In a New York Times parenting article called “Is it Ever O.K. for a Relative to Discipline Your Kid?” Christina Caron explains that holidays together can lead to people overstepping their boundaries. Here’s how to deal:
The holidays are a ripe time of year for this type of interference. Everyone is mingling in a confined space, interacting for the first time in months or even years, while trying to cook, clean and coexist.
When someone else scolds our children, it’s often viewed as a criticism of our own parenting, said Angelle Richardson, a family therapist and assistant professor of community and trauma counseling at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
The perceived judgment can lead to feelings that “you don’t think that I’m being a good parent, or you don’t think that I know how to handle this or you think you know how to do it better than I do,” Dr. Richardson added.
[Learn how to deal with interfering grandparents.]
But there are ways to navigate these choppy waters without fracturing our adult relationships.
Here are a three tips that Caron offers to make holiday weekends better for everyone:
One: Define Discipline
Two: Set Boundaries
Three: Prepare Your Child Ahead of Time
In other words, in defining discipline, we aren’t talking about punishing a kid for misbehaving, but using the moment a time for growth and to teach acceptable behavior. Setting boundaries may be letting the interfering relative know that if you’re there, you are the one to discipline your child. Let the relatives know to come to you, not to your child. Third, by letting your kids know what to expect in advance, you can prepare them for the holiday. If they are tired and cranky, let them nap and don’t force them to participate in a family activity or meal.
I remember when my kids were young, well-meaning relatives and friends would step in to correct my kids — or tell me what I was doing wrong as a parent. Either way, I felt like it was an attack on my parenting skills or on my child. What they didn’t realize was at a holiday weekend, young children are going to be off their schedules, over-stimulated and may not behave perfectly.
If you’re the person who feels the need to discipline someone’s else’s child because you’re feeling irritated, take a step back and a deep breath. This too shall pass. Most of all we don’t want to damage our existing relationships. Being critical of other people’s kids is one sure way to make that happen.
What are your thoughts about getting together with relatives and friends for the holidays with kids? Do you have any stories to share when your kids were disciplined by well-meaning relatives or friends?