Having your extended family be a part of helping you raise your kids can be extremely beneficial but at times challenging. If we are lucky enough to have our parents nearby, they may even be helping us on a regular basis. This comes with both the ultimate feeling of security as we leave our kids in the care of those who are closest to us and also unwanted triggers as we see our folks use the same parenting methods which we may not always agree. Finding the right balance between allowing our parents to care for our children in their own way and giving them an idea of how we would like our kids treated can be quite tricky. Our parents did the best job parenting us with what they knew. In fact, we all do what we think is right for our kids. We know more now about interpersonal relationships, especially with regard to those between child and parent.
My sweet dad moved to Los Angeles and became our “manny” when Esme was born over 13 years ago. He was retired and spent his days helping me from day one. To say it was the blind leading the blind is a complete understatement. He knew less about infants than I did, and we both found ourselves completely exhausted by the end of the day with a colicky baby. So, when it came time to deal with defiant toddlers and tantrums again we were both completely confused.
My dad came with an authoritative attitude, and I followed because I didn’t know what else to do—leaning into punishments, timeouts, shame and the like. Over time it didn’t feel good and what felt worse was watching my dad shame my daughters. It triggered me into my childhood and had me feeling like a helpless kid who was frightened and bullied into compliance. What was worse was knowing my daughter likely felt the same way.
I eventually found Hand in Hand Parenting and embraced a new way to “be” with my girls. It took me a couple of months to fully understand that connection was the way to garner respect and gain organic compliance. But how was I to convey this to my sweet Dad who just wanted to be helpful and was doing his best?
I had to do exactly what my parenting method suggested I do with my children. Bring him along using connection. I gave suggestions, brain science, literature to read, and accepted that even if he understood this new way to be, he too would make mistakes, and that’s OK. My dad became my first client. I taught him the tools one by one. It wasn’t easy and things were often contentious. Both of us trying so hard to pull away from our default parenting, judging one another as we tried to parent in a new way and constantly questioning if Connective Parenting actually worked and would give us the results we wanted in the long run. We did it though and both of us made new meaning and have forged amazing relationships with my girls. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it.