Dear Mr. Dad: My daughter and son-in-law are raising their 4-year-old child with no discipline or boundaries. The boy is a brat, screaming and throwing temper tantrums whenever he doesn’t get what he wants.
I’ve tried speaking to my daughter about this but she just laughs it off. What should I do?
A: Oh, boy, that’s a tough one. I totally agree that raising a child without any boundaries, or, for that matter, discipline, is just plain bad parenting. Your daughter and son-in-law aren’t doing your grandson any favors by giving in to all his whims.
So, what can you, the concerned grandmother, do? Obviously, you don’t want to seem interfering or meddling. But you don’t want to just stand by.
A lot depends on your relationship with your daughter. Are you close and open enough with each other to honestly talk with her – in a calm and nonconfrontational manner – about your concerns?
Start by asking her why she doesn’t believe in setting limits for her child. If she says she doesn’t want to be seen as a strict disciplinarian, explain that boundaries don’t have to be harsh, just fair and reasonable.
Tell her that boundaries are actually good for a child’s development. They teach not only appropriate and acceptable behavior at home, school, and elsewhere, but also respect toward others and a sense of self control.
Not setting rules, on the other hand, will have some serious consequences. If the boy continues to act like a spoiled brat, he’ll have trouble making and keeping friends. As a result, he won’t learn to share, interact, or get along with his peers.
Worse yet, kids who get whatever they want whenever they want it, never learn how to handle disappointments and frustrations later in life.
Encourage your daughter and her husband to make an appointment with a family counselor. Re-programming a child who’s had no rules for four years will probably require professional help.
In the meantime, offer to babysit from time to time – if you can stand it – and be consistent in enforcing your own boundaries around your house while he’s there. You won’t make an angel out of your grandson overnight, but at least he’ll know that rules do exist and that some people enforce them.
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