What do you do about family members who just do not follow your parenting wishes? I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but we truly do not want our house filled with plastic toxic toys, or have our kids being snuck junk food when we’re not looking, or when they’re babysitting. That’s disrespectful, right? How do I not be a crazy parent but still keep my rules intact?
— Concerned Mama
I have family members who disrespect my parenting choices and I completely understand how infuriating that can be.
I’m sharing what works for me in this post.
Decide How to Accept the Gifts
I accept their material gifts knowing the thought is in the gift-giving, not in an extended obligation to keep/use the gifts.
What happens with the gift afterwards is my choice because it’s now belonging to my home (however temporary). I can also request those big items stay at the family member’s house for when we visit or for them to bring over one at a time when they visit us (like a toy rotation).
I accept the gift of babysitting help knowing that this person is not going to change their ways unless they want to, or find a new babysitter who will do what I request.
This might mean I have to pay for a sitter, but if it’s that important to me, it must be worth the investment. If you’re willing to be flexible, then accept the free help and know that it comes with different standards.
Consider the Edits You are Willing to Make
I’m willing to supply their supply.
We stock the healthier alternatives to the junk food they’ve been sneaking. I let my family members know that the content is what concerns me, not the fact that they want to give treats to my daughter.
I know my family members appreciate when I keep “special” snacks around that my daughter doesn’t have frequently so that they can offer the surprises themselves.
Another thing that I don’t love is the “sneaking” because I feel it creates an unhealthy view of junk food. I explain this view to those family members.
I want my daughter to eat what she wants, when she wants, within moderation. So please just let treats be a casual part of the conversation, not an over-the-top “exclusive” event.
Junk food is fine in moderation, but when its singled out with a different connotation, that’s where I think food messages get confusing for children.
My mom feels completely opposite. She can’t wrap her head around not using junk food as leverage for good behavior or special occasions. So much so, that it’s like impossible for her to try to do it our different way when she’s in our home.
Knowing that, I am the one who steps in to their play dates + casually suggest that there’s some special treats in the cabinet + that they can help themselves when they’re ready.
I step in to lead where she can’t.
It’s annoying to interrupt my workflow, or to feel like I’m babysitting the babysitter, but again — either you accept the free help knowing someone isn’t going to change their ways unless they are committed on their own, or you pay for the help you want.
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Get Clear on Your Overall Boundaries
Getting along with family doesn’t require you to always be the one bending your boundaries.
First, you have the 100% decision to allow or deny any relationship with your child. It’s no one else’s decision.
I actually believe the key to getting along with family members is by having strong boundaries like that in-place. If you do allow them to have a relationship with your child, it will be stronger for having consistency, too.
For example, our technology rules for my daughter are the same no matter whose house we are at. It makes my life easier. Consistency allows my daughter to enjoy in a healthy way + there’s no confusion between households.
Be Willing to Go Extreme, if Necessary
There came a time when I had to put my foot down more than I had ever expected. We actually stopped seeing some family members for six months!
They were just not respecting the boundaries we had in place for our family no matter how I asked.
It wasn’t fun to know we were making them feel bad. However, the lack of boundaries had made us feel bad. And that wasn’t fair either. It’s your job as a mother to protect the people under your immediate roof first.
Remember: The people who complain about the boundaries you set are the ones who benefitted from you not having any in the first place.
So far, it looks like our hiatus was a smart reset. They may have finally gotten the message. Time will tell.
I would recommend setting those boundaries only if these people are highly important to have in your life.
If these people have proven themselves toxic + pushy over a lifetime, consider digging deep. Ask yourself: is this a relationship I truly want as an influence on my family’s life, however big or small?
Lead with Education
You’ve likely heard the expression:
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
Organic parenting is no exception.
At one point, you were willing to learn more about unconventional practices. And so you did.
That point needs to come organically just as much for the next person on their own terms.
I offer up organic education in conversations casually, but it’s never forced on people.
I might say, “I’m a big fan of THIS TOY BRAND because they’re committed to never using lead in their paint. Isn’t it crazy that toy companies are still allowed to sell products with toxic ingredients like that?”
If someone’s curious to learn more, I can speak about how lead poisoning leads to neurological problems. But if they don’t ask, I’m not going down the rabbit hole. I’m just sticking to my boundaries in my own home.
How are you setting boundaries with discerning family members?
When I set boundaries with family + got clear on what I was willing to accept in my household, I found I parented with much more confidence across all other areas of our life.
Take the time to journal out your ideas + if you’re looking for inspiration, our FREE private Facebook group of health-conscious moms is a great place to have the conversation!
Hope this helps!