Setting Boundaries

Updated on March 28, 2008
T.P. asks from Laurel, MD
4 answers

My father in law watches our 2 1/2 y/o daughter now only 2 days a week. When I went back to work 5 mos after my daughter was born he was watching her full time till this past Jan when she started daycare 3 days a week. He does a great job and he has a wonderful relationship with her but he doesn't know where the boundaries are. Does anyone know how to set those boundaries w/o hurting anyones feelings? I feel like I have 2 husbands he is always in our marriage and doesn't listen to me when I tell him that I want things done a certain way when it comes to my child. My family is not here in the same state as me so I feel as though I have no support and my husband thinks that b/c he is saving us money I shouldn't say anything to his father which in turn ends up w/ us getting into an arguement b/c he feels as though I'm nit picking about everything his dad does. (like last night!) Our daughter is his only grand child but he doesn't get that when he is watching her he cannot give her everything she wants all the time, that's why when I come home all she wants is granpop b/c Mommy tells her no to things and he doesn't. I feel as though it's a constant battle all the time and that I'm losing my sanity. Any advice??

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So What Happened?

I wanted to let you all know that this has been a HUGE! help. I really don't feel like I'm so alone on this anymore. I am almost tempted to make my husband read this. Thank you all so much for the wonderful and very helpful advice. I think the nail was hit on the head by saying that "grandfathers tend to make up for lost time w/ their own children" b/c we feel that is exactly what he is doing. I really believe that this needs to be nipped in the bud now (my idea was to put her in daycare everyday!) but my husband would like her to stay w/ his dad on the schedule she is on. I need to work on being more assertive to my father in law and not always depend on my husband having to do it. I will keep you all posted on what comes up but I'm pretty sure that we are going to schedule a sit down meeting to hash things out, which should have been done a long time ago. Thanks again to all who gave me advice.

Take care,

More Answers



answers from Richmond on

Hi T. ~

You are setting yourself up for ALOT of conflict, as well as producing an extremely spoiled and ungrateful child. I had a similar problem some years ago when I was engaged to a man who already had children and I had two of my own. His parents kept his children ALL THE TIME and his mother was GOD! She spoiled them to death and the youngest one ended up being a pouty, unmotivated, disrespectful little brat.(The oldest was better, but still had a bit of an attitude). To top it all off, she was condescending to my own children (and me) and things were very unequal. She would give bigger and better gifts to her own grandchildren and slight my kids. My fiance did nothing, as he was a "momma's boy" himself and couldn't stand up to her. Needless to say, I got out of that relationship. I did not feel my children deserved to be treated in such an unfair manner.

My main point is that your father-in-law is ruining your child. You wouldn't allow such behavior from a paid caretaker, would you? Just because you're not paying him doesn't mean he has the right to disrespect you and your requests as to how things should be done in your home. These years of your child's development are crucial. She is learning social behavior and needs to know the meanings of respect, appreciation and boundaries. Do you want a spoiled brat on your hands? If not, either set down the law and make sure it is followed, or find an alternative to child care. Saving money isn't always the best thing for your child. Your father-in-law may not think there's anything wrong with what he does. It's your and your husband's responsibility to make it very clear to him what is acceptable and what is not. If he refuses to comply, keep her in daycare when you are working. Then just let him visit when you are present and able to nip things in the bud. A LITTLE bit of spoiling from a grandparent is normal and OK, but the constant catering is destructive. Good luck and STAND YOUR GROUND, for the sake of your child! Best Wishes ~ K.



answers from Lynchburg on

T., First you and your husband must be parenting as a team & come to an agreement on your child's boundaries.Would his Dad have allowed him, as a child, to do all the things he allows your daughter? As a Mom who has sought the advice of a professional child therapist (our son is adopted and was abused early in life) I can tell you that children need and want boundaries. It let's them know that you love them. I had to let my Mother in law know the boundaries we had set for our children, and in the beginning there was tension, but the good of the child is in question here. Our relationship has mended, and she respects me for standing up for our boundaries. My children don't love me less, and they love her just as much as ever. There will always be things that grandparents allow that parents do not. This is an ancient 'law'. But we as parents must stand our ground, and let the child know who is in charge. Ultimately it should be you and your husband.
Children are capable of adjusting to multiple 'parenting techniques'... teachers, parents, sitters and yes, grandparents.... If she wants Grandpop, just let her know she'll see him another time, stand firm. She will learn that you mean 'No'. She won't love you less. Putting her in a preschool/daycare setting will help... either that, or find a business you can do from home, to bring in extra $$, and be at home with your child while she is young. That's what I did.


answers from Washington DC on

I have the same issues with my in-laws. When they don't listen to my wishes about the care of my 15month old, I keep my distance and my daughter doesn't see them without me. Then I have my husband talk to them (in a subtle way) about how I like her handled. You'd be amazed at how quickly they change!

If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't let him care for my daughter at all. It just doesn't seem to be a good situation given the generational gap, lack of communication and the fact that he's a grown man. Grandma would be a different story. Grandpa, no not for me.




answers from Washington DC on

Hi T.
Setting boundaries is important and can be difficult at times especially when it comes to a family member taking care of her while you are working. It is great that your daughter gets to spend lots of time with someone who seems to love her a lot. But as you have noticed, having a grandparent taking care of her all the time can create problems. There is a clash of roles for this person: one of caregiver and the other of grandparent and it is difficult to seperate both.

Several things you can do to make this situation a little easier for everyone:
1. Have a discussion with your husband on what you both agree is acceptable and not as to what your daughter can do.
2. Have a meeting with your father in law with your husband present. Be sure to express your gratitude and appreciate for what he does right. Grandparents love to indulge on little grandchildren (Note on this later).
3.If need be, write down what you would like to see while he is taking care of your daughter while you are working. An example here is that I have my granddaughter every Wednesday and this is the day that we do crafts, get messy by playing in the garden, going to the park and things that mom and dad don't really have much time for. She loves it.
4.Explain to your father in law what your concerns are now and for later. He may not be aware of them and is just wanting to have fun with her.
5. Make sure to revise these guidelines as your daughter grows because her needs will change too.

I hope this was helpful.

Note: Research has shown that grandfathers (especially not not exclusively) tend to want to spoil their grandchildren a lot more because they have a sense of catching up lost time from their own children. These men now have the time and freedom of responsibility to truly be caring and loving. Some have a sense of guilt because they were not able to be with their own children as much as they wished and therefor transfer their love and attention to the grandchildren. Just food for thought.

C. C.
Life Coach

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