Setting Boundaries With Grandparents Doesn’t Mean You’re Ungrateful

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
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Parents always have the right to set boundaries, no matter how much the grandparents help out

Getting help from grandparents is a wonderful thing that most parents are rightfully grateful to have. Whether it’s occasional date nights or daily help while you and your partner are at work, it’s fantastic to have childcare that’s free and trust-worthy. But what happens when your grandparent babysitters do something you don’t necessarily agree with? Calling them out on it doesn’t mean you’re not grateful for the help. Setting boundaries as a parent is always ok.

RELATED: Are Grandparent’s Rights A Real Thing? Here’s What You Need To Know

A Reddit user posted about a difficult situation with her preschooler’s grandparents. Apparently, they drive her daughter home from school each day while the mother is taking college courses and recently, the little girl said that grandma and grandpa drove her home without a car seat.


This morning my daughter told me that she didn’t ride in a car seat. She’s known for saying off-the-wall stuff, like the dog bit her (didn’t happen), or that her birthday party was yesterday (yeah, no kid), so I sent a text to figure out what had actually happened, and asked politely if my daughter had told me a story.

The mom further explains that she received some “very hostile” texts from the grandparents admitting it was true, that the child had been without a car seat for the ride home from school. They also accused her of over-reacting.

Exsqueeze me?

[shareable_quote]You can be grateful for the help and still set boundaries and be heard when it comes to the daily care of your own child. No matter how great and convenient your arrangement is, they’re still your children.[/shareable_quote]

Sorry, but this is her child. There is no such thing as over-reacting when it comes to legitimate safety concerns, such as using a car seat or booster when appropriate. As the mom notes, it’s not only unsafe, it’s also illegal in her state for a child that age to be without some kind of restraint. She was well within her rights as a parent to question it and if the grandparents weren’t willing to listen, to have some strong words.

When parents use grandparents as daycare, there are bound to be some wrinkles. Usually, the grandparent isn’t paid and this is a tremendous favor to the parents, one they may feel is so huge they don’t have the right to question a whole lot of what grandma or grandpa do when they’re caring for their kids. Obviously, that’s total bullshit.

You can be grateful for the help and still set boundaries and be heard when it comes to the daily care of your own child. No matter how great and convenient your arrangement is, they’re still your children. You always have the right to say something about how they’re treated and cared for. If you feel you don’t have the ability to say anything, that the grandparents will react the way this Redditor’s did, it’s time for a discussion about boundaries.

It’s one thing if the grandparents babysitting is a once-in-awhile sort of deal. My parents aren’t local, so they only occasionally watch our kids and when they do, I don’t get riled up about too much. They know our feelings on the big things, and that includes using booster seats if they drive anywhere. If anything came up and they didn’t feel comfortable making the call, they’d get a hold of me. Otherwise, I let them eat whatever my parents want to feed them and they stay up late and do grandparent things and that’s fantastic. It’s fun for them and I don’t interfere.

But if my parents watched them daily? I would not allow Happy Meals five times a week and I certainly wouldn’t be into all the cartoons they typically let them watch. And knowing my parents, they’d never do something that made me uncomfortable. They respect my position as mom, thankfully. Because when the grandparents are your actual daycare, you need to make sure they know your values and that you set boundaries with the things that truly matter to you. If they question that, then maybe you’re better off finding a new childcare situation. It might cost money, but at least you’d feel you could speak up if something doesn’t smell right without potentially damaging family relationships.

Anyone with grandparent help is unquestionably fortunate, but all parents need to remember that even if they’re getting tons of family help, at the end of the day, it will always be their child. And they will always have the last word. If a grandparent doesn’t respect that, it’s probably best for all parties to move on.

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