When your relatives disapprove of your parenting

Dec 11, 2023

It’s the time of the year when there are lots of family gatherings and lots of opportunities for your relatives to observe you parenting your children.  As parents, we always want to be proud of our kids, so we have lots of expectations that our children will behave a certain way at family gatherings.

Unfortunately, family gatherings also typically mean that our kids get overstimulated and jacked up on sugar, so they don’t behave or interact as we had hoped.  And then we get disapproving looks from our parents or in-laws, suggestions or tips on parenting from siblings that have “perfect” kids, or we imagine all of the judgemental thoughts we think everyone else is having about us and our parenting — and they’re never good.

When we’re being judged, or think other people are judging us on our parenting skills, we tend to move to “command and demand” parenting — which tends to escalate our kids and make things worse instead of calming things down.

So basically, when we are thinking some version of “they don’t think I’m parenting well”, we get frustrated, and then we’re not able to parent as well because we’re frustrated.  It becomes an unending cycle that just continues — unless you intentionally stop it.

Many parents might think that they need to get their relatives to change and stop being so judgmental, or they need to get their kids to behave differently — but we can never control what other people (including our kids) think, say, or do.  The only person that you can control is YOU.

So how do you handle holiday get-togethers with judgy relatives? 

You expect it to happen and decide in advance how you’re going to think about it in a way that will allow you to stay calm and parent effectively.

First, expect that your kids are going to have a tough time with all of the extra stimulation, late bedtimes, and extra sugar.  If you think they’re going to behave like perfect angels, you will get frustrated and angry when they don’t.  If you expect that they’re going to have a tough time, you stay calmer when it does happen and you handle the situation much more effectively.

The same goes for judgy relatives.  If you commonly get looks and comments at family gatherings and are thinking that they just don't understand and shouldn't be so critical, you will end up defensive and angry — which makes it really difficult to parent effectively and gives your relatives even more to disapprove of.

Second, consider letting everyone else have their opinions and don’t make it mean anything about you as a parent.  Your parents and in-laws were raised at a completely different time with a completely different parenting style.  It’s all they knew, and they did the best they could with what they knew at the time.

That said, times have changed and studies have proven that style of authoritarian parenting is not as effective.  We know more now, so we adjust and change based on what’s proven to work best.

At some point, you might have a conversation with them to share the new information that you’ve learned, but you don’t have to.  You can let them have their thoughts and opinions and expect them to share it, as long as you stop caring about it and stop thinking it means you’re not a good parent.

If this is a struggle for you, please join me in the Confident Parenting Club this December where I’m teaching in-depth strategies and exact scripts to survive and thrive this holiday season, especially when dealing with kids (and relatives!) that push your buttons.  Learn the tools that will give you more peace in your life and get three months for the price of two with the code HOLIDAY!  

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