You’ve decided not to give your children any sugar until age three. Your friends get it, but your parents—not so much: “Is this a millennial thing? You ate sugar when you were little, and you turned out all right.”
You chuckle at the teasing, but you give a gentle reminder when you leave little Garrett with his grands one afternoon: “No sugar, remember?”
Still, Grandma gave Garrett a sucker. Sugar on a stick. The telltale artificial coloring is still on his lips when you get back. Now what?
You could blow up on the spot: “What did you do?”
You could go all passive-aggressive: Say nothing and never ask the grands to babysit again.
Or you could wait a couple days and then have a little talk, having the spouse whose parents did the deed take the lead. (If that spouse is afraid to stand up to Mom and Dad, you might have bigger problems than Garrett’s sugar intake.)
Here’s one way this conversation could go.
Set the scene: “Mom, Dad, can we talk about something a little difficult?” (This preemption gives your parents the chance to be noble, to be big. It also sounds serious—Do you have cancer? Were you fired?—which makes the real topic almost a relief.)
Say what happened: “Garrett ate a sucker at your house.” (A little gentler than “You gave Garrett a sucker.”)
Explain how it made you feel: “That disappointed us so much. This sugar thing is important to us. It’s not the end of the world that he had a sucker. We’re not mad. But we want to go back to our no-sugar policy.”
Make a request: “Can you back us up on this, even if you don’t really agree with it?”
Notice what’s not happening in this conversation:
- You’re not attacking them: “How could you do this? You just don’t respect us.”
- You’re not patronizing them: “We realize you don’t know as much about sugar as we do.”
- You’re not arguing the policy: “We’re right about this. Sugar is bad.”
You don’t need to convert them. It doesn’t matter whether they agree with your no-sugar rule or not. Because the real point is this: You’re the parents. God gave Garrett to you to train up in the way he should go (cf. Proverbs 22). While you’ll always honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12) and be open to suggestions—my parents gave me tons of excellent parenting advice, and so will yours—you’re allowed to determine your own parenting procedures.
Chances are, at the end of your 30-second speech, they’ll agree to respect your wishes. Then you can quickly smooth the rough edges by offering a face-saver: “On another topic, do you think we have to be worried about Garrett’s rash?” Or maybe even wrap it up with a little comedy: “Glad that’s settled. Let’s all have some cake!”
Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.
Have you had a similar experience? How did you handle it? Please share your thoughts at forwardinchrist.net.