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Q. "My husband and I are very close to our families -- they've been very involved in raising our two children from the beginning. Now that our daughter is 16 and our son is 17, our parents feel we're giving them too much independence and allowing them to do things that will set them down the wrong path. We don't let our children to do whatever they want, but my husband and I feel we know our children best, and we know they can handle the responsibilities we've permitted them to have. Our son and daughter have proven to us that they know how to balance their school and social lives -- they are both college-bound and at the top of their high school classes -- and we don't see the problem in letting our kids have a little fun. How can we explain to our parents that we are in control of our kids and that they should not doubt our parenting skills?"
A. Somehow you'll need to muster up the courage to explain to your parents your approach to parenting your teenagers. When you do, however, don't expect their approval and understanding. They raised their children one way; you're taking a slightly different approach. You are parenting your teens now; your methods are fit for today's kids, not yesterday's.
When the time in right, tell the grandparents how much you've appreciated the time and attention they've given to their grandchildren. Go on to say that as young parents, you really needed their support. Then go on to explain your approach to parenting your children now that they're adolescents. Affirm the fact that, yes, you give them freedom, but they've proven to be responsible, you trust them, you like their friends, they've never been in trouble, and they come home on time. Go ahead and underline the fact that they're college-bound students at the top of their classes.
Let the grandparents know that even though you're allowing your kids certain freedoms, you're keeping a watchful eye on them and that if they ever violate your trust, you'll take another approach. End by saying that for now you feel perfectly comfortable with their behavior and with your relationship with each of the kids.
Since your parents have been involved grandparents, it will be difficult for them to back off and not offer their opinions and advice. They're protective of their grandchildren out of love for them. When they overstep their bounds, simply acknowledge their thoughts and feelings and then proceed as you think best. There's no need to argue with them or to convince them that your approach is the right one. Explain how you're proceeding once, and then turn the conversation to another topic.
If you need or are looking for their approval, holding your ground will be difficult. You're changing your approach to their involvement in your life and the lives of your children; prepare yourself for some friction with your parents along the way.
If they become too intrusive, you may need to hold off revealing all that your teenagers do. At some point you may even need to say, "Parenting my teenagers is the biggest challenge of my life. What I need is your support and not your criticism."
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.