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Dealing With Relatives Who Disagree

My greatgrandmother was told that if she held her babies too much they would be spoiled. My grandmother was told that breastfeeding was old-fashioned and out of date. My mother was told to spoil the rod to spare the child (she didn't agree). Parenting advice has changed many times over the generations and much of the "modern" parenting advice conflicts with the basics of attachment parenting. Generational parenting differences can lead to conflict, especially at family get-togethers. How can you keep the peace without compromising your parenting?

Avoid confrontations by solving them before they begin. If your parents are charter members of the "clean plate club" but you feel kids should be able to stop eating when they are full, prevention is the solution. Put as little food as possible on your child's plate. If they finish and want seconds everyone will be happy, if they aren't very hungry there won't be much left to argue about. With older kids, discuss in advance that it is polite to try new foods and that it is not necessary to announce what they remind you of.

Plan ahead. If extended nursing horrifies your in-laws, nurse your toddler before you arrive even if you need to take a rest stop a few minutes before you reach their house (bonus, you'll both be more relaxed when you arrive). If you need to nurse during the visit, use a cover or quietly step into another room. This is not the time to "educate" them about the benefits of your way of doing things. They are unlikely to change their minds and respecting their deep need not to see you in all your glory can smooth the way for other changes.

Pick your battles. Some people are genuinely curious and you can teach them a lot about attachment parenting. Others are spoiling for a fight and the most loving thing you can do is avoid volunteering unnecessary information. If your aunt is the sort who can quote dire statistics about even the most innocuous statement, the best bet may be to change the subject. If you don't want to hear about how "dangerous" cosleeping is, politely state that it is safer than a crib under normal circumstances - then inquire about your aunt's recent surgery.

Educate gently, if necessary back your statement up with "the doctor." If you are still exclusively nursing your baby when grandpa offers a bite of ice cream, smile and say "I'm sure he would enjoy that, but his doctor says no grown-up food at all for a few more months." If pushed, you can simply say, "We trust our doctor's advice."

Don't change the way you parent. Avoiding conflict is good, but confusing your child by changing the rules at different houses isn't a great message to send. Keep wearing your baby even when others suggest it will spoil them. Use gentle discipline (but do discipline!). If need be, sometimes gentle humor can calm things down. A comment about spoiling your baby can be answered with a smile and a simple "Ben is too sweet already, we were hoping to raise a self-centered brat!"

If they really want to know, be prepared to help educate them. I've met more than one attached grandparent carrying their little grandchild in a wrap or singing the praises of cosleeping. Sometimes it just takes some time for them to see how great their grandchildren are turning out to change their minds.

If all else fails, smile and take another bite of Tofurkey!

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