I was talking to my mom the other day about children and how I wanted them someday. She asked what I thought about discipline and I said I wasn't sure, but that I didn't think I liked spanking or food denial so I'd just see what some other parents did and kind of see what worked for me when the time came. She informed that she felt sorry for my future kids and that she was going to have to step in and "help" if I wasn't going to raise the right. Which brings me to my actual question. How do you do things like visits with the grandparents if they don't agree with how your raising your kids? I'm not just talking about yelling at the kid. My mom is willing to tan a hide if she thinks the child needs it (why kids need to be hit with extension cords is a little unclear, but apparently i did). I would love to hear how other people navigate this dicey topic, so that the kids get to have time with their grandparents and enjoy it.
When Grandparents don't agree
I would just not let that grandparent babysit, and let her know that if the kid acts up when you both are visiting her house, you are going to handle discipline because it's your kid, or that you will only allow the use of certain disciplinary measures. Then if the grandparent doesn't toe the line, just reiterate, Mom, Abby is my child and these are the standards I have set for how she will be and not be disciplined. And if she still doesn't get it, then you might have to escalate to "we can't spend time around you if something doesn't change, for Abby's sake."
You have to set boundaries in a way that makes it clear that you are the parent and have final say when it comes to your child, without getting defensive or getting in an argument about why your method is or isn't the best. It doesn't matter if your method is the "best" or not or what your mom's opinion is--you're the parent and the buck stops with you.
Like a pp said, depending how set in her ways she seemed, I might also provide articles or something, but your mom doesn't sound very amenable to different approaches. I bet some people can sit down with their parents and discuss what parenting techniques to use with their kids. I don't think you can. I am in the same boat with my mom; most of her techniques were wildly inappropriate.
I recommend reading the book Toxic Parents by Susan Forward. A mom who disrespects your boundaries that way and used to beat you definitely qualifies as a toxic parent.
I feel like I can't so much as inhale without someone getting hurt. I can hurt my parents, by limiting their access to their grandkids, or I can run the risk of letting them get hurt under my parents care. It's the Kobayashi Maru! (for non-Star Trek fans it means I can't win)
The thing is I don't really know how I'm going to explain my past, or their grandparents to my kids. "My mom heard voices that told her to act a certain and so she did it to silence them" isn't going to make a whole of sense of a kid you know? I don't want them to grow up thinking my parents are bad people, they aren't, they just didn't always make good decisions.How do you even begin to explain something like this?
I've tried to talk to her about other ways of doing things, she doesn't hear it. She believes non-spanked kids turn into total uncontrollable brats. In her mind she would be saving my children from their horrible mother.
If it's that bad I'd be pretty blunt: "Mom, I know how you feel about spanking. I do not agree with you...and the thing is, she's my kid to raise. You had your turn to raise your kids the way you thought you should, now it's my turn to raise mine as I see fit. You do not have my permission, nor do you have the authority to hit her, and if you do I will protect her however I need to. I want to be in your life and have her in your life, but I will not allow you to spank my child, regardless of what you believe."
And then, as painful as it might be, follow through. That's a dealbreaker for me. I'm sorry you have to deal with it.
If she just really believes in hitting, then say that.
I spent the last couple of years keeping away from the people who hurt me and my child. I think you need to protect the future and let go of the past. Meaning that hurting your mother should take a backseat to keeping your children safe.
In the next several years, I anticipate that it will be more of an issue. For several reasons, my daughter will not ever be around them without my supervision, and if they push past my gentle but firm refusals, I'm prepared to get more explicit about why. I'm lucky in that my own parents are awesome an my in-laws are more talk than action in terms of involvement and not really interested in seeing her. I anticipate I'll have a confrontation and some hurt feelings in the future and I'm ok with that. The level of abuse that you're describing would result in even firmer, more explicit boundaries. When your hypothetical future children are old enough, you can explain why they don't hang out with gramma solo, but the explanation wouldn't stop me from protecting my kids at all costs.
I would answer questions honestly but not try to explain it away or vilify her.
I also when not leave them alone with her, under any circumstance. Not as a punishment for her, but as a protection for them. Be clear in your own mind and heart about why you are making your choices, so you can be free of guilt.
Forgive yourself for not being able to fix this. Do what's best for your children's future.
I don't leave my 2.5 y.o. alone with grandma. Grandpa or some other adult has to also be there, period. She thinks it's ridiculous and has tried to talk me out of it probably a hundred times (no joke). She's always after me about when she's going to get her "Grandma time." She has half-raised her other two grandchildren (from SIL and BIL), so she thought it'd be about the same with this one. She was wrong. I make very sure she has regular contact (at least once a week with them), but not by herself. There are a variety of reasons for this and I'm fortunate that DH doesn't disagree with me on this one, because we'd go to the mat on it. I don't play around when it comes to my kid's safety, which is the issue at hand.
OP, please keep checking in on this "Gentle Discipline" forum. You will find good stuff. Also, it's impossible to know how you are going to raise your children until you have them. I had some ideals that were shot and others that worked well. I do think some things are non-negotiables, though, and any kind of hitting/spanking is Thing One for me. Closely followed by the ability to make sure that the environment is safe (no dog vitamins left out, interior doors locked, sewing needles put away, knives put up, etc....all things that I had to take care of on a recent visit to ILs). Grandma is loving but just doesn't have the ability to give him the attention he needs to be safe, and that's where the "Grandma needs her alone time" ends.
Somehow I totally missed your question about giving details about why - I totally would not get into details, and agree with the others who have said that I would give a generic explanation about her having some medical problems and needs to always have another adult around to keep everyone safe, or something like that. They don't need to know about voices, etc.
I agree, this seems like a reasonable approach. It doesn't blame grandma for her mental illness but makes it clear that it has nothing to do with the kid and what is the best approach for the kid to take.