…a continuation of Aspire to Inspire.
Do you know how many grandparents are raising their grandchildren today because they never relinquished control? It is happening for many reasons, but one is that some parents hang onto the control stage way too long. Rather than allowing their children to step out and find their own way, these parents hold on and become surrogates, allowing their adult children to remain immature.
Grandparent, please let go. By crossing the line over into your adult children’s responsibilities, you are actually undermining God’s plan. Our task as grandparents, aunts, and uncles, is to support the parent in their position to govern their home. God has given clear instructions in His Word about proper authority; whether in the home (Ephesians chapter 6, Colossians 3:14-25), church (ITimothy chapters 2 and 3), or civil government (Romans chapter 13).
Here’s a common example: A child is fussing about a food item the parent has given them. Nothing is wrong with the food, but it’s not the child’s preference at the moment when viewing what someone else is eating and the child makes a scene (in public) about it. I have observed the parent addressing the child about their poor response when a “well-meaning” relative steps in to “help“. Perhaps you have done this yourself.
How is that controlling, you may ask — by the response you direct toward the child. Instead of allowing the parent’s words or actions to stand, you override them with something like, “Oh Honey, would you like ____ instead?” As a “well-meaning” extended-family member who feels uncomfortable with the child’s poor response, you’re inclined to rescue them! STOP! Rather, think about what you are doing. Instead of respecting the parent’s position and instruction, you go directly to the child, running interference.
Let’s look at what this undermining response does.
1) Disrespects the parent’s position in the child’s life.
2) Inserts confusion into an existing problem. The child has a simple choice before them. By your input, you are encouraging confusion in the child’s heart and increasing a tendency toward rebellious desires. Rather than training toward obedience to parents, you are reinforcing unhealthy independence. Realizing that age-appropriate independence is needful, if your adult child is struggling with that, then talk to them privately rather than using the child as an instrument of correction.
3) You are building distrust in the child concerning their parent’s authority.
4) You are developing a manipulator and potential addict. Through your actions, you are teaching the child to evade authority (ultimately God’s authority) and to learn to function outside “the law”. You are developing a liar. All children, teens, and adults habituated toward getting their own way end up lying to achieve their desires, whether they recognize it or not.
5) You are supplying your own “need” to be a solver, a giver, a “Grand” parent, as this is more important to you than the child’s true welfare. You may be oblivious to what you’re doing, so please open your heart to hear. You are essentially feeding an issue in your own heart that needs addressing, and you are undermining your grown son or daughter’s relationship with their child.
The Support Role
Recognize your place and role in the relationship. You can inspire those you influence in a proper way that works toward a pattern of healthy relationships. It is never your place to undermine, even though this can be a temptation. You want to be viewed as a wonderful, nice, kind person, in the eyes of your grandchild, niece, nephew, and the viewing public, but you are actually building walls of offense by indulging in your self-centered desires.
When we undermine those in authority, we are acting out of disobedience to God’s established pattern and His proscribed method. We are inviting failure into the multi-generational relationship. This can be changed once we recognize this in ourselves and humbly receive correction. It doesn’t feel good but it does pay large rewards for everyone. There is much I have had to learn regarding this and have made the necessary changes to move forward! And it’s been worth it all.
A note to parents: If this situation with an extended-family member exists, deal with it. Allowing someone else’s authority over your children is vitiating your duty as a parent.
Oftentimes as parents, you will not work on a solution because you are unwilling to discuss and deal with the situation, but you must. If either one of you is ignoring the problem and bringing confusion into your child-raising, humble yourself and confront one another in love (Ephesians 4:15). You are the parents, work this out between yourselves; do not bring further harm to your children or USE the children to display your differences. Develop a united front in your mission; get good counsel so that you do not put your burden upon your children.
Hold your lane so that well-meaning relatives are not tempted to cross over into it and drive your family’s car.
Photo Credit: Canva, Pixabay
Previous article (Part 1: Aspire to Inspire–Grand Parenting Tips)
3 thoughts on “Stay in Your Own Lane”
Thank you, Rebecca, for your thoughtful and experiential response. Good!
Hey Nancy, this was a great article, thank you. In the military, we used to say, “Stay in your lane” whenever we were doing something that required the group to stay in formation–like shooting or running. If you didn’t stay in your lane, you weren’t watching your lane–which was the next extension of the saying, “Watch your lane.” On a shooting range, everyone would line up equidistant from the others in a straight line with their rifles all aimed in the same direction, “downrange”. Downrange, each person had their own lane of targets set at 50meters, 100meters, 150 meters, and 200meters…. (The distance to the target depends on the weapon you are using.) Before we were commanded to shoot, we were instructed to, “Watch your lane”. If you watched someone else lane, you generally missed what was in yours.
Following the rules in target practice lead to great outcomes when it was time to fight because everyone would be given a “lane” on a perimeter, and their job was to watch their lane and shoot the enemy coming down their lane. If your eyes are on your neighbor’s lane, then the enemy came down your lane. If your neighbor’s eyes were on your lane, then the enemy came down their lane. The whole perimeter and everything inside it is the most functional, safest, and most secure when everyone watches their own lane.
All lanes slightly overlap at some point with the neighboring lanes. You have to have that overlap to close any gaps. I think this is parallel to your article because a proper overlap between parents and grandparents is what’s best for a kid, but one person watching someone else’s lane instead of their own is where the security and functionality of the whole group becomes compromised. Family units work best when there is a crossover presence of multiple generations. Everyone in the unit has to:
1. Know the boundaries of their lane
2. Watch their lane
3. Stay in their lane
4. Hold their lane
Hold the lane. This is a great statement, Nancy. The Army should use this statement. We say, “Hold the line”, as in, hold the perimeter. Sometimes, when the person next to you is failing or has dropped out, you are responsible for covering down and holding their lane and yours for the good of the group–in order to ultimately hold the line.
Clinton County has such a bad drug problem that it has caused the number of children in the foster care system to more than double since 2012, with it’s worst year reportedly being 2015. That’s a lot of gaps in the line. Some kids were fortunate enough to have relatives cover down for their parents–who dropped out–others have foster parents. Some are lost and we don’t even know how lost they are because we think their parents are watching their lane and holding the line when the parents, in fact, are not. The whole of society is in danger and crumbling because people don’t know or don’t do the four steps numbered above. If we don’t raise our children to have self-governance, they won’t respect governing authorities, and they can not be counted on to hold their lane when it’s time for them to be adults and parents themselves.
This is how I interpreted your article. It made a lot of sense to me. I wish everyone could read your message. Thanks for writing this, Nancy!