Setting Rules for Grandparents

Setting rules for grandparents can be a difficult (but often necessary) task. Grandparents are often more relaxed with boundaries than they were with their own children, and the rules that applied to you as a child may not be translating to your own children by Nanny and Granddad.

The problem with setting rules is that without gentle approach and appropriate discussion, tensions can develop between parents and grandparents resulting in misunderstanding, tension, and sometimes even arguments.


Set boundaries early

It’s important that you set boundaries early on to define your rules clearly. If you don’t allow your children to eat a certain food or carry out a particular activity, make it clear from the beginning.

For example, if you only allow your children to eat organic food then your parents should respect that decision. Just make sure that you provide the food for them – there’s no reason that should be expected to pay for your expensive decisions.

It’s at this point when it may be necessary to acknowledge the advice of grandparents, but at the same time nip it in the bud. Rather than dismissing their advice out of hand, perhaps saying something like “thanks for the idea, Mum. I’ll have a think about it” or “we have already discussed that Dad, but decided it’s not the way we want to go forward”. Be firm, but tactful.


Prepare to be flexible when setting rules for grandparents

You can’t expect to ask your parents to look after your children without being a little flexible. One of the reasons that children form such strong boundaries with their grandchildren is that grandparents are allowed to be a little less strict than mum or dad. Even a little twist of a rule can make grandparents more fun, but never-the-less when setting rules for grandparents they should be respected.

Thousands of grandparents now take the place of babysitters on a daily basis. Don’t expect your parents to look after your child – for free – and then expect to treat them as a childminder. That’s unfair and will eventually result in arguments.


Grandparents are allowed to spoil their grandchildren once in a while

No one wants their child to grow up to be spoilt, but it’s a grandparent’s prerogative to spoil their grandchildren every now and then. It may be that they allow your child to have that bar of chocolate before bed against your usual rule-set, or let them have hot chocolate for breakfast. Accept this as being what makes being with grandparents that little more fun than being stuck at home in the daily routine with mum and dad.


Stand your ground

There will be times when you have to enforce your rules, and that’s OK. I can think of a couple of occasions where my own mother has gone ‘too far’ with stretching the rules and my partner and I have had to take this up.

It’s never easy to have this conversation without feeling a little guilty, but it’s ultimately important that you do before things boil over into a huge row.


Remember your parents have done this before!

It’s easy to get stuck in your own little world of routines and rules, but remember that your parents have been here before. They raised you, afterall!

Accept that they have experience in most matters of bringing up a child and value their opinion. You don’t have to do everything they suggest, but you may find that listening to what they have to say will help you.

Setting rules for grandparents should be about fair and clear boundaries, not being a dictator.

Tread carefully around your in-laws

However close (or not!) that you are to your in-laws, the chances are that it’s likely you’re not as close to them as your other half. It’s therefore vital that you exercise caution when speaking about your concerns as this may be viewed as a criticism. It may therefore be necessary for you to ask your partner to approach them with any concerns rather than doing it yourself.