I was raised in a home with helicopter parenting sprinkled with a bit of codependency. And, though I’m someone who has done a lot of reading and thinking about how I want to raise my child, critical thinking was not something that happened often in my childhood home. To my mother’s credit, she has tried to understand why I’m making the parenting decisions that I do, but, on the whole, she doesn’t understand them. Teaching my family to be respectful of the parenting choices in our home has been challenging.
We’ve had to navigate grandparents with poor boundaries since our wedding prior to having children, and it’s something that we’re still working on. It can be hard to find the balance between setting boundaries that you feel are important and compromising in other areas so that your family is still involved in your child’s life. Which, of course, isn’t to say that keeping toxic family members in your life is always the best choice. Sometimes it’s not. But in cases where you want to find a way to allow your family to have a presence in the lives of you and your children, that can be important.
1. Establish Your Own Family’s Values
Before you try explaining your parenting choices to your extended family, it’s important to know what values those choices are based on. In our house, we value bodily autonomy and consent, so we always ask my daughter before touching her or kissing her. We are also anti-consumerism, so it’s important to us that she’s not being bought material gifts on a constant basis.
2. Set Boundaries
Making your choices known to your family doesn’t have to involve a lecture. Simply explain your position to them without becoming overly emotional.
3. Don’t Feel Obligated To Defend Your Choices
Your parenting choices are not up for debate, unless it’s by a co-parent. It’s OK to shut down any argument with, “This is what we’re doing and we’d appreciate it if you could respect that.” The last thing you want is for a fight to break out.
4. Find Areas Of Compromise
If there are some issues that are less important to you, use them as a point of compromise. For example, if you’re a little lenient on toys, tell your parents that it’s OK for your child to have more toys to play with at Grandma’s house.
5. Follow Through With Consequences
If a family member repeatedly does something that you’ve asked them not to do, stay firm. If they send a gift, rsend it back. If they can’t respect your child’s bodily autonomy, you may have to tell them that they can’t physically see your child until they’re prepared to demonstrate only consensual touch.
6. Renegotiate As Necessary
If you’re finding that members of your family are not willing to respect your boundaries and your choices, you can always renegotiate the terms of your relationship. Whether it’s that your child can’t be with them unsupervised, or that they cannot come visit your home. You have the right to do whatever you feel is necessary to keep your children safe.