Does Not Following Tradition Always Mean a Sign of Disrespect?

Updated on June 11, 2019
L.C. asks from Phoenix, AZ
19 answers

My sons, ages 27 and 19, always wear a ball cap everywhere they go. I have tried explaining that it is a sign of respect to take it off, and when they were kids my parents and I would playfully take them off it the boys didn't. Well, they still wear them, and my mother is now refusing to have them at her house for get-togethers if they won't take off their hats. So I told her that I will do all the entertaining at my house then but I can't guarantee they will take their hats off. She then told me that she won't attend. Isn't she taking this too far? We have gone back and forth over this in emails, and she won't budge. I understand where she is coming from, but I think this is one battle not worth picking. I feel she is doing more harm to the family by refusing to get together all over a hat!

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your wonderful responses! The one thing that for some reason I didn't completely recognize was the fact that she was putting me in the middle. To some level I did, because I told her that I wasn't going to share the email with them. But this is an ongoing pattern with my mom and myself, and she has always tried to control everyone. At age 55, she is still doing it to me. My brother, age 60 has stopped contacting her due to this. I do believe she is beginning to reach the age where her mind is starting to go, but this recent behavior is not new.

I will clearly tell her not to put me in the middle anymore, and we will see how it goes from there. Yes, the boys are stubborn, but she never really seriously sat down and explained it to them. She always treated it as kind of a joke, so I don't think they ever took it that seriously.

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answers from Boston on

I think if she were throwing a fit over something that can't easily be accommodated, like she won't have them there because of a tattoo or piercing or hair style, or if she made up some ridiculous rule that the world had ever heard of and wasn't the accepted norm, you'd have a leg to stand on. But hats? It is rude to wear them indoors. It's not something I really notice when we're at home, but my parents notice and will remind my sons to take them off at their house (they range in age from 13-21) and they quickly apologize and comply. Tell your sons to grow up and take off their hats indoors at you mom's house, period. It is asking very little of your sons to respect the wishes of someone who should matter to them. My kids know the dress code/rules for when we go to my parents' hats indoors, no clothing that is super tight or shows a ton of skin, no t-shirts that mock things that they value, etc. They can put someone else's values and wishes ahead of their own for a few hours at at time. It's really not asking too much.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

It's what grandma wants, and your boys can indulge an old woman, regardless of whether it's "tradition" or not.

I think your boys can take off their darn hats for grandma. What's the big freaking deal? Are they going bald early? Grandma wants it, for whatever reason, so they can be kind and do the old lady a favor. I think the problem may have begun when, instead of telling your boys to take off their hats when they were little, you "playfully" took off the hats. You could have just issued a no-nonsense, "Take off your hats boys, grandma likes it that way," and your sons would have learned how to be generous and kind. Now they have grown up to be selfish and petulant. They can't even remove their hats for their grandma.

But now that they are adults, you can't really tell them what to do, but you can certainly suggest it.

I'm so tired of all this coddling that goes on with young people these days. Your children will not die without their hats.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

what a bunch of inflexible immature brats. your 'explanations' were clearly insufficient. young men who refuse to accommodate their grandmother's wishes are rude and spoiled, but apparently that goes back to their childhood.

not that she's any better. her rules are more important than a relationship with her grandkids.

this sounds like a symptom of a much deeper and broader dysfunction in this unfortunate family.


11 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Everyone in your family is being so stubborn! Personally, I would teach the (adult) boys to take off their hats at the table. It's polite. I'd tell them they can leave it on when eating with friends but sometimes we need to have good manners and when grandma visits that is one of those time. Why would they make a huge deal out of it's just a hat and it will make grandma happy.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

You seem to be putting this all on her but it is equally on your sons who could make the whole situation go away by simply removing their hats. My sons both know (and they are still young teens) that it is rude to wear a hat at a dinning table and will always take theirs off. It seems stranger to insist they not be worn inside at all, but really not that big of deal if you really think about it, no more so then taking off your shoes at the door and none of us would complain about being asked to do that. I find it sad 3 grown adults can't work this out without putting you in the middle.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

You know what? Granny's house, granny's rules.

My guys wear hats in the house mainly because we have been outside and they are all sweaty and yucky. BUT at the dinner table, hell no. Those hats come off.

I think your sons need to have some respect. That said, I don't think this is a mountain I would be willing to die for.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

It is not something I would personally make that big of a deal over.

However, it is proper protocol to remove a hat indoors.

I live in the Dallas area and it is customary for men to remove hats indoors. In some areas, depending on the venue EX: ball game indoors vs country club, protocol is a little more lax and some venues more formal. I have been at our country club when someone wearing a hat was approached and asked to remove it indoors.. baseball cap, golf cap and cowboy hat. You just do it or leave in this venue

I don't understand why they would dig their heels in and not comply at her house out of respect for their grandmother Something else must trigger them to be this passive aggressive.

That said, she should also be willing to lighten up.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Boy, wonder where your boys get their stubbornness from? ;-).

Sounds like you were trying to please everyone, and really you can’t. Instead you are sheltering them from experiencing the consequences of their choices.

Your sons are in charge of their relationship with grandma. Let them choose to not be invited to her functions. Do not run interference by communicating for the 3 of them. Let them discuss it on their own.

The same if grandma decides not to come to your house. You can tell her that she is actually hurting you by declining to attend. That is very passive aggressive on her part.

Let the 3 of them resolve it, and kindly change the subject or end the discussion when it is brought up to you: ‘Sorry that you feel that way Mom, but you really need to discuss it with Billy and Johnny’ and on to new subject.

How is your mom’s mental and physical health?

When my father’s mental health was declining due to age, he once pulled a chair out of the kitchen and placed it about 2 feet in front of the TV in the family room so he could watch a football game, LOL. It was at my son’s birthday party and he was angry at the company for ‘being too loud’. He is quite a stubborn person normally , but this was obnoxious! In reality, his health was so poor, that is all he could figure out to do. There was no correcting this behavior, and honestly it required the maturity and sense of humor of the bday attendants to move on from it and focus on celebrating the birthday.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Because grandma has asked them to take their hats and they won't they are disrespectful of grandma and her boundaries. Would they take their hats off if their supervisor asked them to? If so, they are respecting the supervisor and boundaries.

I suggest that the adult men and grandmother are in a power struggle. Let them work it out. You do not need to be in the middle. Being the go between isn't working, is stressful for you because you have no power in this game. You cannot change any of them. It's between the grandmother and her adult grandchildren. If grandmother is willing to not have the grandchildren when they wear hats and men are willing to not see grandma, all of them suffer the consequences. People learn by experiencing consequences. I suggest you let this play out as they figure it out.

Of course you want everyone to be at dinners. However, you cannot change them. You are not responsible for their choices. When you try to protect them from each other they do not have the opportunity to figure this out for themselves. The relationship is between grandmother and her adult grandchildren.

If being this inflexible is new behaviour for your Mom, consider that she may need a medical evaluation. Keep the hat situation separate from concern for her health. She will resist more if both subjects are brought up at the same time.

If your Mom was able to playfully take hats if when they were younger why can't she now? I suggest they are working out anger on both sides. This is not a simple take your hats off. Hats are just a focus for their anger. They have to decide what they want to do with their anger. They began the process of pushing the other away. They are the only ones who can choose to be kind and respectful. I suggest Grandma is disrespectful of her adult grandchildren and their boundaries. They are stuck and the only ones who can choose to make different choices. Give them the space to figure this out.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

I completely understand where your mom is coming from, we are probably close to the same age. When we were young a gentleman always removed his hat when he came inside. Ladies wore their hats all the time it was a part of their outfit. I remember the day when a well dressed woman wore gloves for dress-up occasions and removed them for dinner.
We live in a different time but I still think it's respectful for a man to remove his hat indoors. My biggest question is .. Why is it such a big deal for your sons? If grandma thinks they are being disrespectful they should show her the respect of taking off their hats. I think they need to learn to respect their grandmother, her wishes, and her ways.

side note: When my son was a little boy he had a friend who's mom allowed him to be bare bellied all summer. I was okay with it but not at the table. When he was at my house he wore a shirt of my son's at the table.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Our kids would never wear their hats at the dinner table, especially not at someone else's house.

We explained why when they were little. We didn't remove them for them, rather they knew why they took them off. It was part of being respectful, like thanking the cook for preparing the meal.

I would remove myself from being in the middle. Instead of emailing back and forth with your mother, grandma can talk to them if needs be about her feelings/position. Removing their ball caps at dinner seems reasonable to me (in my opinion).

My kids have no problem with it. Just means hat hair (running joke here).

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I sympathize. I think compromise would be in order, but it sounds like both Grandma and grandkids have drawn a line in the sand and they won't budge. I don't think this is about tradition so much as intransigence and stubbornness.

What I think is fruitless is for you to be in the middle of this. Your sons are adults and your parenting is done. Your mother is perhaps more set in her ways than before, or perhaps is picking this battle as a sign of something bigger (like maybe they don't call or write her as she thinks they should, or some other issue).

So, your sons know how Grandma feels, and Grandma knows how her grandsons feel. And both have decided that rules and their own viewpoints are more important than getting together with family. That's a shame. But I don't think you can solve this, and I think you should let them miss out on seeing each other in the hopes that someone will bend a little. This is not your circus, not your monkeys. Stop arguing and negotiating over something you cannot control. Perhaps they are enjoying the fight a little too much and you should stop giving it so much air time.

The one exception I would make is if she has the start of dementia or an obsessive disorder of some kind, and then I think you should talk to her doctor (assuming she has given permission) to learn more about when to accommodate and how. Then I would relay that to your sons.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Aguadilla on

Besides you being in the middle which was not really discussed much in the comments, you are obviously ignoring what most said and I agree with: hats should be removed when indoors and the issue that bothered me the most here is that they are literally unwilling to remove their hats when at their grandmothers house....her turf. I find that very disrespectful and more a reflextion of poor basic etiquette upbringing. Tell your grown a#$ boys to respect other people's homes and what is considered common courtesy which is so lacking these days. Your Mom is not the one to tell's you who should tell them.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Yes, she is going too far. Likewise, your boys are adult enough to take their hats off for grandma. This shouldn't be a huge deal, but it is. You can't force any of them to do anything. Unfortunately, you are in the middle. Honestly, your boys should be able to understand that at times they will need to take their hats off for respect or just common courtesy. Your mom is older and more set in her ways, but she is being a bit ridiculous to refuse to see anyone because of a hat. Hopefully, everyone can budge a little!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Wearing or removing hats isn't a hill I would want to die on. You want to wear your hat indoors? Fine. At the table? Also fine. It does no one any harm.
House rules prevail. At your mom's house, they should remove their headgear. At yours, their call.
If your mom refuses to come to a home where people wear hats, it's her loss.

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answers from Springfield on

Oh she is being absolutely ridiculous, for sure! But, is it really that big a deal to speak with your sons and ask them nicely to do this for Grandma?

My Grandmother always insisted that girls had to wear skirts or dresses for Mass (we're Catholic). My parents never allowed us to wear jeans, but they always let me wear pants. However, they insist that I wear a skirt or a dress whenever we went to Mass with Grandma. I knew plenty of people who would wear jeans or even (gasp) shorts when they went to Mass, but my parents asked me to do this for Grandma. No problem.

I don't think wearing hats is a sign of disrespect, but I do think it's a sign of great respect to follow Grandma's wishes. If you phrase it that way, do you really think they will still refuse?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Both my son in laws wear their hats inside and its not the hill I'm going to die on. If this bothers your mother then she needs to speak to her grandsons directly since they are both adults.

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answers from Miami on

Your sons either don’t understand what’s going on, or they are jerks. Tell them that hats come off their heads when grandma comes, or they aren’t invited. Period.

Your mother is not a nice person for trying to run peoples’ lives. That’s a given. But you are allowing her grandchildren to disrespect her over HATS. And that’s wrong of you. She will be dead and gone and you will always know that you let your sons goad her with their hats. Shameful.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Is it possible that she is just looking for an excuse to not go to get togethers elsewhere much anymore? and just about everyone here agrees that hats should be removed when indoors. My sons do not wear hats inside and there has never been an issue with that. But my question was a little different than others here because I am wondering if Grandma is turning this into a power struggle because she doesn't feel like going out much anymore and wasn't willing to bend. At all. Oftentimes older people just kind of give up and don't want to go to the trouble to go elsewhere.

2 moms found this helpful
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