Not all advice is welcomed advice.

How to Handle a Pushy Relative

by Kimberly Dyke

“Sorry we didn’t call, but we just knew you would be exhausted and would need some help taking care of the kids while John is working late.” Sound familiar? Or maybe it’s more like, “I went ahead and put a hat on Jessica. I am sure you meant to and just forgot.” As much as you might like to kick every last pushy relative to the curb while having a toddler-sized tantrum yourself, there are positive, peaceful ways to deal with them. Find the balance between heeding genuinely helpful advice and independently making the best choices for your child.

Decide which boundaries you are going to set as a parent. Make the list with your husband or partner, if applicable. Pick your battles carefully between what is harmful to your toddler and what is just preference. Ask yourself questions like, “Do I need to firmly remind Grandma to cut up Jake’s food into bite-sized pieces?” or, “Is it really going to harm Abby if she watches a cartoon marathon on television?"

Communicate your expectations clearly to your relatives and anyone else who needs a reminder. Say, for example, “Jake can have ice cream after dinner only if he eats his vegetables — no exceptions.” Explain your boundaries as a team so your partner doesn't feel like he must choose sides between his extended family and you.

Stand your ground when your boundaries are tested by a relative pushing the limits. Don’t answer the door, for example, if you asked them to call first and they stopped by unannounced anyway.

Resist being manipulated and don’t take a guilt-trip sponsored by Uncle Max. Answer his sarcasm to your boundaries in a matter-of-fact manner — especially concerning matters of safety. Say, “I realize that your kids never had to wear helmets while riding bikes. Isn’t it great that kids are even safer these days?”

Remain united on your agreed-upon boundaries and be flexible with other issues that come up. Avoid going behind each others' backs when dealing with relatives, especially in-laws. Stand up for each other and your preschooler when relatives try to push you into doing things their way.


  • Smile when a pushy relative gives you advice, knowing that you don’t have to do anything they recommend.
  • Don’t be so strict that relatives can’t enjoy spending time with your children, and always pick your battles wisely.
  • Be open to advice from seasoned parenthood veterans. Your mother-in-law may actually know what she’s talking about.

About the Author

Kimberly Dyke is a Spanish interpreter with a B.A. in language and international trade from Clemson University. She began writing professionally in 2010, specializing in education, parenting and culture. Currently residing in South Carolina, Dyke has received certificates in photography and medical interpretation.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images