How To Tell Your Parent They're Violating Your Parenting Boundaries

May 13th, 2024

If your parent or in-law is violating a boundary with your child, here are some ways you can respond.

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Adult children will encounter issues with their parents and in-laws; this is inevitable even in the healthiest relationships. How you handle these disagreements or boundary violations when they happen matters.

It’s important to note that some disagreements, issues, or boundary violations arise truly from a place of not knowing what you want. Not all grandparents are violating a boundary maliciously or because they want to hurt their adult child or grandchild. It can be difficult to tell the difference when your relationship has been dysfunctional in the past, and you will need to use your discretion to identify if this is an accident or something being done with ill intent.

If your parent or in-law is violating a boundary with your child, here are some ways you can respond:

  • Be clear and direct. Explicitly explain the boundary and how you feel it is being violated. “We do not allow her to watch that TV show because it has a lot of violence. She cannot watch that show when she is at your house. Can we work together to make sure that does not happen again?”
  • Make sure you can uphold the boundary. Do not make empty threats that you cannot or will not keep. Saying things like, “We’re never bringing her over here again!” when you don’t mean it will not help.
  • Ask if they have any questions, and allow them to ask questions respectfully. Parenting practices have changed and your parents or in-laws truly may not understand. You can ask them if they have any questions and answer their good-faith questions about why you are making this decision.
  • Have a plan in place and be a good teammate. If you have specific rules or guidelines you would like them to follow, try to be accommodating and provide the resources that are needed to accomplish your goals for your child. This may include providing specific foods, ensuring their sleeping arrangements are safe, and providing the grandparents with what they need.
  • Reinstate the boundary and set a clear limit when needed. Agree to disagree when necessary. After clearly explaining yourself, it’s ok to say, "This is what works for us and what we have decided to do as parents.”

Your child’s safety is the most important thing here. Look out for clear signs of emotional or physical abuse and neglect. If any of this happens, you will need stronger boundaries or limits. You may need to stop interacting with this person altogether. Your number one priority is keeping your child safe, whether that is from a stranger or a family member.