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Ask Dr. Zoe – Help! My Mom Undermines Me as a Parent

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‘Nicole’ Asked:

I have a 10-year-old daughter and my mother lives next door. My mom has stated that she feels her current purpose in life is to help me with my family. When I make a decision for my child or family, it is sometimes overrun by mom. For instance, if I tell my child to come home for dinner the child will ask Grandma if she can eat at her house – and of course, Grandma says yes even though she knows I have dinner prepared for my family. I feel caught because I know my mom views taking care of us highly, but I also keep getting undermined by her and my daughter. Suggestions?

Dr. Zoe Answered:

Yeah, it’s time to woman up! Here’s what I can guarantee you and your mother: your mother’s purpose in life is not to be your child’s mother. God gave your daughter to you, and as far as I can tell, you’re still alive. It’s awesome your mom wants to help you out. That’s what family is for! But is she really helping you out by undermining your authority as a mother?

That kind of help is not worth the expense.

Your child only has one mom, and everyone involved needs to know who she is. So this comes down to difficult conversations.

I’m sure your daughter loves her grandma, and you love your mother. No one wants to have these difficult conversations, but she is forcing your hand. If you choose to ignore it, you are allowing someone to single-handedly destroy your relationship with your daughter.

It’s possible that your mother is not aware of the conflict she is creating. She’s used to the mother role, and she loves your daughter as well.

First, Address the Issue With Your Mom

So, here’s what you need to do. Talk to your mom in private. Leave your daughter out of it. Let your mom know that you appreciate her help, but you have noticed that she is undermining your authority with your daughter. Let her know that because you are the mom, you will always have the last say, even if she doesn’t agree with your decision. Tell her that you need her to support you and your parenting choices because if she doesn’t, she’s teaching your daughter to disrespect you.

Approach her in the most firm and loving way that you can and then listen and watch her response. If she acknowledges you and her behavior changes, great! Easy peasy.

She’s used to the mother role, and she loves your daughter as well.

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If she continues to undermine you, then you will have to draw the line, which is painful, but necessary. This requires a second conversation, firmer than the first, where you outline that if she chooses not to respect your position as mother, you will have to reduce your contact with her, which will hurt everyone involved, including your daughter.

If she still refuses, then you need to follow through, which will require a conversation with your daughter. This is where you need to step up and be the mom. Your mother is only able to undermine you in your presence because you allow it. If you say no and your mom says yes, that’s when you need to be firm about your no, remove your daughter from the situation, and make sure that she understands that you are the mom and will always have the last say.

Then, Talk With Your Girl

Explain to your daughter that sometimes your mom steps outside of her role as a grandmother and doesn’t respect your authority. Let your daughter know that she is to obey you first and her grandmother second. Your daughter may be angry, but will eventually respect you if you hold firm to your boundaries.

I know it may feel dishonorable to stand up to your own mother in such a way, but as an adult, your role as a mother supersedes your role as a daughter. You need to honor your mother as best as you can, but you have a child to raise, and you will serve your daughter well by teaching her to respect you.

The good news is that in most cases, when we demand respect, those who love us may initially balk and push back at the change, but will eventually respect us for it. Your mom might not be happy about the constraints of her role, but she will likely respect you and her role over time.

You’ve got this! It just takes a little grit and grace.

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Looking for more articles addressing self-worth and healthy relationships? Start here:

Establishing Healthy Boundaries in the Grit and Grace Life
4 Tips That Can Heal Your Mother-Daughter Drama
Why You Should Just Have That Hard Conversation (And How to Do It)
How to Be a #Girlmom
Raising Great Girls: How to Do the Job with Darlene Brock

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You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: This Is How to Handle a Hard Relationship With Your Mom – 089!

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Dr. Zoe is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert who recently jumped out of a perfectly good plane just for the experience.

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