Setting Boundaries with Extended Family

setting-boundaries-with-extended-familyIt takes a village to raise a child, right?  But what happens when that ‘village’ is full of many extended family members (notice I did not say idiots) who have different ideas of familial boundaries? 

What happens when you have a grandparent that comes over to visit at the most inopportune times of the day?  Or an uncle who circumvents something you believe is right for your child?  Or, a brother who thinks you are making a poor choice when it comes to your teenage daughter?  What do you do when you are surrounded by so many extended family members, all with varying opinions about the best way to raise a child, that strife or disagreements arise?

For so many parents, standing up to extended family members is a hard thing to do.  None of us want to deepen a valley of resentment within our family.  But oftentimes, especially when families live close to one another, there can be too many cooks around to spoil the soup.  Setting boundaries and limitations with family members can cause a lot of stress because, ultimately, the last thing you want to do is hurt anyone’s feelings.  Right? 

Setting boundaries and limitations with family members can cause a lot of stress because, ultimately, the last thing you want to do is hurt anyone’s feelings.  Right? 

Still, it is important to set some boundaries.  Each of us has differing ideals when it comes to how raise our family.  We all have different values and feel strongly about certain issues that are close to our hearts. If extended family is compromising or devaluing those beliefs, then you have to stand up for yourself and your family.  The easiest way to do this is to simply speak your mind. 

Be direct and says things such as, “In our home, we don’t believe that the children should have a snack before bedtime.”  “In our home, we prefer to sit down and eat dinner as a family and do not like to have visitors or accept phone calls during the dinner hour.”  “I am trying to teach my child to fall asleep on his/her own, and do not want my baby to be rocked to sleep.”

Being brief, to the point, and simply pointing out your family values accomplishes two important things.  First, it makes your voice heard.  And secondly, it doesn’t discount or tell your extended family that they are wrong.  It just notes a difference.  The reality is that just because we have different opinions than our extended family doesn’t mean that we have a set of irreconcilable differences that cannot be overcome. These differences aren’t personal, and shouldn’t feel like judgment.  They are just differences.

The worst thing that you can do is try to constantly keep the peace, and let the underminings of extended family roll of your back like water off a duck.  This only leads to long-term resentment, which will eventually lead to an outburst of anger where you (or they) say things that they don’t really mean.  And not speaking our minds or not standing up for our beliefs and setting boundaries with others when it comes to our own family also sets a poor example for our children.  As long as you speak your mind without being mean-spirited, without anger, and without judgment of family members and their choices – your extended family has no choice but to respect your wishes. 

Remember at the end of the day, this is YOUR family. 

How do you set boundaries with extended family?  Do you find it difficult to speak up to family members or often feel undermined? 

What do you think?

Setting Boundaries with Extended Family

Stef Daniel is the 40ish year old, experienced (meaning crazy already) mother of count ‘em…4 daughters (yes, she takes prayers) who have taught her nearly E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G she needs to know about raising kids and staying sane. She hails from a small town in Georgia where she lives with her family in a red tin roofed house (with just ONE bathroom mind you) on a farm - with tons of animals of course. One day, due to her sheer aversion to shoes and her immense lov ... More

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