Grandparents As Sitters – 3 Guidelines To Avoid Conflict

Grandparents sitting with granddaughter on a couch

Whether it’s daily childcare or just the occasional Saturday night date, one of the greatest stress inducers for parents is trusting the sitter you’ve arranged to watch your children.

The younger the children, the higher the anxiety and stress. However, if the grandparents are available, the anxiety disappears. Right?

For those lucky enough to have parents or in-laws nearby to help, this caretaker relationship can have problems of its own, and it’s a completely different dynamic than a paid babysitter (even if you pay your parents to watch your kids).

For one, Grandma may have different ideas about discipline and routines than Mom does. This contributes to tension building between the two adults, plus the child may be living with two sets of rules and become adept at pitting one caretaker against the other.

Additionally, if Grandma and Grandpa are on duty all week, they may feel like they miss out on getting to be the one to “spoil” their grandchildren (after all, they’ve already paid their dues the first time around!), while Mom feels bad because she has to be the heavy and the grandparents get to be the heroes.

Even if grandparents simply play the role of an occasional babysitter, you’re still likely to face the occasional disagreement about anything from handling misbehavior to potty training.

But don’t worry, you really can create a care-taking situation that becomes the best of both worlds.

Here are 3 guidelines to avoid potential problems so everyone feels good about the arrangement:

1. Create a short list of non-negotiables

The truth is, Mom needs to feel confident that certain priorities will be taken care of every day.

And Grandma needs some flexibility to adhere to her own personal style.

A list of 3-5 non-negotiables can help. Mom gets the peace of mind that her 2-year-old is taking a nap every day from 1:00 – 3:00 (and won’t be a total grump for the entire evening), while Grandma feels free to decide what they do for naptime routine, for instance.

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2. Sit down for a weekly review

Once a week, sit down briefly to discuss what went well that week and what issues or challenges each caregiver faced.

For instance, if Ben has been hitting lately, or Emma has developed a fear of Grandma’s cat, you can create a plan together, without finger-pointing, to address each challenge.

You should also talk about what areas you can focus on this week to foster your child’s independence.

One of the surest ways to proactively prevent a power struggle is to help kids learn how to do some real-world tasks for themselves, from tying their shoes to packing their own lunch. Grandpa may be a natural to teach these skills, as he may have more time and patience than Mom or Dad.

Grandparents will feel proud of helping to contribute to their grandchild’s independence, while your child will feel empowered in her new capabilities.

3. Have a plan for disagreements

Chances are, you and Grandma will face disagreements about childcare from time to time. And these issues can be difficult to raise–after all, many kid-related topics can be quite emotionally charged within families, more so than with a paid caretaker (even if Grandma is paid).

To give yourself a head start on successful resolution, agree in advance on a plan for handling disagreements, and practice good communication.

For instance, it’s best to stay away from statements like “You never…” or “You always…,” which can put a person on the defensive. Instead, use “I feel” messages.

That may sound like, “I feel that you are undermining my parenting when you disregard the bedtime sleep routine,” or “I feel like you don’t respect my time when you come home late from work without calling to let me know.”

A carefully worded and respectful statement will go a long way in starting a productive conversation.

Then work on solutions. Once everyone has shared their concerns, brainstorm a list of ways to solve the problem. Discuss which solution is in the best interest of your child first, and then the other parties involved. After you implement the solution, make sure to talk about its success (or not) in your Weekly Review.

Final Thoughts

With careful planning and lots of communication, your child will reap the benefits of Grandma or Grandpa’s loving care–and you’ll get to enjoy your career or your night out with fewer worries. Best of all, you can keep family dynamics positive for everyone involved.

If you’re in need of more discipline strategies that work –and that can be easily shared with grandparents–I’d love for you to JOIN ME FOR A FREE ONLINE CLASS!

In one hour, I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen without nagging, yelling, or losing control. The great news is you can easily share these tools with Grandma and Grandpa so everyone can be on the same page!

As always, I’m wishing you all the best on your parenting journey!

Title image: Eastfenceimage/ Shutterstock

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions® and the best-selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on The Doctors, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.