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#1 of 42 Old 02-19-2012, 09:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Grandma indulges my almost-4-year-old son beyond all reason. When he is with her, he is constantly plied with cookies and toys and screen time. She indulges his every whim. With her there are seemingly no boundaries, nothing educational, and no thought as to what might be good for him in terms of his long term growth. Everything is about satisfying anything he could hope for now. When she is not with him in person, my son Skypes with her. Most of those Skype sessions are comprised of grandma showing him the new toys she is amassing for him, while she takes down lists of his wants so that she can buy more.

 

She definitely loves him dearly. But this seems to be as much about buying his love than providing for him. She is competitive when it comes to his affection. She always asks where he gets toys that she does not recognize.

 

When my son spends any time with her, which is of course his favorite thing to do, he regresses in many ways. He becomes lazy. He demands to watch TV constantly. He demands junk food. His parents become of little interest to him.

 

Grandma is my son's corruptor – but my son is under 4 years old. This is not new of course. We have tried to reason with her. We try to make boundaries. But she can be evil. Around me, she pays lipservice. But when she is alone with my wife she becomes vicious and manipulative. She is narcissistic. She is mean. She makes my wife cry. She brings up my wife’s dead father as some kind of bizarre psychological torture weapon. She is disrespectful.

 

I am torn about this. I want to provide as much love as possible to my son. And anyone that loves him should be showering that love on him. But this is love comes with some pretty nasty side-effects. Torn.

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#2 of 42 Old 02-19-2012, 10:10 AM
 
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Why then, do you allow her access to your small child if she's so bad? You are the parent and you have control... be the parent!
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#3 of 42 Old 02-19-2012, 10:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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She has access to him because she is his grandmother and showers love on him. And because it would tear my wife apart to turn it into a war.

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#4 of 42 Old 02-19-2012, 11:30 AM
 
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I used to use this phrase with a lot of success: "I am not grandma and you will not (fill in behavior here)." This one also works "I painted your legs on so you can go do it yourself. " I found that I react better when I focus on what my rules and expectations are instead of what my dd's grandma's aren't. It also helped my DD to be more aware of her behavior when I pointed out, in a mostly non-judgemental tone, the differences between my expectations and grandma's.
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#5 of 42 Old 02-19-2012, 11:39 AM
 
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Some of this sounds way beyond typical "grandmother spoiling" and well into pathology.

 

Decide what is most important to you.  Our boundaries relate to time (DS, who is almost 2, sees ILs about once a week), no t.v., and no junk food.  We have not had them babysit, either...if we visit (they live close), it is a family visit.  We do not use them so we can go out or party or whatever (not that those are "bad" things, of course, I am just explaining how we handle it all).

 

There are people in your situation who would also cease contact based on the hurtful behavior towards your wife.  To truly respect the grandchild, this grandmother must also respect the children's parents.

 

Good luck.  You've got your work cut out for you, as you know.


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#6 of 42 Old 02-19-2012, 12:30 PM
 
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Originally Posted by thermo View Post

She has access to him because she is his grandmother and showers love on him. And because it would tear my wife apart to turn it into a war.



Showering someone with love does not mean giving them whatever they want regardless of whether it is good for them or not.  That kind of love substitute is damaging to your son.  Setting clear and firm boundaries is the way to manage this, and yes grandma will probably pitch a fit, but if you don't want a war, don't fight one.  Tell her where the boundary is, and if she can't talk respectfully to you about it afterwards, hang up the phone/ leave or whatever.


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#7 of 42 Old 02-19-2012, 01:44 PM
 
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one good boundary might be to say your son will have x amount of toys. if grandma gives any new ones, they will be donated to the nearest charity or grandson can decide which toys he will give away. that way, you are still in control.

 

also, i would definitely limit and supervise time with grandma. it wasn't clear to me - is this your mother or your wife's? either way, if she plays nicely when you're around, i would make it a point to be there ALL the time that grandson is with her. is that possible? and maybe limit skype as well? i take it grandma isn't far away, if she can visit often?

 

this doesn't sound like love to me - it's not a respectful one, that's for sure. not just to you parents but to your son as well. what happens when he's 16 or 17, will grandma buy him a car? let him drink and drive? have girls over at her house? i mean, it really sounds like there's NO limits. this is a damaging relationship and i would really really think about limiting it *dramatically*.

 

i understand your wife doesn't want a war, but it really sounds like grandma is leaving no choice. 

 

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#8 of 42 Old 02-19-2012, 04:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all of your input. She is my wife's mother. I have been ready to get more resolute on a number of occasions, but my wife has asked me to let her handle it. Of course my wife ends up in tears and without any satisfactory progress when she does. 

 

We live quite far from grandma. But we see her regularly... and of course there is the frequent Skyping. 

 

 

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#9 of 42 Old 02-19-2012, 04:29 PM
 
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Can you disable Skype? "it just stopped working" with a shrug and a comment that you will have to work on it. That would work for a 4 year old and a grandma. Dang computers!  If he gets the gifts at grandma's, maybe he can choose two small ones to bring home and the rest will have to live at grandma's house.  People change their tune when they are the ones waist deep in plastic crap. If she brings it you will have to be proactive about getting rid of stuff. If he gets a ton, he probably won't remember a lot of it later. 

 

Supervise! My SIL used to actively go against what I wanted, so she was never left with my kids.

 

Good luck!

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#10 of 42 Old 02-19-2012, 05:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Supervision is not great for me. Yes, while I'm around she somewhat behaves herself. But even while she is on her good behavior, she is very irritating when it comes to her interaction with my son. For example, she is constantly obsessing about how to get him to eat more and how to get him to eat and what to get him to eat. She chases him around and tries to put food in his mouth. All of that is unnecessary, of course. When he is with me, I make healthy food available and when he is hungry he eats it.

 

I don't want to intervene in the minutiae of her food obsessing.. but I also don't want to listen to it.

 

 

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#11 of 42 Old 02-19-2012, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by lizvan View Post

Can you disable Skype? "it just stopped working" with a shrug and a comment that you will have to work on it. That would work for a 4 year old and a grandma. Dang computers!  If he gets the gifts at grandma's, maybe he can choose two small ones to bring home and the rest will have to live at grandma's house.  People change their tune when they are the ones waist deep in plastic crap. If she brings it you will have to be proactive about getting rid of stuff. If he gets a ton, he probably won't remember a lot of it later. 

Supervise! My SIL used to actively go against what I wanted, so she was never left with my kids.

Good luck!


I agree with this. "Skype died, so sorry." And leave the majority of crap at G-mas.



Your MIL had a chance to parent already. This is YOUR chance (and your wife's chance.) Don't let MIL mess it up.

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#12 of 42 Old 02-20-2012, 01:24 AM
 
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My fil also has difficulty with boundaries.  In terms of toys, if he brings a new toy into the house (unless it's Christmas or birthday), HE gets to go help my kids figure out which toy they will give to Goodwill in order to make room for the new toy.  This has greatly stemmed the tide of crap.  We have a small apartment and the weekly or more toys were out of control.  When he brings over junky food, I say thank you, take it from him, put it up in the cupboard, and say "the kids will love to have this at dessert time- thanks for bringing it!"  There was a period of time when he was not allowed to be with the kids unsupervised because we could not trust him with regards to sugar/ TV/ buying stuff, and also just general safety in terms of busy streets, etc.  We never told him he wasn't allowed, we just didn't make plans where he was alone with the kids.  Now that they're 7 and 5, they know our household rules and unfortunately I do get reports that THEY reminded HIM of the boundaries.  I let him take them out now mostly because now he gets to reap what he sows in terms of their unruly conduct in his presence.  He's embarrassed in public now!  As a matter of fact, he has started asking me to come with him when he takes the kids out, because he sees that their behavior is so much better when I'm around.  Go figure.

 

At least your mil's farther away and doesn't see the kids 3-4 times a week like my fil (he has good points too, I'm just pointing out his limitations because of your situation).  Limit Skype.  I have no problem with the direct and honest approach (fil isn't one to blow up though) but if you can't be direct, maybe you can follow pp advice to have Skype "break."  Or blame your pediatrition.  "We were told to limit screen time."  Or suddenly be very busy.  I agree with other posters that YOU are the parents.  Also wanted to add that your mil seems abusive, and you need to encourage your wife to break the cycle of abuse for the sake of her son, if not for her own sake.  As PP said, this is your chance- you and your wife have a responsibility not to let your mil mess things up for your kid.

 

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#13 of 42 Old 02-20-2012, 01:28 AM
 
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Also wanted to add- in our household, dh isn't great at standing up to his dad.  They have a pretty passive and conflict avoidant relationship.  However, after years of me modeling the direct and unabashedly "hey, these are MY rules" approach, dh has gotten much better at putting his foot down too.  It's probably very hard for your wife to stick up to her mom because she's got all that family baggage.  What helped in my situation is that my husband and I agree about boundaries with fil, so we're not working at cross purposes.

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#14 of 42 Old 02-20-2012, 05:45 AM
 
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She has access to him because she is his grandmother and showers love on him. And because it would tear my wife apart to turn it into a war.



Get into marriage counseling now. Your entire marriage is resting on TNT and could explode. And your son's future happiness depends on it.

 

This is way beyond normal grandma stuff, and it isn't loving to either your son or your wife. Your wife has no idea how to deal with her mother, and your son won't either.

 

 


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#15 of 42 Old 02-20-2012, 07:17 AM
 
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Get into marriage counseling now. Your entire marriage is resting on TNT and could explode. And your son's future happiness depends on it.

 

This is way beyond normal grandma stuff, and it isn't loving to either your son or your wife. Your wife has no idea how to deal with her mother, and your son won't either.

 


I agree.  And if your wife won't go with you, go alone.  This is truly serious stuff.

 


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#16 of 42 Old 02-20-2012, 03:17 PM
 
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I agree.  Your son deserves a happy mommy, not one upset by Grandma (and, whether it is apparent or not, he is surely feeling the effects of all of this - kids are affected by even that which we try to keep from them).  As you have indicated, he will certainly not learn to respect you as a parent when your MIL so obviously does not.  

 

I truly understand the desire to paint a rosy picture and include Grandma.  I am constantly being pushed and pulled by this desire with my own parents.  But you have to think - if someone who was not his Grandmother was acting this way, would you allow them in his life, to this degree?  You are the gatekeeper to the influences in his life, especially at this age.  Your son deserves safe and healthy limits.  He deserves love that is selfless and constructive, not selfish and destructive.  And so do you - and so does your wife!

 

As a child of parents who have often been abusive and manipulative, I can understand your wife's reluctance to blow the situation wide open.  The tendency to think we have it under control (when you yourself said, she obviously does not, and is continually hurt instead) is common amongst children raised with parents who operate this way.  As hard as it may be to face, I think you need to seek counseling for yourself and your wife.  She is stuck in a hurtful pattern with her mother that she has probably been in all her life, and it takes alot of courage to break out of business as usual.  But it is the only way to chart a new course for your family's future. 

 

Your MIL's behavior is far beyond a mere annoyance or squabble over too many toys.  It is toxic to your family in many ways. With my own parents, I try to limit their involvement to supervised visits, spaced a few weeks apart, with little or no contact in between.  Toys, screen time, etc. are still a battle (even with a 10 month old!).  

 

I know it sounds like a messed up Grandma in his life is still better than no Grandma, but her love for the child hardly sounds pure and respectful.  It sounds downright manipulative and possessive.  And your son doesn't need love like that! (in my own opinion, which I apologize if you find it out of line)

 

 


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#17 of 42 Old 03-25-2012, 03:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Update: Grandma medicates our son without consulting us

 

We were traveling together - a number of family members. Our son had been car-sick on a very bumpy road a few days earlier. Without asking either of his parents - notwithstanding that we were there - grandma gave him anti-nausea medication in anticipation of a drive we were going to be taking. Our son ended up passing out and slept for the drive. Grandma was so proud of the wonderful work she had done.

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#18 of 42 Old 03-25-2012, 04:07 PM
 
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"You've now drugged our child, and therefore you won't see him again." I've had to do this kind of thing in my family. It can be done. It's very effective.
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#19 of 42 Old 03-25-2012, 04:51 PM
 
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"You've now drugged our child, and therefore you won't see him again." I've had to do this kind of thing in my family. It can be done. It's very effective.

I agree. I had to have a "no unsupervised visits" rule with one of my children's grandparents, too.
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#20 of 42 Old 03-25-2012, 06:13 PM
 
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Your MIL has no respect for your boundaries and she's teaching your son that it's OK for her not to respect anyone's boundaries.

 

The reason your wife can't deal with her mother is because her mother has been doing this to her for all of her life. She probably doesn't have the skills.

 

You and your wife need counseling ASAP. Go yourself if your wife won't. It's gone beyond "she spoils him" to "she's potentially really dangerous". You're going to have to figure out how to prevent your MIL from being alone with him until he's old enough to fend for himself (16?) and to help your wife figure out how unsound this is. Until then, nothing will change.

 

Delete Skype from the computer. That is something you can control. Talk on the phone once a month.

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#21 of 42 Old 03-25-2012, 07:11 PM
 
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I think the most important thing is for you and your wife to be on the same page.  If she's used to her mom being overbearing and getting her own way, it is very possible that she is agreeing with you to get along as well, and is ambiguous or not sure of her own feelings on this one.  You guys need to come up with boundaries you agree on, and a plan you can both get behind - and then a way to implement it. 

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#22 of 42 Old 03-25-2012, 07:18 PM
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G-ma is acting like a third parent.  The reason she thinks it's ok to act that way is because you have taught her that it is, in fact, ok to act that way.  It's time for a serious "come to Jesus" talk. 


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#23 of 42 Old 04-08-2012, 08:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Update: I told my MIL that she cannot administer any medication to our son. She was not at all pleased about this. She ruminated about it for a day and then announced angrily that it is a matter of trust - either we trust her or we do not. We both then reiterated that she is not to administer medication. She never conceded anything. But the message from us was not ambiguous. 

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#24 of 42 Old 04-08-2012, 10:36 AM
 
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I'm having trouble writing a coherent response, OP. This topic hits all kinds of buttons for me.

 

As succinctly as possible...my grandmother was very similar to your MIL. My mom recognized that her mom was what would now be called "toxic" (I'm 43, and people didn't use the term during my childhood in the 70s), but didn't really understand how damaging it could be. My grandmother also had serious health issues, as did my grandfather, and my mom got sucked into being a "dutiful daughter" and primary caregiver to her parents. Grandma also tried to buy our love, and was also incredibly manipulative. She sometimes guilted us into eating junk food that we didn't even want. This was quite frequent for my older brother, because he had little interest in sweets. It was rare for me, because I have an over developed sweet tooth.

 

Ugh...I'm already losing the thread of what I was trying to say.

 

My grandmother died 23 years ago. My mom called me at my then-fiance's (he's now my ex-husband) to tell me. I got off the phone, and said, "thank God - the evil old bitch is dead". I wish I were kidding, but I'm not. That woman tried with everything in her power to force us to love her...and I ended up thankful that she'd died. In the two decades since then, I've come around to a different way of thinking about her, and I'm mostly just sad over such a pathetic, pitiful wasted life. One of my cousins still hates her with every fiber of her being. Grandma crocheted tablecloths for each of her grand-daughters - quite beautiful pieces of work, actually - and my cousin won't even take hers, as she wants nothing of our grandma in her home. Buying our love failed miserably. (I also remember grandma pulling one of her "well, if you don't want me around, maybe I should just kill myself" - after mom had managed to find 30 minutes to drop by and visit, in a very busy day. I was there, too, and responded with, "if you're going to do it, get on with it, and stop talking about it". I look back and cringe, because I can't believe those words even left my mouth, but that was how I felt. I was 15 or 16, and in the process of separating myself, emotionally, from her games. It was hard.)

 

Anyway - that's really about what this kind of behaviour will ultimately reap for your MIL. Now...for your son:

 

I'm morbidly obese, despite a very healthy attitude towards food in my family home. Why? Grandma. She went out of her way (although I'm sure she didn't see it that way) to make it impossible for me to have a normal, healthy relationship with food. I've had my ups and downs over the years, and was effectively over my issues for about a decade. But, they lurk. Since I lost my son (term stillbirth) four years ago, it's been pretty rough. I was trained to eat badly. I was trained to hide it. I was trained to see the foods I eat as a reflection of my feelings toward other people. I was trained to believe that food could just make my problems go away. I was trained to see food - particularly crap food - as a poker chip, in a game of emotional manipulation. (Did I mention that this same woman - who spent the first 10ish years of our lives guilting us into eating insane amounts* of junk food - then took it into her head to spend our teens using every opportunity that came her way to ensure that we knew we were fat? And, we weren't, at that point!) I've worked my way through most of the crap she left in my head. I've worked my way through the rage, and the hate. I don't drink or do drugs, anymore (can remember tossing off three consecutive shots of overproof rum, at the age of 17, immediately after having lunch with her at the mall). For me, the food issues have been the hardest part.

 

I don't think I have the right to discuss in any detail the issues my siblings and cousins had as a result of our grandma's upbringing. Suffice it to say, none of them miss her, either. Her death was a positive experience for our whole family. The aftermath of her games is still very evident in the life of one of my relatives. Another one chose a marriage to someone a lot like grandmother, and I honestly cringe at some of this person's views on children and parenting (eg. advocating hot sauce on the tongues of toddlers when they say "no"). The others have all been through a lot of emotional turmoil that's closely linked to grandma's manipulative crap, including some really skewed relationships. She damaged my sister's relationship with my mom. She damaged the relationships of my cousins with their mom and dad. My relationship with my mom remained pretty healthy, but only because the damage affected me differently than my other relatives.

 

There are no words for how much damage this woman could do to your son. The fact that even you are phrasing it as she "showers love on him" demonstrates just how messed up this is. You didn't post anything that indicates that your MIL shows love towards your son. She demonstrates possessiveness. She demonstrates a willingness to undermine his parents. She demonstrates a willingness to manipulate. She demonstrates a belief that love is something one buys with large quantities of consumer items. Those things aren't about love.

 

I'm sorry for the long ramble. This topic pushes every button I still have. And, if it helps you (or your wife, for that matter), my mom has said, many, many times, that if she could go back and redo our childhoods, the only change she would make is to cut off her mother. She believed that family is important, and that you can't "deprive" children of their grandparents and vice versa. At 68 years of age, that decision is her one real regret in life. She doesn't truly regret marrying her physically abusive first husband, because she did get out okay, and she has my brother. She doesn't regret marrying my alcoholic father (although she does regret staying as long as she did), because they did have a terrific first decade or so, and she has me and my sister.  My mom just isn't the sort of person to waste a lot of time and energy on regrets, even for big mistakes. This - keeping us in contact with her mother - is her only one. I really hope that's not your wife, 30 or 40 years down the road.


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#25 of 42 Old 04-08-2012, 10:37 AM
 
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Update: I told my MIL that she cannot administer any medication to our son. She was not at all pleased about this. She ruminated about it for a day and then announced angrily that it is a matter of trust - either we trust her or we do not. We both then reiterated that she is not to administer medication. She never conceded anything. But the message from us was not ambiguous. 



"We don't trust you. You've proven that we can't."

 

Games. Giving your child medication without your consent, then trying to twist it into "this is about trust" is just games.

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#26 of 42 Old 04-08-2012, 10:45 AM
 
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Update: I told my MIL that she cannot administer any medication to our son. She was not at all pleased about this. She ruminated about it for a day and then announced angrily that it is a matter of trust - either we trust her or we do not. We both then reiterated that she is not to administer medication. She never conceded anything. But the message from us was not ambiguous. 



"We don't trust you. You've proven that we can't."

 

Games. Giving your child medication without your consent, then trying to twist it into "this is about trust" is just games.


I agree. If you can't trust her, you must not allow your son to be unsupervised in her care. Ever. Hire a sitter. Find a friend to watch him. Not her, not ever.
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#27 of 42 Old 04-08-2012, 12:05 PM
 
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I havent read the responses but I will share how I feel. How my child is raised is very very important to me. From the time he was conceived Ive spent hundreds of hours researching everything I could and compiling how i wanted to raise him. I made these choices with his best interest in mind for the present and future.

My mother before he was born talked about giving him candy etc.. Etc... i had decided early on I would not be allowing him to have candy or fast food. When my mom told me that was her plan I told her no. She told me she would do it anyway. I put my foot down hard and I made it clear to everyone in his life that I had important instructions that HAD to be followed and that anyone who went against my wishes would NOT ever be left alone with him or allowed to babysit. Also that should that happen anyone arguing and making fits or placing him in a negative situation would not get to see him at all end of discussion there would be no arguments. I comunicated this in a fairly harsh way and said I meant serious business. My mother changed her tune very fast and now a days shes asks me for a list of what id like him to eat , what he can watch on tv etc... Etc... Originally when i laid it all down yes her feelings were hurt and she did not like it but she got over it fast because when i say something i mean it and she knew that i wouldnt hesitate for a second to do what i said.

So it would be my suggestion to lay down some cement ground rules. Tell her that you mean business there are no second chances and violating your rules result in her not getting to watch him. I feel although she will be upset about this she will come to see it your way because lets face it children are gifts from god and its such a joy to watch them that even if you are forced to do something someone else way youll give in because you love the baby! I think it is hard for a grandparent to come to terms that their children are raised and that their children now have the reins and the choices become theirs. I think it also makes them take a hard look at the choices they made as parents and feel bad because they know you have chosen to do something better.

Dont underestimate the poor habits she is instilling in your baby. I dont know about you but my baby is my rason for breathing the most important person in my life and i will do anything to protect him and raise him the best i know how. Other amily like my mom comes second. Im sure your wife feels similarly... Remind her that by letting her mom do these things her mother is coming first and shes not doing whats best for your son. Im sure its not on purpose but maybe a little reminder will help her see the bigger oicture about hows shes being manipulated and how ultimaely your son is going to be the one whos hurt from the choices.


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#28 of 42 Old 04-09-2012, 03:47 PM
 
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There is an outstanding book that will give you a great deal of insight, not only to the dynamics with your MIL, but also to your wife's inability to stand up to her.

 

Toxic In-Laws by Susan Forward.

 

She has another book, Toxic Parents, that is also worth the read. Both books give specific, helpful advice for how to proceed.


Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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#29 of 42 Old 04-10-2012, 07:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I thank you for all of your reflections and advice. It is very helpful. I will look up the book recommendations as well.

 

At this point it comes down to my wife's hesitation. I already had to decide that I was putting the relationship on the line when I told her she was not to give meds to our son. She tends to become very extreme - so I had to accept that it might mean she would take the low road and I would be putting my foot down in terms of how she would see our son. In the end, it was left with ambiguity. 

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#30 of 42 Old 04-10-2012, 05:30 PM
 
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Is there a cultural issue at play here? By that I mean are you and your wife from different cultures? Is your MIL from another country? What was your wife's childhood like? What is your MIL trying to make up for in her life by buying your son off with toys and sweets and food while poisoning your relationship with your wife and undermining your parenting? Was she a victim of war? Was there abuse or neglect in another generation?

 

I absolutely agree that you and your wife need to have a serious discussion about boundaries. You two are the parents. You need to decide on what grandma may and may not do. If grandma violates that, she loses access to your son. She must know that you are unwavering and unified and that she may be a grandparent, but not a parent to your child. She must respect you and your wife and your parenting decisions or she should not have access to your son. Period.

 

This is very unhealthy for your son and poisonous to your marriage. Please, please put an end to it.

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