What Do We Do When Grandparents Undermine Our Beliefs?

by | Dec 19, 2018 | Extended Family, Family | 11 comments

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Let’s talk boundaries with grandparents today!

Christmas is almost here! I’ve got Rebecca and Connor home already, though Katie and David won’t be joining us until Christmas Day. And, of course, we’ve got Rebecca and Connor’s dog Winston here, too, which is a whole pile of fun.
(Here’s Winston in his new car seat on the way here–they got it so he doesn’t get so anxious or car sick. Now he can see out the windows!)

We’re doing some planning for the podcast that we’re launching next month, and some other big picture blog planning, and getting ready for Christmas, and I actually don’t have time to write a post today.
So I want to do two quick things.

First, I want to tell you about a big party we had last Saturday.

I got together everyone who works for me, along with their spouses, and we hosted an “80s prom murder mystery”. We all had characters we had to come as (I was the mean girl and Keith was the nerd). And by the way, I’m wearing the actual bridesmaids dress from my wedding in 1991:
How to Host a murder party
and then in the middle of the game one of us “died”. And then we had to solve the mystery! (Luckily the guy who died was the dad of one of the babies, so he could take the two babies for the rest of the night while we all played).
80s Prom Murder
It was a ton of fun:

(And side note: Rebecca on the far right looks exactly like I looked in the 80s. Kind of freaky.)
If you’re signed up for my weekly emails, I’ll be sending out a video of the evening in the weekly update this week, including our wonderful karaoke rendition of I Will Survive. If you’re not signed up, you can do that here!

Second, I’m going to let YOU ALL answer a reader question!

I wanted to tackle this one for our series on boundaries that we’re talking about this month, but I don’t have time. So I’ll let you all take a stab at it! What do you do when grandparents denigrate your beliefs in front of your kids?

Reader Question

Do you have a post addressing the fact when grandparents make statements against your core Christian beliefs in front of your children? For example, we were talking about books kids should/should not read (my concern was my oldest is sensitive so I made him wait to read Harry Potter). I also alluded that it was completely fantasy and had some scary stuff in it. And the grandfather said fantasy and scary was no different than taking a child to Sunday School (our Sunday School teaches about being a friend or using time wisely in the elementary…it doesn’t get into heavy topics in 3rd grade). And implied any parent who takes their child to church is out in left field (all in front our the kids) My husband no longer allows him to take our kids hiking/biking alone for other reasons. As much as I don’t like everything he has to say, he does the love the kids, I don’t want the grandparents out of our kids lives. What should we do?

What do you think? How about you all leave your comments here, and we pool the wisdom of my amazing readers for a change!
I’ve got some reflections written already for the next two days as we gear up for Christmas. I pray that the season is peaceful for you all, too.
Looking forward to hearing your responses!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Emily

    DH and I are both ‘first generation Christians’ so we get a lot of this kind of issue. Very early on we made two decisions:
    – We will not fight about our faith with our family (we will pray for them, we will answer questions if they ask, but we will not beat them over the head with our Bibles, either!)
    – We will follow up later with our children on any comments we disagree with.
    We explain that people who don’t believe in God are not going to live by his standards (how come she was pregnant before they were engaged?).
    We talk about why we believe, the difference God has made in our lives.
    We ask things like, “When Aunty said XYZ, what do you think Jesus would reply?”
    Sooner or later, all kids are going to encounter people who don’t believe the same way their parents do. We are blessed with a whole bunch of people who don’t believe, but who do love our kids and enjoy spending time with them. Knowing that “non-Christian” does not equal “nasty person to be avoided at all costs” has given at least two of our kids (so far) a beautiful capacity to love people around them.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love that response, Emily! That’s very much where we came down, too.

  2. Brievel

    Still dealing with this issue myself. My mother is a *very* opinionated woman, but I (now) have no problem respectfully standing up to her and disagreeing with her (and she’s gotten much better about accepting that I disagree with her.) But she’s also very blunt and straightforward.
    My in-laws are textbook examples of passive-aggressive and manipulative. (I’ll leave it at that.) It appears that their favorite hobby is denigrating my husband (I’m a close second,) especially in front of the baby. And of course, being a very straightforward person myself, I find dealing with this kind of sneakiness difficult. Any suggestions would be welcome. (I’m still working on helping my husband break free of the codependent tentacles, we’ll be starting counseling next month.)

    • Alicia

      Hey! My family is the same way as your in laws. I started calling them out when they said something and letting them know i know what they are insinuating. If they believe you won’t respond because its not direct, they will be empowered and it will get worse. My parents started out by trying to deny my interpretation, but I was persistent. Establish firm boundaries about what is appropriate or inappropriate (you are not allowed to compliment or insult me anymore. You are not allowed to comment on my parenting or marriage anymore.) We have distanced ourselves from my parents for now.

  3. Lois

    I’m SO excited you’ll be doing a series on Boundaries!!

  4. Laura

    I am coming at this from the opposite side. My parents are Christians although I think that means different things to my mom than my dad. My sister and her family have turned their backs on the faith they were raised in. So similar situation, just the generations are reversed.
    I have always had a “house rules” policy. When in my house, we say grace before a meal, go to church etc. We invite our family and friends who come to visit to join us in our faith activities, but do not force them to. We do not change what we do when non believers are present. On the other hand, when I visit my sister, I do not insist on grace, or even going to church. I follow her rules. I taught my kids to be gracious when there, and to “go with the flow” so to speak. My sister and I have a pretty good relationship. I try to model Jesus without preaching Him. When her kids ask questions, I answer honestly, with my sister present. I do not initiate.
    My mother does not. She insists that when visiting her, they participate in all faith based activities. She gets angry when they do not (when they used to visit her) . When she would go there, she would leave bibles for the kids, insist on grace at each meal and a big drama would ensue on Sunday mornings regarding church. Every conversation would be centered around their need for Jesus. For these and other reasons I will not get into here, my mother is not welcome in my sister’s home anymore. And my sister does not come to visit here either. 🙁
    For this reader, I would not discourage visits. It breaks hearts, both of the grandparents and the grandchildren. Having frank conversations with their children about how others view religion and faith, (and how they are different, but not necessarily seen that way by those who do not believe) is important. And in the end, LOVE is what matters. Love these grandparents. Love them as Jesus would.

    • Sherri

      Laura I love your response, it could not have been said with more respect or love, you can lead by example I truly believe showing someone how you live your life for Christ will far outweigh browbeating them with preaching every chance you get, and my last comment you hit the nail on the head, People Please Don’t keep your children from their Grandparents as punishment for different beliefs, all your doing is causing hurt on both sides, the children and Grandparents!

  5. Tiffany

    I like some of the suggestions on here. However if the situation is active digs and issues as opposed to passive disbelief I’m not sure. I would not be happy with grandparents interfering and undermining my parenting… let alone my faith. If there is some reason (other reason) why the kids aren’t allowed to spend time alone with granddad already that leads me to believe there is more going on than just a difference of faith. People can differ on beliefs and faith and still be respectful.
    As someone else said above when I’m around people and their children who are not believers I just try to live my faith by example. And discuss things when we need to with my kids. My family members are similarly respectful of us and our beliefs. So I suppose I’m lucky in that regard.
    Underhanded digs and snide remarks can cause irreparable damage to a parent / child relationship. And if the parent / child relationship is derailed completely I imagine faith very probably would follow (or even precede). And it doesn’t have to be just about faith or lack thereof. It can fairly effectively drive a wedge between parent and child, especially as the child gets older. This is a situation I’d be careful with. I’d be sure to set boundaries with the grandparents. This is what we expect and lay it out. I’m not saying to jump to it but If they won’t respect you and your choices I’d be considering the ‘if you want to spend time with us this is what we expect… ‘ otherwise perhaps some tough decisions might need to be made.

  6. Kiwi girl

    Hi there, I do not see a problems with kids realizing that other people have different views. If a child had questions from a discuss with someone else I’d answer them and I would discuss a topic with them if came up with someone else in private if I considered necessary. If a friend or relative (I had a good relationship with ) was undermining my parent choices in font of the children; I would talk to the person concerned in private. Personally I would be more worried about the influence of individuals who were not nice, decent humans than non-Christians. I think the most important thing is that a child becomes a decent and nice human as unfortunately some Christians are not very good at being nice, decent humans.

  7. BJ

    2 Timothy 2:23
    “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
    *And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.”

  8. BJ

    I guess I should have prefaced that with I was just reading this and thinking how it directly could apply here! lol


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