By Tom and Dee and Cousin Key

July 15, 2014

Dear Grandparenting: Help me to figure out how to deal with my bossy daughter-in-law and all her rules for when I have the grandkids. They are six and nine years old. She dumps the grandkids on me at the last minute when her plans fall through. She says you want to see the grandkids, right? Well here they are. She dumps her instructions on me. She wants everything done her way, like I know nothing. The kids cannot do this and must do that. OK, I get it. She’s the boss. If I have an idea, she says we’ll talk about it later except later never comes. She second-guesses me on things. When I have had enough of their arguing I send the grandkids to separate rooms while I cool down. She says they’re just bored! Give them something else to do! Like what? Who said being a grandparent is a great job? Patsy Moore, Reading, Pa.

Dear Patsy: Why not come right out and say it? You are steamed, and rightfully so. Grandparenting has morphed from a joy into a “job” because your daughter-in-law runs roughshod darn near every aspect of the acknowledged parent-grandparent contract regarding the care and feeding of grandchildren.

In our experience, successful parent-grandparent babysitting arrangements have several things in common. For starters, never assume that grandparents can babysit. To do otherwise invites resentments. Secondly, each generation reserves the right to make the rules in their own residence — the home-field advantage, if you will. Thirdly, ignore the small stuff. Parents and grandparents should sit down and hammer out the basics and agree not to disagree about petty issues that inevitably arise. Babysitting is an inherently imperfect process.

Disciplining the little ones is frequently a flash point between parents and grandparents. When grandchildren misbehave, grandparents must have authority to punish, lest grandchildren think there are no rules in grandmaÕs place. By the same token, grandparents who respect and honor parental authority are given more latitude.

It’s our guess that your relationship with your daughter-in-law is headed for the rocks unless you clear the air about who’s in charge. Without assigning blame, tell her what bothers you. If you don’t get some relief, the tension will continue to build. Grandchildren are quick to pick up on family friction. The very last thing anyone needs is for them to start playing you off against their mother.

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“When grandparents enter the door, discipline files out the window.” Ogden Nash, late American poet

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Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.