Agreeing to Disagree

My daughter is almost two years old. She is learning more and more words every day. She already says well over a hundred words (in Spanish and English – much more in English) and strings them together to make sentences. She can count, in two languages. She can sing (the first four letters) of the alphabet. She is smart. She is capable. She gets what is going on. And I have to admit, I’m loving it.

Some moms like the baby phase. Some moms LOVE it. They revel in the smallness, in the all-consuming nature of it. They feel empowered by how much their newborns need them and how they are able to provide. For me? Not so much. I’ll admit I found the first six months kind of… boring. The older Isa gets, the more I enjoy motherhood. I love her independence. I revel in the thirty minutes she can play and read by herself. I sink my teeth into the opportunities to teach her. I wait eagerly for the chance to give her consequences.

Yes, at the tender age of 21 months, I am already issuing consequences to my toddler.

You see, this is the part of motherhood I’m good at. I’m good at the consequences part. I’m good at setting boundaries and enforcing them. I’m good at making my expectations clear and helping my daughter meet them. I believe my daughter is already capable of learning what is expected of her and doing it. And I’m treating her accordingly.

The thing is, not everyone agrees with the way I enforce consequences with my daughter. Most of the time it doesn’t matter, because I don’t really care much what others think of my choices. She is my daughter and I’m doing what I believe is right in raising her. Of course, when the people who don’t agree with me are my in-laws, it gets more complicated. Especially since my in-laws are our primary care providers.

It’s not even that I want my in-laws to do things the ways I do. Usually I tell them what I’m doing with Isa so they can create consistency if they want to, but I never overtly ask them to do anything. And that’s probably a good thing, because chances are they would refuse.

Recently I told my in-laws that I was putting Isa in her crib for a minute when she hit or scratched me. I don’t really consider this a “time out” but more of a chance for her to regain her composure when she’s really upset while letting her know that hitting will not be tolerated. At first she would get very upset when I put her in the crib but after about a week, she would regain control almost immediately and be ready to play happily by the time I returned to get her. Also, she hasn’t hit me in a week.

I mentioned this at lunch with my in-laws and I was promptly informed that they would NOT be doing anything of the sort when she was at their house. Not only was it developmentally inappropriate (ie she wouldn’t understand what was happening) but they don’t believe in time-outs and refuse to administer them. I told them they should do whatever felt comfortable and left it at that.

Today my father-in-law mentioned that he was trying to teach Isa to say “thank you”. I’ve been focusing on requiring her to say “please” before I give her things. It’s a part of our daily exercise in patience (many times a day I just don’t let her have something right away, usually I have her go distract herself with something else and then bring it when she has forgotten about it). In just a few short weeks she has started using “pease” instead of grunting for what she wants. It’s a welcome change.

Anyway, I was going to start requesting she say “thank you” when I felt “please” was adequately acquired, but I certainly didn’t mind my FIL trying to teach her “thank you”. I mentioned that I was focusing on “please” first and he made it clear that he would not be focusing on “please” he didn’t care about whether she said “please” and he certainly wouldn’t with hold things to force her to say it. He would casually focus on “thank you” and that was it.

Now obviously this is not all that important and I truly don’t care whether he reinforces the work I’ve done on asking Isa to say “please” when she wants something. But I have to admit, his total disregard of my mothering choices is hard to handle. Really hard. And I’ve felt pretty shitty ever since our exchange.

It makes me realize that my parenting decisions really are an extension of who I am, and if someone disregards them or implies they are so worthless as to not be worth considering, I take it personally. Very much so. When my FIL fails to even consider my reasoning for doing something when it comes to my daughter I feel like my own values are disregarded as well. It’s complicated and difficult to explain. The only thing I’m sure of is how much it sucks.

Do you ever have to defend your parenting decisions? When you do, does it feel like you are defending who you are? What do you do or say when people close to you disagree with your choices?

15 responses

  1. I always wished I had parents I could just leave J with full-time, and I’ve been jealous of people who had that option. But more and more I see how it can lead to big problems. My boss’s mother watches her kids, and she recently discovered her mother was hitting her daughter! Now she’s scrambling to cut back her mother’s childcare hours. I’m feeling grateful for my relatively cheap, professional daycare.

    But… your inlaws don’t believe in time-outs? What DO they believe in, for discipline? I am not sure timeouts are going to get Isa to never hit you again (she’ll probably start again when she’s older), but they certainly aren’t going to hurt her. When my mom watched J once a week, I used to tell her “you can be the grandparent who spoils her grandson, or you can be the grandparent who sees him all the time. You can’t do both.” I used to only see my grandparents a few times a year, so they could spoil me. I’m sure she agrees she got the better option.

  2. I find it incredibly difficult. I stay home with my children, though, so when people, i.e. my mother in law, disagrees with my choices, it feels like she is criticizing my entire life–my career, who I am, what I have chosen to do, what occupies 24 hours of my every day. I remember her giving me a hard time for telling my daughter what I was doing and what her consequences were, like I was overinforming her. But, like Isa, she was precocious. She understood what I did and why. I don’t do time-outs, but I do do consequences for every action. Beatrice understood that early on and her two year old behavior changed. The proof was in the pudding, as they say. If it had been my mother, I would have disagreed, argued, explained why I think it is important to be consistent, but it is so hard with in-laws. You have to pick your battles. Thank you for the thought-provoking post and for sharing this.
    (BTW, that is amazing about Isa’s language skills. I have never heard of a child being that advanced at 21 months. Amazing. My son is two in two weeks, and still mostly grunts and points. He has twenty words, but geesh, it is starting to worry me.)

  3. I’ve not been through this yet, but I remember watching my sister go through it with my folks (her kids are teenagers now). It took a little while but my parents realized that they need to follow THE parents (my sister & her husband) way of parenting, positive reinforcement and consequences for consistency with the child. Even I didn’t agree with some of the methods my sister used, but it wasn’t my decision, I went along with it – and I’ll tell you, she’s got some great teenagers!

    Hope you can come to a reasonable resolution to our situation, otherwise it could become more confusing to your child to have multiple sets of rules.

    And thanks for your comment on my post!

  4. First, I am totally with you on loving the toddler stage, not so much newborn…its so much more INTERESTING now! Sense of humor, interaction, unpredictability—its all amazing to watch.
    Second, wow, it must be really hard dealing with the differences in parenting philosophy, especially when you are the mother & should be the one in charge. This is the downside to having family care for your child; the upsides are obviously many. In the end, I think Isa will benefit from having the different approaches (as long as none are truly harmful or abusive, of course!) & will ultimately learn how to behave no matter where she is. Even with daycare we have to let some things go—different teachers do things differently & no one does it exactly like I would do it—but the kids are happy & growing & thriving, so….

  5. It sounds to me like you’re an amazing mother! I can see why you’d feel that way and expect I’ll feel the same. I was already completely annoyed by my parents in one visit. “I think she’s cold. You should take her inside.” “She’s hungry.” “Don’t give her another bite – she hasn’t swallowed yet. Oh yes she has.” It was enough to make me want to stab them with a brightly colored baby spoon!

  6. I think we’re pretty lucky. My spouse and I are on the same page, and my in-laws pretty much don’t interfere. And we don’t parent enough in front of friends for them to make judgement calls. 😉 Hopefully, it will all turn out ok in the end!

  7. Nav and I disagree on so many parenting decisions. A lot of it is cultural. They just do things differently in Chinese families and I especially see that when his mom comes for a visit. Unfortunately, he still does not spend enough time with the boys so they don’t respect his parenting and that usually turns into him blaming my parenting style. We haven’t really discussed how to raise the boys so I just go with my gut and then we have the discussion when he disagrees. It’s frustrating for all parties but we haven’t figured out a different way yet. Ultimately, I know that A&B will turn out just fine but it’s the day-to-day that is really rough.

  8. So far, I’ve been lucky, but my situation is different. My inlaws don’t take care of my son very often because they don’t live in town. I do compromise when it comes to a bit of chocolate and the odd donut, but we get along pretty well when it comes to the kid. You should probably enlist your hubby’s aid.

  9. ugh. I’d have a really hard time with someone who wouldn’t implement my wishes with some consistency, if they were responsible for our kids’ care. they wouldn’t even have to agree with me, only respect my decision. I know the child care thing is so freaking difficult without other options, but honestly I don’t think I’d be able to deal with that situation on an ongoing basis. granted, we choose our battles. but consistency is so important with kids, esp toddlers.

    I agree with Deathstar — I’d try to enlist your hub’s help on the key issues that are most important to you, even if it’s just a general ‘hey, we apprecaite all you do, but you need to respect our decisions about Isa.’ (no please necessary. heh.)

  10. Oh inlaws, so annoying. My MIL makes me nuts with her passive-agressive comments about G’s early bedtime and our decisions about his medical care (she thinks he’s going to “catch up” eventually, adn did we really need to do surgery? Ugh). Thankfully, my husband handles it, and for the most part we just ignore her ignorance. I can see how your situation would be more difficult since your FIL is providing childcare. You are doing a fantastic job- Isa is THRIVING- I wouldn’t let anyone’s opinion make you feel less of a mother.

  11. I have active in-laws who see the kids twice a week. I have resolved that they will do things differently than me if I’m not there. (And there’s really nothing they do that greatly differs from or contradicts my parenting style, luckily, and they feed the kids healthy, organic food per my request, which I appreciate.) But they don’t provide childcare, so it’s totally different.

    This blows. You are an incredible mother. It seems like they have a pretty permissive parenting style, which is definitely not your thing (or mine) and that’s tough.

    Don’t forget what Darcy said: “Who gives a shit what anyone else thinks?”

    If only it were that easy 😉

  12. <>

    I’ve commented before on my SIL. My MIL is even worse. She never liked how we fed Matthew because he was … wait for it… on a schedule (GASP!). Every time she would care for him, she would disregard the feeding instructions (when, how much, how to heat it, etc.) and would inform us when we got home that she fed him, “before he was desperate.” She implied that I withheld food! I never did any such thing – he was on a 3 hours schedule but I’d feed him when he was hungry if it was before 3 hours, and I would push him out 15 or 30 minutes if he wasn’t hungry after 3 hours. His schedule is the one that HE led us to, not the other way around. Even if she wasn’t caring for him, and we were there just visiting, she would tell me to feed him “before he got desperate.” She would cross a room full of people to tell me that I’d withheld food from my baby long enough (2 hours!) and that I should feed him.

    This was a regular occurrence – so I stopped going to see them. It was that simple – I was not going to have my parenting style attacked by a woman who, herself, raised only one self-sufficient adult out of her 4 children (who happens to be my husband). I know I’m in a different situation than you since she wasn’t his primary care giver, but she was our baby sitter and we just stopped having her come. We went for a visit for a birthday and she crossed the room to TELL me to feed M before we headed home. He’d eaten less than 2 hours earlier and it was his nap time, and the drive was an hour. PERFECT TIMING. She did not agree and said that I only fed him once in the time we’d been there (2 hours). I turned to B, told him to load M up in the car, and that we were leaving.

    I sent her a very pointed email the next day telling her that she needs to keep her comments to herself, that just because he’s not being raised the way she may raise her OWN children does not make it wrong, and that (yes I said this) M is the happiest and most well-adjusted baby their family has ever known. It’s not nice to compare kids, but her other two grand kids are clingy and have no self-confidence – and they were raised how SHE feels kids should be raised. She wrote back, said she heard what I was saying, and that she’d stop.

    She babysat later that week and I was told that she fed him before he was desperate. SIGH. Most recently, she’s expressed her belief that it’s too early to cut M’s hair because “babies are supposed to be shaggy.” I sent her a photo from the hair salon as his shaggy locks were cut off 😉

  13. This is difficult! I am lucky in that my MIL lives several states away and my mom has the same parenting style I do. In fact, she works in child care so she appreciates discipline and most of what I do I learned from her! I am sorry this is so frustrating. I think if I were in your position I would have your husband speak with them and tell them that if they want you to trust them to take care of her and respect the choices they make, then they need to respect the choices you and he make.

    That being said, as a mother of two nearly 3 year olds (how did that happen?!?) AND a pediatrician, I will say that I 100% agree with your choice to use time out. In fact, if you read child development and behavior experts they will tell you that time out is not intended to be a punishment. It is intended to be a time to calm down and redirect from a negative behavior. Children understand more than we give them credit for but they lack impulse control. Removing them from the situation helps them gain control. We started doing time outs with my son at 1 year because he had a biting problem. It was completely developmentally appropriate to remove him from the situation (usually fighting over a toy) and also kept his sister from being bitten multiple times. Children need limits!

    I hope you guys can come to an understanding. It’s not fair to you to be attacked for your parenting choices. They had their chance to parent, now it’s your turn.

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