What Should I Do When My Family Criticises My Parenting Style?

Do family members criticise or contradict your parenting style? Does this end up confusing your little one? If your answer is 'yes,' then read on to understand how to deal with this situation.

By Hannah S Mathew

What Should I Do When My Family Criticises My Parenting Style?

Not only does criticism bring negativity into your parenting, it also causes you to doubt yourself as a parent. It confuses your child about who’s really in charge. The situation becomes worse when your own parents disapprove of your actions — not realising the harm that comes from their well-intentioned remarks.

Finding fault in this manner can often create a wedge between generations in a family and colour their relationship with each other. In such a situation, it is often your child who is the most affected. Therefore, you are the one who needs to come up with a solution to this problem. For, not only will you need to be assertive of your parental rights but also show your child how to do so the right way.

You’re probably familiar with one or more of these ways others show disapproval of your parenting style:

  1. Interference: There may be times when a family member thinks that it’s okay to hijack your evening or allow your child to break the curfew you have imposed. At first, it may seem like a gesture made out of love, but this can become frustrating when your child starts to imitate the same behaviour. Your word will then no longer be the last word.
  2. Advice! advice! Perhaps family members want to 'show you how it’s done'. They may not approve of or understand that new-age kids need new-age parenting. Therefore, they’d prefer that you go about doing things the old-fashioned way.
  3. Crossing the line: At times, someone in a family may feel duty-bound to say or do something that you are not okay with. It could be related to anything, from how you clean baby’s clothes to how you choose movies for your teenager. These are instances where boundaries are over-stepped.
  4. Negation / belittlement: It is possible that a family member may brush aside your words or, God forbid, laugh at your instructions to your child. Probably, the individual doesn't realise the fact that you are an adult. This may end up colouring the way your child views you.
  5. Encouraging bad behaviour: Laughing at your child’s tantrums and excusing bad language are some ways grandparents often encourage unacceptable behaviour. And, it may confuse your child about how she should behave. Especially if you have corrected her bad behaviour but her grandparents encourage it.

If you have been censured in one or more of the above-mentioned ways, here’s how you should tackle these situations:

  1. Prevention is the key: If yours is a nuclear family and family members keep coming over frequently, try to fix days when they can visit you. Help them understand that, to ensure your child's well-being, it’s important that you have complete control over her. And, when they accept this and then visit, allow your child extra liberties so she gets to enjoy time with them.
  2. Only asked-for advice is acceptable: Make your expectations clear to your family members. Let them know that you value their help and need them, but only in certain roles. Be prepared to hear them when they advise you on issues you’ve sought them out for. But, if you do not agree with something they say, seek the advice of experts to clarify the matter further.
  3. Define boundaries: Just as you do with your child, set clear boundaries for relatives too. Have a talk with them about the areas in which their participation is acceptable to you. For example, you might welcome ideas about how to keep your child actively engaged in sports but not about how to plan her meals.
  4. First explain, then disregard: Hold a discussion with your parents over coffee. Tell them why you want your child to behave in a certain way. Impress upon them that correcting his bad behaviour will help him in the long run while excusing it will only harm him. Be specific about what you expect and explain that you need their cooperation. But, if they continue to encourage your child to indulge in wrong behaviour, go ahead and correct him firmly in their presence.
  5. Show respect: Treat your family members with respect, even when you disagree with them. Your child learns a lot more from what you do than what you say. Smile and encourage your family in their efforts to cooperate with you.

The world is in a constant state of flux. What holds good today, may not matter tomorrow. Your child and her generation are more in need of parents who will serve as an anchor during tough times. Remind yourself that neither you nor your parents are going to be there for her always. But, what you teach her will guide her all through her life.

Hannah S. Mathew is an Assistant Professor of English, a Freelance Writer, Soft Skills Trainer, Learning Content Developer, Mentor, Diagnostic Counsellor and devoted mom to a teenager.

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