of an over-riding principle in mind; have they ever shared that with you? Or have they stopped coming to you for advice because you've already expressed dismay at their "over-controlling" methods which, by the way, I wish you had described...

If you've never sent them an article before and you suddenly send one that speaks to a perceived "problem," your action -- even though intended to be helpful -- may come across as judgmental and critical. That could be a problem to what may already be a fragile relationship, and something tells me that's what you've got -- a fragile relationship -- or you wouldn't be asking the question to begin with.

Here's my idea: Start off by telling them that since you've become a grandma, you're paying more attention to articles about parenting and you've even discovered some good websites. If you promise not to inundate their inbox, would they like you to send some along? If they are open to it, start with articles that are likely to be inoffensive and work your way up to ones that might be instructive, such as the one you describe. If they are not open to it, I'd start more modestly by finding a way to have conversations about being parents in which you are able to listen without being judgmental, and without saying things like, "Well, when I was raising Johnny...."

Meanwhile, I can't help but wonder (and I mean this in as respectful a way as possible): Is it possible that what you're describing as BIG tantrums are age-appropriate and you've forgotten what tantrums can look like?

Suggestions from the grandparents out there? Or from DIL's....?

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

4 comments so far...
  1. I can't wait for my great granddaughter to get old enough so I can give her advice. My kids want to give ME advice. How did the shoe get on the other foot? My grandkids like my advice for about 30 seconds, then they want to hang out with there friends. Oh the perils of senion citzenship.

    Posted by Marshall Hoffman March 9, 11 01:25 PM
  1. I absolutely agree with Barbara. ASK them if they would like the advice/article. If they say yes, great, send it along. If they say no, hang on to it in case they change their minds, but don't push it. Pushing advice onto your children regarding their parenting abilities is a great way to alienate them and harm your relationship.

    Posted by poppy609 March 9, 11 04:11 PM
  1. I'd have to know what overly-controlling means. If it means they smack a two year old because he's pitching a fit because he thought he was getting macaroni and cheese but someone just handed him a hot dog, then they need a parenting class and a piece of your mind on slapping and hitting. If their two year old clobbers another kid with a toy truck and they say you are going home right now and we will not be getting ice cream on the way home, and then he starts screaming, well, let them set some limits and don't interfere. You can always offer the article and save it for later if they decline. But sure as death and taxes, they will not be raising their child exactly the way you would do it, so you need to think about when you want to try to intervene and when you need to back away and just try to provide balance in the child's life.

    Posted by Favorite Auntie March 9, 11 06:47 PM
  1. Advice is a tricky thing. Be honest with yourself about what's motivating you (maybe it's more your desire to feel like an expert?) and ask yourself if there's another, better route or first step. I know, from being a youngish parent myself, that young parents aren't usually lacking in the advice category, especially the unsolicited kind -- it's everywhere, from friends to Starbucks to the grocery store. If you're not already doing so, maybe you could offer to babysit so your son and his fiance can have a quiet dinner together or go for a walk and re-charge? Trend lightly and gently, and ask if there's anything you can do to help even if it's not in the form you want.

    Posted by Juli March 10, 11 03:29 PM
 
4 comments so far...
  1. I can't wait for my great granddaughter to get old enough so I can give her advice. My kids want to give ME advice. How did the shoe get on the other foot? My grandkids like my advice for about 30 seconds, then they want to hang out with there friends. Oh the perils of senion citzenship.

    Posted by Marshall Hoffman March 9, 11 01:25 PM
  1. I absolutely agree with Barbara. ASK them if they would like the advice/article. If they say yes, great, send it along. If they say no, hang on to it in case they change their minds, but don't push it. Pushing advice onto your children regarding their parenting abilities is a great way to alienate them and harm your relationship.

    Posted by poppy609 March 9, 11 04:11 PM
  1. I'd have to know what overly-controlling means. If it means they smack a two year old because he's pitching a fit because he thought he was getting macaroni and cheese but someone just handed him a hot dog, then they need a parenting class and a piece of your mind on slapping and hitting. If their two year old clobbers another kid with a toy truck and they say you are going home right now and we will not be getting ice cream on the way home, and then he starts screaming, well, let them set some limits and don't interfere. You can always offer the article and save it for later if they decline. But sure as death and taxes, they will not be raising their child exactly the way you would do it, so you need to think about when you want to try to intervene and when you need to back away and just try to provide balance in the child's life.

    Posted by Favorite Auntie March 9, 11 06:47 PM
  1. Advice is a tricky thing. Be honest with yourself about what's motivating you (maybe it's more your desire to feel like an expert?) and ask yourself if there's another, better route or first step. I know, from being a youngish parent myself, that young parents aren't usually lacking in the advice category, especially the unsolicited kind -- it's everywhere, from friends to Starbucks to the grocery store. If you're not already doing so, maybe you could offer to babysit so your son and his fiance can have a quiet dinner together or go for a walk and re-charge? Trend lightly and gently, and ask if there's anything you can do to help even if it's not in the form you want.

    Posted by Juli March 10, 11 03:29 PM
add your comment
Required
Required (will not be published)

This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.

About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

Submit a question for Barbara's Mailbag


Ask Barbara a question

Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

Send your questions to her at:
meltzbarbara (at) gmail.com.
Please include your name and hometown.

Child in Mind

Moms
All parenting discussions
Discussions

High needs/fussy baby

memes98 writes "My 10.5 month old DS has been fussy ever since he was born, but I am getting very frustrated because I thought he would be much better by now...has anyone else been through this?"

More community voices

Child in Mind

Corner Kicks

Dirty Old Boston

Mortal Matters

On Deck

TEDx Beacon Street

RSS feed


click here to subscribe to
Child Caring

archives