What to do when grandma and grandpa don’t follow your parenting approach

Click to play video: 'When parents and grandparents butt heads over child-rearing choices' When parents and grandparents butt heads over child-rearing choices
As a parent, you've likely had a moment where you caught yourself sounding like your own mom or dad, but that doesn't mean you parent exactly like them. In fact, new data suggests parents and grandparents often butt heads on everything from treats to discipline. Here's Laurel Gregory on bridging the generational divide. – Sep 15, 2020

A new study suggests that differing opinions on parenting can cause a strain in the relationship between some parents and grandparents.

Giuseppina Tagliente works in the kitchen at the grocery store her daughter, Camilla Cuglietta, manages: Edmonton’s south side Italian Centre Shop.

While her daughter may be the boss in the workplace, Tagliente doesn’t always follow the rules in one of her most prized roles: Nonna.

“Normally I would make the rules up for my daughter,” Cuglietta says with a smile. “But sometimes those rules don’t always apply when she’s being looked after (by) Nonna… Nonna is a little more lenient than I would be at most times.”

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Cuglietta said her mother tends to give in to her young daughter’s requests for extra screen time and indulges her with jewellery, clothes and hair accessories.

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“I love her to do everything because I am play Nonna and so she gets the discipline from her mom!” Tagliente says.

While the mother and daughter playfully joke about who makes the rules on the home front, a new poll suggests disagreements about parenting choices can cause great strain on the parent-grandparent relationship.

Read more: How families are managing being 2 metres away from grandparents

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that among families where children saw grandparents often or occasionally, 43 per cent had major or minor disagreements about parenting.

Sarah Clark, a research scientist with the hospital, said the team wasn’t surprised to find one of the number one areas of disagreement was discipline. She said it’s a challenge because discipline is subjective.

“It’s very much something that occurs in the moment and it’s also challenging for somebody outside the home to come in and evaluate,” Clark said. “So discipline is kind of a 24/7 approach and parents need to understand where their child is in development and have their own sort of policy or approach of how they want to do discipline.

“I think it’s easy for a grandparent to come in for a visit — whether that visit is weekly or occasionally — see a situation and decide that it’s not being handled well and maybe misinterpret or otherwise not appreciate what the parents are trying to accomplish.”

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The poll found conflicts occurred when parents believed grandparents were too hard or too soft on issues such as nutrition, health and safety, screen time and manners.

When parents asked a grandparent to follow their parenting rules or routines, 17 per cent say the grandparent refused their request.

“What those parents told us was that they then were more likely to limit the time grandparents were allowed to spend with the kids, and that’s where I think we get into those negative consequences.”

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Tammy Schamuhn, a registered child psychologist and the founder of the Institute of Child Psychology, said its incumbent upon parents to choose their battles with grandparents wisely.

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“When Grandma or Nana takes care of your little one, do you think your child feels seen and heard? Do they feel like this person loves them and is paying attention to them and isn’t just sitting on a phone or screen?” Schamuhn said.

“If the answer yes then — big breath — because that’s the most important thing: that the child feels loved. Because if that’s being taken care of, we need to ask ourselves: is this the hill I want to die on today? Because it might not be.”

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Disagreements can often arise due to a generational differences in parenting. When approaching a grandparent with concerns about how they’re taking care of your child, Schamuhn said it’s important to put the relationship first and acknowledge their experience as someone who has raised children before.

“First we always want to start with,’ What are they doing right?'” Schamuhn said. “They want to know that they’re valued in that relationship. What do they bring to the table? If we are going to have that discussion, we are going to start with that.”

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READ MORE: Number of grandparents in Canada continues to grow

While Tagliente may give her granddaughter more screen time and gifts than her daughter would like, her approach has never caused a problem in the family.

“At home, I am the boss,” Tagliente says with a laugh. “I make all the rules.”

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