Interfering Granny Gets The Boot!

Dear MOC,

My daughter and her husband are furious with me because I dared to challenge their parenting. What happened was that they were visiting and let my 13 month old have ginger ale in his sippy cup along with his dinner. When I mentioned that soda was not good for little kids, my daughter went ballistic and accused me of constantly criticizing her parenting skills. Now she avoids talking to me and I am angry and hurt. What do I do?

Thank you,

Susan

Hi Susan,

Thanks for writing. Ouch! It does hurt when we put our foot in our mouth. Sorry you fell into that trap. Unfortunately, you have unknowingly broken one of the big no-no’s of the Mother/Grandmother relationship: Giving parenting advice without being asked.

I know, I know, it’s practically impossible to keep your mouth shut when you see your grown child doing something that in your mind is SO wrong! I have already put in for a lifetime supply of duct tape for myself and none of my kids are even married yet, so yes, I get it. Learning how to keep my mouth shut is going to be rough, but so necessary.

What all grandparents must remember, if they want to be a welcome presence in their adult children’s lives, is that once they become parents, they get to call the shots. They have the right to do things their way, even when our idea is so much better!

But that’s not to say your wisdom and counsel don’t matter. It’s all about timing and choosing your battles. And also giving them the chance to gain confidence in themselves before you start pointing out the mistakes.

One of the best ways to approach the dilemma of how to get your two cents in when it looks like a disaster is looming is to remember the Stroke, Stroke, Kick rule: Every “kick” (carefully worded suggestion) must be preceded by two “strokes” (heartfelt compliments).

So in the now infamous “ginger ale debacle,” you could have tried for something that sounded more like this:

“Oh my God, Sally! Little Jimmy looks fantastic! So healthy and happy! You clearly are doing a great job with him! (first stroke). I see you’ve gotten him eating some great, healthy stuff. How were you able to convince him to eat so many vegetables? I really struggled with that when you were little. What is your secret? (second stroke). Oh! Huh. I’m surprised that you let him have ginger ale, though. Is that okay? (kick).”

And then, you DROP IT. You’ve made your point and even if she gets defensive then and there, she is likely to review the conversation later when she is alone. If you don’t bring it up again, she may feel like she doesn’t have to defend her previous choice and is free to make a different one next time.

Part of the magic involves getting her to think it was her idea in the first place. After all, we’re not keeping score here, right? Just trying to make some adjustments and improvements without blowing the lid off of our relationship.

Yeah, I know. We thought that once we weathered adolescence, it would all be downhill. But we are parents for life and have to keep trying to figure out how to take the next steps. They never stop growing and neither should we.

To get things back on track with your daughter, simply apologize. For whatever reason, she feels like you don’t respect her as a mom. New mothers are very sensitive, especially with the first baby, and take all criticisms to heart. As she gains experience, most likely she will be less touchy but for now, she needs to see that you are in her corner.

Write her a letter or give her a call and explain that you’re sorry for interfering about the ginger ale. Tell her you were out of line, that she’s a wonderful mother, and that you are very proud of her.

Hope this helps and good luck mending fences!

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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