Parenting a child around grandparents.
|January 15, 2010||Posted by Mabel under Info, Parenthood, Thoughts & Emo-ness|
I never really gave parenting much thought, much or less on what kind of parent I wanted to be as in the Chinese culture, parenting is a community affair to be undertaken by grandparents. Parents don’t really step in until the child is much older.
But after being married to an angmoh and experiencing another facet of parenting, I have come to realize that the kind of parent I want to be is very different from what is expected from parents here in Asia. I can’t say this for sure for ALL Asian parents, just myself and the few people I do know – mothers who have had to clash with their in-laws over their child’s welfare, mothers who send their babies to their in-laws or parents in another state for care and only return during the weekends or holidays…the list goes on and on.
Recently, we were approached with the proposition of sending Eva to Malaysia and one of the reasons was because it is a grandparent’s duty to care for their grandchild. I am afraid I beg to differ.
In situations where the parent is not around due to health reasons, abandonment and death, yes, the care of a child will fall on the grandparents’ shoulder. That is way preferably than a foster care system. But while the parents are still around, the responsibility of day to day care still lies with parents even if it means having to look for a babysitter.
And this is why…
Grandparents are people children go to when they need a break from mum and dad, when they need someone to mollycoddle them, spoil them and so forth. When a grandparent becomes a parent, this avenue is shut as a grandparent has to become a disciplinarian and provider. You can be either one but not both simply because there is no room for it. Spoiling them one minute but disciplining them the other minute can lead to confusion as to what a child should follow or ignore.
It may lead the child to question the motives behind their grandparents caring for them and not their parents. They may wonder if their parents wanted them in the first place. Ultimately, these emotions and thoughts can have an impact on how a child interacts with their own parents.
A grandparent has been a parent before and when one becomes a parent, one loses certain freedoms and privileges. These are gain back when a child reaches adulthood and becomes independent. Grandparents who care for their grandchildren suddenly find themselves being tied down again and having to put up with the needs of a growing baby, which in turn can hamper their sense of independence and freedom.
Yet, there are benefits to having grandparents around – especially when a parent like myself needs a break or an extra hand. The problem only arises when there is a clash of ideas, desires and goals between grandparent and parent. These must be tackled quickly if one wants to parent a child well with happy parties all around. I have come to realize that the following is important:
Rule One: Keep it behind closed doors.
Whatever your dispute may be may be, NEVER discuss it in front of a child. Children are keen observers and can pick up easily on the undertones and nuances of relationships. If there is a dispute, settle it OUT of sight of a child. It sets the tone for how the future generation will treat his/her parent.
Rule Two: Be clear from the start
Parents ought to make their parenting goals clear from the start and grandparents ought to respect that even though you may think it’s bollocks. Remember that parenting today is very different from parenting during the 60s, 70s and so forth. Current times need current answers and grandparents may not always know what’s best for their grandchildren.
Rule Three: Parents are the authority and no one else.
When a parent punishes a child, a grandparent should not step in and undermine the parent’s authority. It only sends the wrong message – that mum or dad’s word is not the law. It may not be evident or can even seem trivial now but in the later years, when teenagers begin to rebel, the parent will often be seen as someone who doesn’t need to be respected or obeyed.
Rule Four: Wait for parents to ask for your help
Parents will come to a grandparent for advice but if you keep up the pushing, the soliciting, the so-called “suggestions”, the nagging, the “I-told-you-so”, you do nothing but drive people away. Plus if you interfere all the time, it won’t take long before the visits start dwindling and the conversations reduced to precious few words. Learn to let go and take a step back.
There are more rules to this whole matter and these are discussed in numerous articles available on this site here.
At the end of the day, the answer is the same – Grandparents, you’ve had your chance at parenting; let Mum and Dad do the work.