Our survey showed discipline as the number one area of disagreement between Mom and Grandma. The majority of grandparents said their daughter's or daughter-in-law's style of discipline is inconsistent or too permissive.
"Moms today want to be friends with their kids and discuss behavior, whereas I felt it was my responsibility to be the parent," explains Elaine Fantle Shimberg, of Tampa, Florida, grandmother of 10 kids ranging from 14 months to 12 years. Her major concern is that the young moms haven't developed a look that says, "Don't push me, kid!" "It kept my kids in line," Shimberg says.
Heitler confirms that yesterday's moms may have overemphasized power -- with spanking or a stern look, for example -- while today's moms tend to overemphasize negotiating. Joann Bajana, of Bronx, New York, says her mother-in-law encourages her to spank the kids, who are 4 and 7, and badgers her to be more firm. "If you don't, they'll walk all over you," she says. Bajana agrees that it's important to be firm, even with young children, but not to the degree of physical punishment.
Teamwork Tip: If your mother criticizes your style of discipline, listen for the nugget of truth in what she's saying -- even if you choose to ignore her actual advice. For instance, maybe you've given your daughter five solid reasons not to clock her little sister on the head with the rattle, but the baby's crying proves she hasn't learned.
While your mom may suggest a course of action you don't like, such as spanking, the point is that your technique isn't working. "Validate what's useful about her criticism, and then propose your own solution," Heitler says. You might say, "Yes, you're right that she's not listening to me. Instead of trying to reason with her, I think I'll try a time-out."