Create a happy picture by keeping the lines of communication open.

A Guide for First Time Parents Dealing With Overbearing Grandparents

by Rosenya Faith

Grandma's insisting on feeding your 2-month-old daughter cereal to sleep through the night, Grandpa keeps laying her on her stomach at nap times, and both of them always seem at the ready with criticism and advice. If you feel like turning off the lights and hiding the next time they drop by, perhaps it’s time to address the issue. It’s either that or start looking for a new house in another country.

First-Time Parent Insecurities

You've never done this before and you're probably feeling a little bit insecure about most baby things right now. Is he getting enough to eat? Is he napping too much? Will he ever sleep through the night?!?! These are all perfectly normal worries, but they also make you susceptible to feeling criticized every time grandma and grandpa make a comment. While some grandparents may be criticizing your parenting efforts, it is also possible that they’re just trying to be helpful. There’s only one way to find out; ask them. Tell them how their comments are making you feel. If they are unresponsive to your concerns, then maybe it's time to set some ground rules. However, they may just understand how you feel and want to work with you to make things better.

Things Aren't What They Used to Be

Parenting advice has changed a lot over the years and one of your biggest battles is likely going to be the fight over: “I fed you cereal and you slept through the night,” “I let you holler it out and you turned out just fine” and “a little bit of brandy on your pacifier never hurt you.” We must all have a sign on our foreheads saying, “I’ve never done this before.” It’s hard enough navigating your way through first-time parenting, and now you have to tactfully fend off advice.

If you don’t agree with the advice grandparents are offering, you have to let them know. Obviously, you don’t want to hurt their feelings, so don’t make them feel like they did a terrible job with you. Just let them know that things are a bit different now and maybe even offer some of your parenting books so they can get acquainted with modern childrearing thinking. “Here, why don’t you take a look at this book mom? It really does a good job explaining why cereal isn’t good for her at this age.” “You did a great job raising me dad, but look at what they found out about babies and alcohol.”

When All Else Fails--Stand Firm!

You can call them whatever you want: guidelines, ground rules, laws or the path to your sanity. Regardless of which terms you use, you need to establish them now. As first-time parents, grandparents may feel the need to help you figure out the world of parenting. They may even miss being parents to young children and overstep the bounds a bit trying to recapture that feeling. Just remember, you're the one responsible for your child and while you appreciate the help and support they offer, you cannot let grandparents take on the parenting role. Start with a frank discussion about your perspective and approach to parenting. Now, let them know how they can help and where you need them to just butt out. (Maybe you should phrase it a little more tactfully, but the message is the same.)

Present a United Front

When confronting grandparents, both mom and dad have to be on board. You need to have a heart-to-heart talk with your spouse and make sure you are both on the same page when it comes to childrearing approaches. Your spouse might also prefer to be the one to break the news to his parents and intervene whenever an issue arises. Talk these things out before talking to grandma and grandpa.


  • See Dick Bite Jane: A Think and Do Book for Parenting Predicaments Big and Small; Elise Mac Adam
  • Babyproofing Your Marriage; Stacie Cockrell, et al

About the Author

Rosenya Faith has been working with children since the age of 16 as a swimming instructor and dance instructor. For more than 14 years she has worked as a recreation and skill development leader, an early childhood educator and a teaching assistant, working in elementary schools and with special needs children between 4 and 11 years of age.

Photo Credits

  • Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images