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My Mother is Interfering With My Baby-Sitting Rules


My mother was visiting while I was babysitting my nephew. When he got something from the refrigerator, which is allowed in my house, and at his own, she scolded him. How do I honor my mother, but not cave in?

Often, when family and friends come over we say, “Make yourself at home.” Of course, since norms vary in each home, this may lead to some challenging moments. Add the supervision of children, and the situation becomes even more complex. In this case, it was natural for your mom to fall into the guidelines that she enforces at her home. However, since it is your home, you get to set the rules. You can respect your mother while still running your household according to your own standards.

Wait for a private moment to talk. It may be that your mother was on automatic pilot and didn’t even take into consideration the fact that there are different rules at your home. Money may have been short when she grew up, so her parents monitored food consumption to ensure that no one went hungry. Perhaps, as teens, you and your siblings had foraged through the refrigerator eating food that she had planned to cook for dinner! Whatever the rationale behind her rules, she needs to respect the rules of your household. Don’t approach her in the kitchen in front of your nephew. Instead, allow time to talk it over when you aren’t distracted by your role as baby-sitter. By giving her private time, she won’t feel that her authority as “grandma” is being challenged in front of her grandchild. After all, in her house, your nephew needs to remember to ask before getting food! Be matter of fact, telling her that you felt uncomfortable when she disciplined your nephew when he was behaving appropriately in terms of your household norms and those of his parents. Explain that you’ll help enforce her rules at her home, but you expect her to do the same at yours.

Parents need to let adult children assume responsibility. Our catechism points out that the process of letting go comes with parenthood: “When they become adults, children have the right and duty to choose their profession and state of life. They should assume their new responsibilities within a trusting relationship with their parents, willingly asking and receiving their advice and counsel.” (CCC: 2230) It is a matter of finding balance in this new family dynamic. Grandparents need to respond if an adult child’s decisions could lead to harm. For example, driving a child without a car seat or seat belt would call for a grandparent’s intervention. However, individuals often have strong feelings about everyday decisions. You get to decide, for example, whether shoes are left by the front door or worn throughout the house – even if it runs counter to the way you were raised! As an adult, you can respect the opinions of parents, but make your own decisions.