When it comes to raising kids, grandparents have been there, done that—and they're eager to pass along their wisdom. These are the best ways to use it.
Suppress your ego. "After I had my first child, I was bombarded with unsolicited advice from my mom and mother-in-law about how to raise her. I interpreted every sentence starting with ‘You should’ as a failure on my part. With my second child, I started filtering their suggestions through my brain instead of my ego. And once I listened, I often found their words helpful."
—Amber Fitzgerald, mom of two, Abescon, New Jersey
Get a new perspective. "My younger child was always more challenging than my older one, and I wondered why everything felt so much harder with him. I was discussing it with my mom after a visit, and she said that he was ‘quite a handful’ and had a ‘short fuse.’ Rather than being offended, I was relieved! Her words confirmed that I wasn’t imagining things...and it wasn’t me."
—Emily Paster, mom of two, River Forest, Illinois
Laugh it off. "My mom’s mom once told me to put some whiskey on my finger and rub it on my teething baby’s gums. I laughed and said, ‘They don’t do that anymore, Grandma!’ Though she’d been serious about the idea, she laughed, too, and said, ‘I guess they don’t do a lot of things anymore!’"
—Debbie Lamb, mom of two, Vallejo, California
Turn the tables. "Whenever my children’s grandparents offer advice that I think sounds overly cautious—like not walking around the house barefoot, because they’re convinced it makes my kids sick—I have a trick I use. I smile politely and ask questions, like ‘How does not wearing socks or shoes transfer bacteria?’ or ‘Has that ever happened to you personally?’ It sometimes turns out even they don't know why they believe the things they do—they usually learned it from their parents! It transforms a potential confrontation into an interesting, thoughtful conversation."
—Anastasia Gavalas, mom of five, Hamptons, New York
Meet in the middle. "When my firstborn was around 10 months old, I left her with my mother-in-law for a few hours. When I picked her up, her mouth was ringed in neon orange. My mother-in-law had given her orange soda because she wanted the baby to have a treat. It took a series of gentle-but-firm conversations to get her to understand why I wanted to keep unhealthy food away from my kids—but I also learned that I had to mellow out a little. Spoiling grandchildren is what grandparents love to do. I’ve come to terms with my children eating a few items off the forbidden list when they’re with their grandparents. It’s a fine thing for all of us."
—Kathy Gillen, mom of four, Pittsburgh