Thursday, August 1, 2013

Good Cop the grandparents, Bad Cop the parents. Inconsistency in parenting and how to deal with it.

Do you sometimes feel that ever since your parents or in-laws have been promoted to grandparents, their disciplinary methods and ideals on bringing up a child change too?

I was having a heated conversation with my mother in the car the other day, about encouraging my children to eat their breakfast/lunch/dinner without the need for the television to be running. We have very strict rules over television watching at home. Most days, our boys are only allowed to about an hour of screen time. That too, what they watch are highly filtered by us. We only allow age appropriate shows that portray the correct educational and moral values.

So our debate started when I complained about how my sons are taking a ridiculously long time to finish their meals these days. They refuse to remain seated, and would rather play catch with food stored in their mouths for the longest times. I have tried all kinds of methods to hasten their chewing speeds, like buying fun types of spoons, singing catchy chewy songs together and even rewarding every meal with raisins, fruits and jelly but all has failed quite miserably.

My mother then went on to say then maybe I should let them watch television during mealtime, because that at least would keep them seated and perhaps get them to eat a little faster too. I went from half asleep, to all awake in five seconds. Did I just hear my mother, the disciplinarian mistress tell me to allow my children to eat and watch television at the same time? This was the same woman who kept me in the kitchen, away from all toys and the television until I finished every spoonful of my meal. I think I was deprived of playtime for a good half of the day every single day just because I was a slow eater. To think she was capable of even suggesting that I should close both eyes and relent to screen time during mealtimes. Whatever happened to being firm and consistent with our parenting ways?

My husband and I both parent in the same consistent and firm manner. We are what you call authoritative parents, we establish rules and guidelines that our children are expected to follow. However, we are democratic in the way that we are often responsive to our children's concerns and needs. Of course, we try our very best each time to negotiate and come to terms where both parties are happy. For example, our sons eat their dinner and we reward them with something that they would like to indulge in thereafter. It is a win-win situation for us all.

I still see no need in relenting to screen time during mealtimes, and I refuse to budge despite my mother's reasoning especially in our household. I know for a fact that she indulges the kids with screen time during mealtimes when they are over at her place, and there is little I can do when I am not around physically. It disturbs me that my children are granted leniency each time they are away from me, because it would mean that there is inconsistency in their disciplining methods which leaves them confused and ultimately misbehaving thinking that they can get away with it. Luckily, this only happens twice a week for when I drop them off for a wee bit of school time.

Of course, my parents are not the only grandparents who are guilty of this. My parents-in-law are too. Then again, which grandparent does not ultimately spoil their grandchildren? It is like grandparents have an innate tendency to play good cop, while the parents remain the bad cop. So, what can we do to help inconsistency in parenting styles with different caretakers?

1. Pick your battles
Know when to fuss over these disciplinary details. How often your child is in contact with them and how strong the bond is plays a part in how much the child will lean towards the discipline actions. So if like me, your kids only get the occasional bending of rules while at granny's place, just learn to live and let live. It's easier to keep the relationship healthy between parent and grandparent.

2. Enforce rules, but be willing to bend some of them... sometimes.
It is crucial in letting your child know that rules are important and a way of life. Children need people who set rules and eventually rules that they know they can depend on because that is how they value expectations and build social standards. It is good for children to know that while there are certain rules that cannot be broken, there is a time and place for negotiations in certain situations. Explaining that you are aware there is a deviation from the norm lets kids know that the change in schedule is not random and that you ultimately decide whether there is basis for negotiation.


  1. And if it's like my situation where he spends most time with grandma who takes care of him while we are at work? How would you suggest we enforce rules?

    1. Hello!

      #1. I think first and foremost quite simply, parents and grandma need to sit down and lay the terms first. Make your rules put forward subtly and gently so that it in no way undermines their parenting capability. Let them know that you trust their ability to bring up a child, but still you would like certain rules to be enforced your way. Talk to your parents and in-laws ahead of time about your expectations for their role in your little one's life.

      #2. Set boundaries that create concrete guidelines and be sure to use them in a more positive manner. For example, instead of strictly saying no television during mealtime. Compromise a little and let known to grandma that television is okay if the little one finishes her meal. That way, grandma would not feel that her suggestion is shot down all too quickly and at least it was taken into consideration.

      #3. We seldom realize how hard our own parents had to work until we have children of our own—and that's one message that new grandparents will be happy to hear. Recognition and mutual respect can help your whole family bond and grow closer. Also, your child seeing a healthy relationship between yourself and grandma would help him respect and want to appreciate the kind of advice you two churn out for him.

      #4. Perhaps creating a similar chore chart/rule list for home and grandma's place would also familiarise him with the rules that are set for him. Ultimately, he may grow up to understand that rules are set for a reason, and even if grandma does not really enforce strictly some rules, your child would know that he would have to follow the rules as what mommy had stated.

      #5. Lastly, it is very important to have constant communication with your child about your expectations from time to time, regardless of his age. He may be a toddler, or younger, but that should not stop you from talking to him about appropriate rule abiding behaviour. children are smart individuals, and if you rationalize and speak out with him over how sometimes rules are a little bent at grandma's he will understand that it is only because grandma feels that he deserves a little treat from time to time.

      Hope that helps!