When You Don’t Agree with a Caregiver of your Children

If you’re someone whose tweens or teens are being taken care of by other adults – whether that’s an ex-spouse every weekend, a neighbor while at work, or a grandparent for a trip – then you’re well aware of the stress and tension that can occur from different styles in caretaking. It can feel frustrating when another adult disregards your rules or doesn’t respect your values when it comes to your children. Here are some tips for navigating this tense issue:

Listen to their opinions respectfully.

We can feel defensive over our decisions in raising our children. While our automatic response to an alternative opinion might be to shut it down, it’s a really good idea to listen actively and calmly to the other important caregivers in our children’s lives. Remember these important points when a caregiver disagrees with your parenting:

  • Your caregiver’s opinion is coming from a place of love, caring, and good intentions for your tween or teen, just like yours.
  • You do not have to agree with their opinion, but you can still listen with respect. Ask questions to understand their viewpoint.
  • It’s possible that the other caregiver raises a point you hadn’t considered or does have some useful information to share with you. Working to understand their perspective will help you respond thoughtfully rather than defensively.
  • If your caregiver feels respected and understood, they will likely try harder to respect and understand your opinion as well.

It’s okay to voice your concerns.

If you have taken the time to listen and understand your caregiver’s opinion, it’s okay to still disagree and stand firm in your opinion. Be open with your feelings. As the parent, you don’t need to defend your parenting decisions; however, it could help to explain to the other person why you feel the way you do. When you offer solid reasons for your choices, you may sway the other caregiver to follow your preferences.

Ask the experts.

If you and your child’s caregiver come to a standoff about child-rearing, it is a good idea to consult your pediatrician (or therapist if appropriate). An expert in child development can give valuable insight to all the caregivers about what decisions will most benefit your child, which may resolve the issue.

Ensure safety always comes first.

No matter what anyone’s opinion is, the safety of your tween or teen is the most important priority.  If you’re ever concerned about your child’s safety when in the care of someone else, you should address it with that person promptly. If it’s clear that your child’s safety will continue to be at risk, then you should remove your child from that situation immediately.

Develop a caregiving plan together.

Try to negotiate a compromise. The absolute best way to ensure your tween or teen feels loved and secure is having both parents and all the caregivers of the child collaborate together to create a consistent, safe care plan that’s in the best interest of your child. Creating a coherent plan helps avoid any potential issues later and helps all of the caregivers to trust one another. Be specific in the plan about all aspects of care, including expected behavior, screen time and device use, meals and snacking, curfews, bedtimes, supervision, and discipline. Where there are disagreements, work to compromise in a way that satisfies both parties’ concerns. Print out the plan so that every caretaker has their own copy to refer to at any time.

Let it go.

If you and your caregiver still disagree on certain aspects of raising your tween or teen, and you are not able to make alternative arrangements (for example, if the disagreement is between divorced parents), you need to make a healthy choice to let it go. You really can’t control your caregiver’s choices, and fixating on these issues is unhealthy for you. Keep the situation in perspective. If your ex-husband doesn’t force your children to brush their teeth on the weekend, they will not lose their teeth. If your ex-wife doesn’t let them socialize on school nights, your teen will not lose all of their friends. Try to remember that your caregiver’s choices, while not ideal, will not permanently cause damage to your child. Instead, feel grateful that your children have multiple adults that care about them, and then seek out support (friends, a therapist, a support group, etc) to help you deal with the stress in a positive way.

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