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Grandma Lets Kids Misbehave

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: When I'm at my mother's for the holidays, she allows our kids to get away with everything. Our nutrition and discipline rules go right out the door when we're at her house. How can we get her to respect our rules?

A: I would back off of strict enforcement of your nutrition and discipline rules at Grandma's house. I'd recommend treating this holiday time with your mother like a vacation. During family vacations, I suggest that parents suspend the usual dietary and discipline rules so that their kids (and they) can eat their favorite junk foods, stay up later than their usual bedtimes, and go to two movies in one day. It's my "banana splits for breakfast" philosophy -- a chance to be carefree and to indulge ourselves for a brief, giddy period of time away from home. We will return all too soon to "the rules."

In this particular case, let your mother "spoil" your kids for a day or two. Reframe the experience as one where your kids get to be indulged by your loving mother as opposed to seeing it as a violation and disregard of your family's rules. Short of feeding them pecan pie round-the- clock and encouraging them to steal the pears from her neighbor's tree, I can't think of anything that your mother could do that could not be embraced and enjoyed by your kids and you as "Thanksgiving at Grandma's." By relaxing your standards, you'll be giving your children and your mom a great gift. Happy Holidays!

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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