Parents vs. grandparents - conflict`s management

Parents vs. grandparents - conflict`s management

  Autor Claudia Gabriela Dumitriu, psiholog Data: 05.05.2009

Parents vs. grandparents - conflict`s management
The conflict which occurs between mother and grandmother regarding the education of the child is greatly a conflict between generations. Whether we talk about the mother's or the father's mother, the generations are different, the concepts and principles of the child's raising and education are different, approaching methods and personalities are different. As a consequence, regarding the child's education, opinions will always be different. The mother will often consider that grandmother's approaching and educational methods are outdated and inadequate for our times, and grandmother, in turn, may tend to believe that the mother makes mistakes because of her lack of experience, that she gives too much freedom to her child, or she will not understand the modern educational methods. From here, they can easily reach to a conflict, in which the child is the one who has the most to lose. 

Grandparents or parents?

In the modern society, in a few cases parents can look after their children's raising and education in their first years of life. Most times, the mother spends a short period of time at home to take care of the baby. If both work, most families appeal to grandparents to help them in raising the child. Of course, there are other solutions, such as hiring a nanny or kindergartens with extended program, but most times they are expensive, don't offer too many guarantees, and are very difficult to find. In these conditions, the most convenient solution seems to be appealing to grandparents' help. 

There are situations when children are left with their grandparents during the week, because their parents are working from morning until evening, and they are brought home in the week-end. In this case, conflicts have as subject the program imposed by grandparents, mealtimes and sleeping hours (the child sleeps too much, or too little), nutrition (the child gets sweets whenever he wants, eats whatever and whenever he wants or he is forced to eat), spoiling (grandparents fulfill any desire and request of the child, just to please him and to make him love them), too rigid education (grandparents can be the followers of a rigid style of educating the child with severe punishments and restrictions, which do not correspond to the parents' relaxed style). Once he gets home, the child becomes cranky, reluctant in font of his parents' authority, can't adapt to the program imposed by his parents, he permanently makes comparisons in his grandparents' favor, etc, and the relationship becomes frustrating for both parties. 

Another possibility is when grandmother lives with the child's parents, to take care of the child while they are at work. If the relationship between mother and grandmother is one of conflict, then the child may get caught in real emotional triangles, where his grandmother for example can try to get him on her side by spoiling him, some favors which his mother refuses or conditions to him, hiding the child's pickles, or commenting about his mother. This way, the grandmother will undermine the mother's authority in front of her child and she will soon notice that she is not listened anymore, that she is being rejected. 

There is also the case when children are raised by their grandparents, who get to see their parents at weeks distance, or in holidays. In these cases, grandparents are completely imposing their own rules regarding children's raising and education, becoming true parental substitutes. In this case, the risk is that the child to feel the situation as an abandon from his parents, and to emotionally transfer the parental attachment to his grandparents. 

The causes of conflict between mother and grandmother

To a child, his mother figure is primary for his attachment. When she is missing, her role is taken by the grandmother. Their relationship can be harmonious, cooperative, and their efforts can come together to give the child the best upbringing, or can be full of conflicts, because: 
  • Grandmother has more experience and knows best how to raise a child, she is the one who raised the mother and educated the father. On the other side, the mother is expert in raising her own child; she knows and feels what's best for her child. 
  • Grandmother's concepts are outdated, the child must be educated as to face the world we are living in; old values and rules no longer apply today. 
  • Each person has her own scenario, created even from her childhood, depending on the things that were lacking to her, things she loved, made her happy or unhappy; this scenario she projects in the relationship with her child. By the virtue of this scenario, she determines what she has to offer, what her child is missing, what she can or can't do. The way she was treated by her own parents will reflect on the way she relates with her child. 
  • Mother and grandmother have older conflicts, unsaid things, reproaches they didn't make to each other, unsolved conflicts. In this case, a transfer of the conflict in the relationship with the child takes place. They are using the child to live the conflict situation, because they can't talk openly. What's painful in this case, is that those things they didn't solve will remain unsolved, the conflict will never end, no one has to win, and the child is the only one who suffers. 
Advice for parents

No matter if both grandparents are involved in the child's education or just the grandma; you should not forget that the relationship between parents and grandparents is an example for the child, which he won't hesitate to apply in his turn or in the relationship with his parents. Don't give him a choice, but focus on creating him a sense of harmony and belonging. 

With a little effort, you can make yourselves understood
  • Teel the grandparents what you want, which program you consider the most appropriate for your child. Cooperate with the grandparents in making this program, don't give them the impression that you give them orders or that you underestimate them; 
  • You can make a list of foods that the child is allowed to eat, in what circumstances he can eat sweets and in what quantities, what hours you want him to have his meals; 
  • Clearly explain them the principles you want to be applied in educating your child, which is the system of rewards and punishments for his behaviors, how many hours of rest you believe he needs, what activities you allow him to perform; 
  • Avoid conflicts in front of your child - no matter what you have to reproach to the grandparents, make sure the child doesn't hear you, because it is possible that he will consider he has to take someone's side in this "fight" whose subject he is; 
  • Listen to each other, be willing to hear what grandparents have to say and communicate to them openly and with arguments about the aspects which don't please you; 
  • Solve the old conflicts between you, so you won't allow them to reflect on the relationship with your child; 
  • Look at the positive aspects: grandparents are very experienced persons, and willing to get involved in raising your child. They love him and want what's best for him, and with a little will and openness to cooperation, your child may get a lot of care and an optimal education. 

Read the English version of this article: Parents vs. grandparents - conflict`s management