It was the Sunday after my third grandchild was born 7 weeks early. A well-meaning friend asked me if I was heading to Texas that week. I told her I wished that I was, but Erica and Kendall had asked me to wait to come until Marie was home from the NICU.  My friend said, “Well, did you tell them that it’s grandma’s prerogative to come now if she wants?”  I smiled and said that I wanted to respect Erica and Kendall’s wishes.

The conversation bothered me, but I wasn’t sure why.

However, it was several other conversations with other moms that helped me formulate my thoughts.  They shared stories like these:

  • Grandparents not respecting established bedtimes when watching the grandkids.
  • Grandparents thinking they know better than the parents and insisting on doing things their way.
  • Grandparents who scoff at a boundary that mom or dad are setting for the grandchild.
  • Grandparents who insist on buying too many things for the grandchildren. 
  • Grandparents who manipulate or control with emotion rather than communicating in a healthy way. 

The truth is there are no grandma’s prerogatives. There are only mom and dad’s prerogatives. A grandparent’s job is to help and encourage, offering assistance within the lifestyle and routines of this new family.

I am blessed to have had my parents model balanced grandparenting for me. They have given much love, been available, but never once pulled the “grandparent prerogative” card. Anytime I leave my kids in their care, I’ve never worried if they would follow my instructions. 

Whether you’re the grandparent or the parent, it’s important to know that “grandma’s prerogative” doesn’t exist. The parents call the shots on how their kids are to be cared for and treated. (Of course, grandma can also set her own boundaries, especially if she’s being taken advantage of by the parents.)

If you’re the parent, stand firm on what you want for your family. If a grandparent doesn’t respect your wishes, set boundaries in place to protect your desires for your family.  Yes, you may make some people mad, but your loyalties are now to your new family, not your old family.

If you’re the grandparent, check your expectations and remember that your job is to defer to mom and dad’s wishes–even if you don’t agree with them. 

The goal is to have a good relationship between mom and dad and grandma and grandpa. Understanding that “grandparent prerogative” doesn’t exist is a start to making that relationship strong!

This article originally appeared at Hearts at Home on Sep. 20, 2012. Used with permission.

Jill Savage (www.jillsavage.org) is the founder and CEO of Hearts at Home, an organization for moms.  Jill is a sought after speaker and the author of 8 books including Real Moms…Real Jesus and My Heart’s at Home. Jill and her husband Mark are the parents of five children, four biological and one adopted. The Savage’s make their home in Normal, Illinois.

Publication date: December 21, 2012