Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What should I do when my family does not agree with how I raise my children?

Ah, families.  Don’t you just love them?  On one hand they bring support, much needed relief by way of babysitting and stability for your children.  But sometimes those very things we love about our families can drive us nuts. 

Most of our parents were brought up in a different generation and they tend to believe their generation did parenting right.  They look around at all these “new” techniques and parenting rules and think “well if that is the right way to raise a child, I did it all wrong.”  They might have a tendency to feel hurt and offended if you choose to raise your children differently. 

I honestly believe that EVERY parent is and has always done the best they could with the information, support and mental abilities that they have.  It is very easy to look around the world, maybe even your neighborhood, and see examples of parents being less than perfect.  It is important to remember that these parents and our parents love their children.  They very possibly have experiences and issues from their past that we could not begin to understand.  It is also very easy to think about our own childhood and wish we would have been treated differently.

More than likely as you were growing up you thought or even muttered the words “I will not do that when I have children.”  The chances are almost as great for you to now understand why your parents made the choices they did in disciplining you.  That does not mean that you will want to repeat every parenting decision made by your parents.  
So when it comes to your children, your parents might still feel like they know what is best and they may not be afraid to tell you it.  This can bring frustration, tension and family turmoil.  

When I am working with families that feel they are being pushed to discipline their children in ways they do not feel is right by their children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members, I remind them that there may be some wisdom in what they say but that our culture and understanding of children’s development have come a long way.  No parent will ever be perfect. Your parents might have messed you up by doing “x” but you were able to get over that and have turned out to be a pretty decent person.  I am sure there will be many ways that I will mess up my children, but they will eventually recover from my mistakes as long as I also give love, care and as much patience as I can muster each moment of the day.  Children are much more resilient than we know. 

The best way to both include your extended family in the lives of your children while knowing they are on a “similar” page when caring for your children is to involve them in discussion on the way you plan to discipline your children.  This needs to be done with a non-judgmental attitude.  It would be very easy for the people that raised you to feel you are angry or bitter about the way you were raised.  Start by letting them know that you understand how much they love you and always have.  Talk to them about why you are choosing one parenting method over another and what you have learned about it.  

If they will not understand you have to agree to disagree, but ask them to respect your wishes when it comes to discipline. 

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