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boundaries

Grandparent bonds should be nurtured with healthy boundaries.

People who become grandparents often say the experience is nearly as joyous as having their own kids. And in some ways, it's better. Grandparents get to have all the fun and delight of children without all the work. Many grandparents look forward to "spoiling" their grandkids with lots of love and affection, special outings and experiences, sweets and gifts and then handing them back to their parents for the actual parenting part.

Parents, too, often look forward to the kids spending time with their grandparents, not only to have a little break but to allow them to build relationships. However, there can be some habits some grandparents fall into that cause unnecessary tension in the family. It's not a bad thing to "spoil" a kid grandparent-style, but there are some healthy boundaries the grands need to keep in mind to maintain family unity and ensure that kids aren't literally being spoiled.


Every family dynamic is different and there are countless individual circumstances that play into what spoiling looks like, but here are three main boundaries that all grandparents should keep in mind as they love on their children's children:

1. Don't undermine parental authority

Parenting is hard, as every grandparent (theoretically) knows. Trying to raise individual kids with different personalities into healthy, happy, contributing adults while not losing your mind takes a lot of thought and effort. Rules are a part of that. Every set of parents creates rules based on their own beliefs about what's best; not everyone will always agree with them, but parents have the right to set rules.

Grandparents spoiling their grandkids might occasionally involve some slight rule-bending (two scoops of ice cream instead of one, for instance) but it should never entail blatantly going against a parent's authority. If a parent says their kid isn't allowed to watch something, don't let them watch it in the name of grandparent spoiling. If a parent requires a child to wear a helmet to ride their tricycle, that same rule needs to be enforced at Grandma and Grampa's. Inconsistency in rules, especially ones kids have been told are for their safety and well-being, can be confusing.

It might help to have an upfront discussion about what hard and fast rules parents have in place so that grandparents don't accidentally undermine them. And definitely don't do the "I know your parents don't let you do this, but I will" thing, telling them it's okay to break their parents' rules. Just smile wisely as you add some extra ice cream to their bowl.

2. Don't forget to say no sometimes.

One of the most fun parts of being a grandparent is having the freedom (and perhaps the means) to say yes a lot. But that doesn't mean you should always say yes to any requests your grandchildren make.

Kids actually do want some boundaries, no matter how much of a fuss they may make about them. Saying no sometimes lets your grandchildren know that you care enough about them to offer thoughtful limits and that you yourself have some boundaries they need to respect. It doesn't have to be a mean or grumpy "no," but it's good to not give every wish and desire a green light. Sometimes you simply have to say no because something isn't feasible, but even the occasional "No, Grandpa needs a break from that game" or "No, we've had too much sugar today already" sends the message that not every whim is worth indulging.

3. Don't compete with the other set of grandparents

It's not unusual for children to have grandparents on both of their parents' sides, especially when they're young. Unfortunately, in some families, a competitive dynamic can emerge in which one side strives to be the "favorite." This can lead to overdoing the spoiling as well as making kids feel like they're being pitted against one side of their family. It can also fuel resentment or jealousy among family members, which isn't fun for anyone.

There's no need to one-up the other grandparents by trying to be more fun or more generous or more indulgent. Just be the best version of a grandparent you can be, and encourage the kids to enjoy spending time with all of their elders while they're still around.

Being a grandparent is a privilege, and if you get to that stage you've earned the right to spoil your grandkids a bit. Just do so with these boundaries in mind so you can enjoy the joy and wonder of grandparenting with everyone's blessing.

Emotional Reddit thread teaches lesson on antisemitism

If you've never been on Reddit, there's a section titled "Am I the A**h*le" aptly abbreviated AITA where people ask for clarification on a difficult situation. The idea is that commenters will help you decipher if you are being the jerk in a situation or if it's the other person involved that holds the title.

A Jewish dad and his two children took to this subreddit to seek his own clarification. The dad, who doesn't give his name for obvious reasons, explains that he is a remarried widower who came into his second marriage with two children by his deceased wife. He tells readers that his current wife isn't Jewish but also isn't particularly religious while her parents are and have attempted to convince his daughter to be baptized Christian.


Boundaries were set according to the post and the family ate dinner at the in-laws house prior to Thanksgiving. Even if you know nothing of Jewish religion, you know that those who follow religious doctrine eat foods that are kosher, which is something that had been explained to the in-laws and they had always abided by.


After the meal was finished, his mother-in-law remarked, “See, we told you nothing bad would happen.” and upon further clarification, she admitted to mixing bacon into the casserole dishes. While he says the father-in-law appeared to be uncomfortable, he agreed that he knew what his wife had done to the food. The situation resulted in his daughter crying and leaving the room with the child's stepmother following close behind. The poster's son, who is 15 had some choice words for his step-grandparents.

AITA; Reddit; antisemitism; family boundaries; kosher

woman in white t-shirt and jeans arguing with a man in black shirt in a kitchen

Canva

The entire situation created a rift between not just the in-laws and the person who posted, but with the wife (stepmother) as well. It seems his wife stayed behind at her parents' house after her husband and stepchildren left. She eventually returned home to be with the family she married into. But the damage had been done after she supposedly sided with her parents in saying her stepson had to apologize before being welcome to Thanksgiving dinner being hosted by her parents.

The thousands of comments were overwhelmingly supportive and turned the comment section into a master class on confronting antisemitism.

And while I certainly don't believe tampering with someone's food when you're aware of their religious restrictions is subtle, it may not be as clear as some of the more overt examples. But Merriam-Webster defines antisemitic as, "feeling or showing hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a cultural, racial, or ethnic group," which is exactly what the Reddit poster's mother-in-law displayed by sneakily adding bacon to the family's food.

AITA; Reddit; antisemitism; family boundaries; kosher

Man and woman facing away from each other on a couch

Canva

Commenter, Millerlicious said, "Yup. I’m Jewish, my fiancé is from a Catholic family. They might not have always understood my religion or diet, but they would have never snuck pork into my food. That is some disgusting level of antisemitism. I would be reevaluating this whole marriage."

Another commenter, melloussa wrote, "As a Muslim who doesn't eat pork I would feel so violated and cry like your daughter. This is just evil disrespect. They are not trying to convert you, they are just trying to prove to you that you are wrong. I would go completely NC. NTA."

The majority of the commenters did not think the 15-year-old son should have to apologize and many thought the marriage may be too broken to salvage. The update given provided some hope explaining that he and his wife will be attending counseling and he will be speaking to his Rabbi. There will be no further contact between his children and their step-grandparents for the foreseeable future.

1.

No, it's my turn to talk now.

I listened to you.


And you told a very nice story about your truck.

Now it's your turn to listen to me.

What I have to say is interesting and important too.

2.

Mmmm ... no, thank you.

I don't like body part nicknames.

3.

OH MY GOD STOP TALKING

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE

JUST STOP JUST SHHHHHH

SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

FOR ONE SECOND

SWEET JESUS

4.

I don't know where your shoe is.

It's yours.

Where did you put it?

5.

You know what?

That's too close.

I need you off of my body.

I need space.

6.

Wow!

When you hit and call me names

I can tell that you're sad.

Are you sad?

It's OK to be sad, but it's not OK to hit and call me names.

I'm not going to be around you while you're hurting me.

Maybe you'd better go be alone for a little while.

7.

Whoops!

Yep, those are my private body parts!

They are not for grabbing!

That makes me mad.

8.

No, I'm not available for you right now.

Do you see me eating my lunch?

So I'm not available for you right now.

No, you can't eat my lunch. This is mine.

When I'm available I will come and get you.

Now go play.

9.

Hey hey hey whoa,

did you see there is a person in line here?

OK, well,

you need to wait.

I know you're excited!

I can see that!

You still need to wait.

Just like everybody.

10.

Yes, that is your penis!

I can see that your penis is just wonderful.

But it's also private.

You can do whatever you want with your penis

at home

alone

in your bedroom,

but here in the parking lot

you need to put it away.

This piece originally appeared on katykatikate and is reprinted here with permission.

If it feels weird to have to force your kid to hug their relatives, there's a reason.

It's your little inner voice saying, 'There is another way.'

Lots of parents know this scenario.

The in-laws get in after long travels for the holidays, and the first thing they want when they walk in the door are hugs and kisses from their darling grandbabies.

Super sweet.


Except when the kids aren't feeling like freely giving affection. What happens next?

"Please don't make me give hugs!" Image by Capture Queen/Flickr.

We parents sometimes cave to the societal pressure to show off a kid we know to be loving and affectionate, even when they aren't particularly in a mood to be those things.

Sometimes in the moment during family get-togethers, we pressure them to show physical affection when they just aren't up to it. If you've been there before and had that nagging feeling afterward, it's OK to learn from that and do it differently next time.

The whole hugging-relatives thing can seem complicated, but I'm going to break it down. First, with some reasons why forcing our kids to be that person is a bad idea. Second, with why we get confused for a moment and think it's a good idea. And third, with some middle-ground solutions that balance diplomacy with your child's feelings.

1. It's a bad idea to force snuggly-wugglies that aren't genuine because:

To begin with, the bond between you and your child has got to be first and foremost.

Whether it's trusting you enough to come tell you mistakes that they've made or knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are on their side if someone ever violates their trust, it's crucial for your kids to never doubt your allegiance. So when you force Isabelle to hug people who she's telling you she doesn't feel like hugging, it kind of sends a subtle but lasting message that you care more about being on Team Grandma or Team New Stranger than being on Team Isabelle.

Additionally, forcing kids to give physical affection they aren't feeling tells them to ignore their own feelings to appease others.

A certain amount of rising to the occasion is a good skill to learn, but not at the expense of physical comfort and psychological well-being. While YOU may know that Grandma is harmless, it's less about the actual inherent risk and more about the practice of teaching your children that their boundaries matter and will be recognized. A child who learns early on that their "no" means something is an empowered child. It's not going to turn them into a spoiled brat just because they get to decide who they want to demonstrate physical affection with. There are other ways to raise a balanced child than insisting they give up bodily autonomy.

Peter Saunders, chief executive of the U.K.-based National Association for People Abused in Childhood, reinforces this point in The Guardian:

"There are certain things we [should] make children do which is quite different. We make them brush their teeth, for example. That is quite different to forcing them to kiss an uncle they don't want to. It's about boundaries. And this blurring of boundaries [by forcing them to kiss someone they don't want to] can indeed blur their understanding of what is right and wrong, about their body belonging to them."

2. Why it seemed like a good idea at the time to push the kids to hug their family:

In the moment, when Granddad's feelings are hurt because his kiss got rejected, it can seem like a good idea to cajole your child into acquiescing.

We want the world to see our children in their best light, as we see them — the cuddly, adorable, and loving little creatures they can be. We want the world to see we've raised well-adjusted, outgoing, socially successful beings. We don't want family members to feel rejected or embarrassed. We don't want our kids thought of as brats. All of those feelings and competing objectives are real, but none of them trumps the facts that you are your child's teammate and they get to make the final call on what they do with their body. Those are still the most important things in such a situation.

It's always better when kids are giving hugs because they want to, anyway! Image by Brent Payne/Flickr.

3. It doesn't have to be a choice between making your kids hug people or letting them be rude.

There are plenty of other hug-diplomacy options in between.

  • Before big events and family functions, practice an age-appropriate alternate response with your child. Having a prepared talking point can be a lifesaver for a kid in an awkward position — you've just given them a tool for dealing with life AND you've cemented yourself unmistakably in their corner. You can teach 2-year-olds that it's OK to high-five instead of hug. You can teach 6-year-olds to say, "I've had a long day, let's just fist-bump." Teaching children not to be unkind is important, but it should always be their choice if they wish to go above the minimum kindness of acknowledgement. If they spontaneously decide they want to offer a hug, then great! But if not, they have a dignified "out" and the pressure is off.
  • You can prep family and friends before events if you talk to them. Let them know your little ragamuffin is not always up for hugs and kisses and not to take it personally if that's the case. It's not bad for adults to be reminded to be gracious and not put kids in uncomfortable situations, either.
  • Have a joke ready to ease the embarrassment if a situation gets fraught — as long as it doesn't make your child the punchline. "If we all were as cute and huggable as he is, we'd be running the other direction from everyone, too!"

The bottom line: Relax about it (which will help everyone else follow suit), and make sure your kid knows you have their back even as you work your role as chief manners-enforcer. If millions of parents did this, imagine the healthy boundary-setting skills of the next generation!