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Illustration of mother frustrated at Grandmother spoiling her child
Illustration courtesy Lauren Rebbeck

Help! My Parents Let My Kids Do Anything and Send Them Home Spoiled

Licensed clinical psychologist Melissa Gressner shares tips for parents.

The Problem:

When my kids come back from spending time with their grandparents, we have to “de-program” them to get back to our home rules and expectations. We want the kids to have a great relationship with their grandparents, but we need our kids and our parents to respect our way of parenting. How do we handle this so we”re not the bad guys

The Expert:

Melissa Gressner, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist, speaker, and coach.

The Solution:

Part of the joy of being a grandparent is all the fun with less responsibility. And part of the reason kids want to be with their grandparents is because they know looser boundaries or a treat might be coming their way. It’s helpful to set clear boundaries for both the kids and grandparents—for everyone’s happiness and sanity.

Communicate proactively. Establish what is and isn’t flexible so everyone is on the same page. Tell your parents, “This is something that’s really important to us so if you could reinforce it while the kids are with you, we would appreciate it.” Tell them why it’s important to you. Also, let them know that when they disobey your rules, it models that behavior to the kids—a problem your folks probably don’t want to create for you.

Choose your battles wisely. Tell the grandparents what you are willing to flex on and what you are not (for example, strict bedtime must be enforced but sugary treats are fine). This helps you set boundaries while letting your kids and their grandparents have fun.

Be confident. The more confident you are in expressing your expectations with your kids and their grandparents, the greater the likelihood they will be honored.

Remind kids that rules are rules. Once children return home, tell them that your rules are back. Just because they “got to do it at Grandma’s house” does not mean they can do the same thing at home. If you have been doing a good job at being proactive, they will know to expect this each time they return home.

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