Living in a joint family especially for working parents is a boon and benefits are plenty. Along with the benefits are also a set of challenges because of conflicting messages relayed to the child. This is especially true with grandparents at home who love pampering the grand-children. It is challenging for the parents to intervene/ advice and question the wisdom of grandparents. All this sounds familiar to most parents living in a joint family. Repeated instances like these will often lead to conflicts between adults.
Here are some strategies to deal with multi-directional conflicting messages to the child raised in a joint family.
1. Agreed boundaries
Parents and grandparents should not underestimate the social intelligence of a child, children know exactly whom to approach to get what they want. Parents will have to draw the boundaries and let the children AND all the adults know the rules. Example; bedtime 8 pm and wake-up time 7 am. Rules like these should be non- negotiable. Parents should remember that the key is informing the reasons for setting boundaries and buy-in from other adults including grandparents.
2. Closed door discussions:
At times, there can be disagreements between the parents OR the parents and the grandparents/ other adults. Over a period, if these disagreements are not addressed, they can turn into serious conflicts. Once again, the parents and the grandparents/adults should know that children are instinctive, they often get to know the undercurrents and as a result, they will play one against the other. Hence, parents and grandparents/adults should discuss the disagreements and handle conflicts behind closed doors. In the interim, till the conflict is resolved, the adults should come across to the children as “one team”. When one adult is correcting the child, the other adult should not intervene and contradict. Adults should sort out their differences behind closed doors.
3. One boss for the child
Let’s be very clear that it is parent’s responsibility to let all the other adults in the house know that there is “One Boss for the child” and it is one of the parents. It can be a daunting and stressful task for a young mother to assert her decision-making skills and needs the support of her spouse. This is especially tricky and challenging with parents or in-laws around. These situations can be overcome if the parents/ in-laws are explained the benefits of raising happy children in a conflict-free environment.
4. Grandparents were once parents
Remember your parents were also raised by their parents hence acknowledge their wisdom and experience of grandparents in raising children. They will make a huge difference in the grand children’s lives. Parents should take them into confidence and seek their advice in finding a solution. Let the grand parents know that they are important in the upbringing of the children and their advice will always be valued. Most often they will offer a solution and will let parents set the boundaries.
Lastly, the 5th strategy is to share this article with the grandparents and ask them to add few more effective strategies to raise happy children and a happy family.