grandparents

How To Respond When Your Parents Are Critical Of Your Parenting Choices

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

All new moms have felt criticized or judged sometime during their first years of parenthood. Not only do mothers suddenly need to adjust to a tiny person who demands all of their time and energy, but they need to deal with people giving unwanted advice about what they’d do differently.

It’s extremely hard when that type of advice comes from their own parents.

Your parents have already molded your core knowledge of parenting. The traditions they held that you enjoyed will likely be duplicated with your own kids. But there were also parts that you probably hated that won’t see the light of day. For example, if you had to finish your plate before you left the dinner table, even if you weren’t hungry, you probably have no problem letting your kids store their leftovers in the fridge to snack on later.

There’s also part of you that probably feels insulted when your parents have the nerve to critique your parenting. It’s almost like they don’t believe you can do this. No matter how old we get, we’ll always look to our parents for validation. When they make a point in saying that we’re not doing the right thing for our own kids, it’ll sting harder than criticism from anyone else. Parents may have opinions, but unless someone’s in danger, they should keep those opinions to themselves.

With the holidays coming up, plenty of moms with critical parents are fearing the uncomfortable family time ahead. The best way to prepare for any sort of confrontation is to prepare for it ahead of time. Here are 10 techniques to handle your parents when they cross a line and insult your parenting.

Recognize that they might just want to feel included.

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There’s nobody who’s more stressed out than you are right now, especially if your child is very young. But try to flip things around. Your parents are realizing that their job is done. They’ll always want to give you love and support, but the torch has been passed on — you’re the parent now. That might be difficult for them to handle. Meddling is a way for them to still feel relevant while they’re figuring out the rules and boundaries as grandparents.

Tell them when it hurts your feelings.

Tell them when it hurts your feelings.

Your parents might not have a filter, and they might not know when to back off. If their comments are affecting your visit, or even straining their relationship with their grandkids, you need to tell them they’ve gone too far. It might be tough to speak your mind, but it’s important. You don’t want to end up resenting them.

Remind them that things have changed.

Remind them that things have changed.

Just think about all of the things your parents didn’t have to worry about, like social media, cellphones, and online bullying. There’s a good chance they also had plenty of support around, since families often lived closer together back then. The advice they’re giving you could very well be out of date.

Remember that their intentions are (probably) good.

Remember that their intentions are (probably) good.

They care about your kid — that’s the most important part. Remind yourself that you know your child best and that if they’re happy and well-adjusted, you’re doing just fine. Take a deep breath and realize that at the core of it, your parents are on your team. They just aren’t the most courteous teammates.

Tell them that positivity is a must.

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Let your parents know what is and isn’t acceptable. It’s one thing to ask whether or not your child needs a bath, compared to saying something snippy like, “Don’t you ever wash your child?” If they always talk to you negatively, or seem to look for ways to tear you down, tell them that you want to keep it positive for the kids. Say something like, “I know you have concerns, but I need you to express them in a kinder way when we visit,” which is both straightforward and polite.

Set boundaries.

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It might be scary to have that initial conversation, but it’s worth it if you want to save your relationship with your parents. Tell them that their comments (especially if they happen in front of other family members or friends) aren’t appreciated and that it’s hard to feel welcome at their home if you feel like you’re always being attacked. Recognize the particular topics or criticisms that bother you the most, and state that you’d prefer if they were off-limits during the visit.

Shorten visits.

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It’s cruel to take your child away from their grandparents, but mom’s mental health matters more in situations like these. If you usually stay overnight, consider shortening the trip. That, or get a hotel if you normally sleep at their place. Paying the money is hard, but being able to have a temporary escape will be priceless.

Remind your mom how it felt to be a young mother.

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Your mom may have forgotten about the sleepless nights that come with the first few years of parenthood. If she’s a reasonable woman, you can try to remind her that you’re under enough stress as it is. When your kids have grown, it’s easy to forget about all of the chaos that a baby brings. Empathize with her about motherhood, and make sure she knows you’re really trying.

Remind your parents that every child is different.

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They may have been successful parents to you, but they’ve never been parents to your child before. It’s possible that parenting methods they swore by just wouldn’t work in your situation. A calm “every child is different” reminder should help your parents remember that they need to back off.

Refuse to respond at all.

Refuse to respond at all.

Communication is always best. But sometimes, when you really need to shut someone down, silence can say what words can’t. If your parents are relentless to the point where you feel bullied, don’t engage with them. They may just be looking for a response and a way to ruffle your feathers. When you get home, think about whether or not your overall relationship with them is healthy. It’s OK to cut off your parents when they’re being abusive.