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Be prepared to take control, but expect some backlash

Be prepared to take control, but be prepared for the backlash

Q: I have a 3-year-old son and a baby on the way, and I have to do something about my parents and brother. Okay, my in-laws are making me crazy too. I am so NOT a "village" type of parent. I cannot stand when my husband and I are right there and someone else thinks they have to correct my child. Either we are okay with whatever he's doing, or one of us is already about to correct him ourselves. The constant advice is bad enough, but correcting is way over the line.

Yes, I know they want to see their grandchild turn out well, but they got to raise their own kids. This one is ours. And my brother is just a child himself, so I especially have a problem with his need to boss my kid around. How can I very gently persuade them to be good role models without undermining our authority? And it's got to be gently done, because both sets of parents are the "set the kid up so he can't succeed, then punish heavily when he fails" type.


A: If you're going to live in the village, then you need to anticipate the ways of the village.

Every adult child has to make this calculation: How much family exposure do I want, and what price am I willing to pay for it? It's true if you're coupled or not, a parent or not (though if partnered, you and Sweetums need to agree).

This applies to happy families — for example, in the decision to encourage people to drop in unannounced, despite the privacy cost.

It also applies to dysfunctional families — in the decision, say, to stop visiting altogether, for the price of hurt feelings and angry voice-mail tirades and kids who don't know Grandma.

Those are extremes, but the calculation is always the same: What do you want, and how much are you ready to pay.

If you and your husband both want to maintain your current level of family contact, then you need a better plan for covering the "price" than getting everyone else to change to your liking.

Certainly you can ask, at a nonconfrontational moment, if they'd please let you take the lead in correcting your children. You can also lead by example: When someone corrects your child, you can say, "That's okay, I've got it," and take Junior aside — either to discipline him yourself or just free him from familial scolding. This, through repetition, will send the message that only you decide when and how to say no.

Or, you can start seeing family less.

The price for all these actions: You open yourself to accusations of being controlling — and they keep correcting your kids.

Control can be a necessary bulwark against family dysfunction. However, blindly resisting family is often just the back door to repeating its mistakes. Apparently both of your families specialize in bossing people around. It won't help the next generation if your strategy is to correct them right back — even "gently."

No environment is ever perfectly healthy, but your kids' outlook can be. Raise them your way, consistently and without fanfare, and set limits on family only when they leave you no choice: That's the influence your kids will carry with them, not that Grandpa yelled.

Be prepared to take control, but expect some backlash 09/25/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 1:19pm]
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