How can I tell relatives not to parent or discipline my 3 year old?

Q: How can I deal with family members trying to step in and parent my child? We have a few relatives that have children in close age with my 3 year old daughter, and when we have get togethers, it seems like all bets are off and sometimes the aunts and uncles try and step in and discipline or parent my child. Some are more strict in the way they parent, and my daughter and myself are not used to that. How can I tell them to back off and let them really listen to my wishes?

A: Ah, the extended-family discipline dilemma -- does it help to know you're not alone? Most of us struggle with this issue. It's about family customs and communication patterns. In some families, it's OK to voice your preferences and set limits. In others, it's not so easy. First of all, know that it's OK for your child to get used to the fact that different adults have different approaches to discipline. Your child can understand this, and as long as it's not abusive, an aunt or uncle setting limits won't psychologically damage your child.

But this is more about YOU setting limits in your family of origin. Perhaps you're taking the opportunity to set limits you never did as a child yourself, or simply setting the rules for your own child. If you decide to speak up, be rational, matter-of-fact, and straightforward. "Auntie, our daughter is used to getting down from her chair after she's done eating. We don't force her to wait for everyone to finish. That's our rule." You may have to repeat yourself several times (and not lose your temper). If the limit-pushing continues, it is your choice about attending future gatherings.

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