My in-laws have tried to give our baby who is only just beginning to eat solid foods, candy, soda, and other adult foods because they think it is funny to "irritate daddy and mommy."

My daughter has a lot of reflux so we have to be careful about introducing one food at a time - just like anyone would normally be careful, but we have to be hyper-aware in order to figure out what it is she is sensitive to.

I have also known of them to ignore a screaming child for at least half-an-hour so they could "finish a show" and all the kid really wants is attention anyway - it can wait - "The baby's lungs are developing." In any case, we are done with trusting them to baby sit.

We've simply avoided asking them to sit for us, but now they are offering (frequently) and are starting to understand (I think) they aren't wanted as baby-sitters. Both my husband and I have tried to be clear that it isn't a matter of "irritation" but that there are certain things we want for our baby (like not choking on candy that is too big for her, starting with non-sugary foods for nutritional taste development, tracking what she is eating so we can figure out what she is sensitive to and having her needs met in a reasonable amount of time - including needs for attention).

They (particularly the father) continue to act like it is all a big joke and if they're sitting, they can do it however they want - "After-all, we've already raised six kids successfully." However, the mother actually came into my husband's life when he was already a teen and all the kids were at least in preschool. While the father has parented six kids genetically, it was the grandparents (now, great-grandparents) that did a lot of the raising (until the step-mother came into the picture) So we can't even justify things as, "well, my husband came out of it alright" - the way these two would like us to believe we can.

How do we go about a conversation regarding this situation without creating a familial rift for my husband, daughter and even myself?

  • 2
    Telling them that the same people who raised their kids (IOW, great-grandparents) are allowed to baby-sit yours, wouldn't do much good, would it?
    – SQB
    Feb 3, 2014 at 7:44
  • @ATS Maybe it would (at least in the, "making the point sense") if they were still living. Feb 4, 2014 at 0:12
  • Well, if you can be that blunt with them, you could hit 'em with something like "sure, the people who raised my husband are allowed to babysit my kids, but unfortunately, they're dead".
    – SQB
    Feb 4, 2014 at 7:10
  • Trust me, I've had the thought, but the point is to not be vicious and hurtful and sarcastic. . . :-) Feb 4, 2014 at 15:10

4 Answers 4


This is something I needed to deal with. If they are starting to ask why they can't babysit, I would say something like this:

As you know, we disagree on a few things that would be relevant while you were babysitting, like what kinds of food are ok or how quickly a crying baby needs to be picked up. I know that you think these differences are no big deal, and that they won't affect a baby in any bad way. I know that. You're not the kind of people who would neglect or harm a baby and you love BabyName. Those things, though, they are huge deals to me - rightly or wrongly - and I can't set aside how I feel about them. I feel I must do the best for my baby and that includes not having her fed certain things, and not having her left crying. I understand we disagree, and that's just something that happens between adults. Here's how that disagreement gets settled: HusbandName and I are the parents, and we won't leave BabyName with anyone who can't support what to us are big deals.

Then go on to explain how important it is for BabyName to get lots of grandparent time, and even how you're looking forward to a time when BabyName is older and in a stage where you and the grandparents are more in sync on big deal stuff so that they can babysit. After all, you're going to need sitters for a decade, decade and a half - they might not be eligible for the first few years, but don't say never.

The key for us was to stick firm on two points:

  • this is what we feel is right for our family. (Appeal to authorities like books or doctors if you want, or not, but the key is you have decided.)
  • we get to decide what is right for our family.

Do not spend effort trying to get them to agree that how they did it is wrong, or even that what they want to do is wrong. They don't get a vote. There is no need to try to defeat them on the facts. Let them keep their beliefs that their way was ok for their times and their kids. Just don't let them take care of the baby right now, and reassure them that this has nothing to do with who loves whom or who is objectively right and wrong. It's just how it's going to be for now. I recommend this position primarily because it cannot be argued with. The arguments stop. And that lets you focus on finding the good parts about being an extended family, even if at the moment they don't include free babysitting.

  • 4
    I really like the poj ts you make about "this is you decision and you've made it"; and "don't try to convince them". I like your answer.
    – DanBeale
    Feb 2, 2014 at 21:18
  • 1
    Seconded (and upvoted). It's their decision to want to do things contrary to your wishes, so it's their decision not to baby-sit, not yours.
    – SQB
    Feb 3, 2014 at 7:46
  • Great answer. Concise and no debate. That is certainly key! Very well phrased about agreeing on that we disagree :) Feb 4, 2014 at 5:47

Hurt feelings or hurt child?

One of our parents has Alzheimer's, but he and wife still think driving is just fine. We don't leave kids there because we can't trust him not to take a run to the store, the park, etc. with the kid.

Hurt feelings or hurt child - - we chose hurt feelings. We've been as polite as possible, but we just can't leave youngest daughter with them.

  • That is essentially our decision too, but we'd like to hurt them as little as possible in any case and try to maintain some relationship. Feb 3, 2014 at 23:46

Marc summarizes well: prioritize the health of your child over the feelings of the grandparents.

Seeing that your father-in-law apparently didn't actually raise his kids, his claims of being a good parent carries no weight, and he flat-out disqualifies himself from getting any responsibility regarding your child by continuing to make a joke of this even after hearing your (very reasonable!) arguments. Look at it this way: if you let him babysit and something goes wrong, you're going to accept (some of) the blame.

In short, don't let him babysit. Period.

Yes, that will have social consequences - but these are matters between adults, and you should be able to handle it as adults. I've had a vaguely similar experience concerning disagreement with grandparents. In this case, the grandparent was used to having their own way and did not respect the parents' wishes despite being reminded several times. In the end the parents needed to break family protocol and put the foot down hard: "Follow our rules in the car, or walk home!"

That was jarring, and it left a permanent impression -- but overall not in a bad way because it demonstrated that the parents were serious and that their child was more important than the grandparent. This sounds harsh, and it is, but it's the truth. Besides, provided the grandparents are interested in the relationship, they will bow to your rules if you make that demand.


This is tricky.

You'll have modern books and advice around. This will include safe sleeping positions. Dr Spock was a well respected baby care expert, but his suggestion was to put babies down on their front. So, as we get more scietific evidence we change how things are done.

This is one way intothe conversation.

When they offer you can say something like "I know you joke around with this stuff and that we're maybe a bit uptight, but the reason we don't say 'yes!' Right away is because we want to know you're doing what is current best practice. Things are different now. We don't just get this stuff from thin air. Everything has been recommended by paediatricians or doctors or good quality research. The children love you, and we'd love to let you spend time with them, but we'd need to know that you're going to do things our way."

This isn't ideal but it includes a few things. You start by making it sound a problem with you not them. You then explain what the problem is, again not by poking them but by providing reasonings for your behaviours. Then you let them know that it is just this one little thig that's causing problems. You also cram a few compliments in there too.

It could be better so I hope people leave comments about improving it.

  • 1
    today you can find a book that justifies nearly anything you can do to a child that is not immediately (or obviously) harmful. Feb 3, 2014 at 11:41
  • @ratchet freak - you make a good point. Perhaps limit that to good quality government guidance.
    – DanBeale
    Feb 3, 2014 at 14:53

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