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How can I stop my mother being a bad influence on my 3-year-old daughter?

I’m 28 and the single parent of a three-year-old daughter. I was horrified to hear on two occasions my mum’s opinions come out of my daughter’s mouth.

Dear Sian

I’m 28 and the single parent of a three-year-old daughter. I don’t know what I would have done these last few years without my mum to help out, as my daughter’s dad is pretty useless when it comes to taking responsibility. He swaps and changes his weekends at the last minute and won’t have her through the week. Instead, my mum takes over bringing up my daughter, but I don’t agree with her old-fashioned methods – I certainly don’t believe in smacking. She also will give her sweets before her meals so when I pick her up after work, I have a battle to get her to eat healthy food. Whenever I say I don’t want her eating sugary foods, my mum just ignores me. The worst of it is, my mum is not politically correct when it comes to sexuality or race and I was horrified to hear on two occasions my mum’s opinions come out of my daughter’s mouth. My mum dismissed my concerns and told me I have turned out okay and I could get someone else to look after her.

Alex

Dear Alex

It’s very frustrating when the person that you rely on the most has no boundaries or respect for your wishes. If you need her, you may have to be a little manipulative. I’m guessing this is a long-standing issue between you both. When a child is brought up by a domineering parent (who may have narcissistic traits), they then find it difficult to stand up for themselves or be assertive, or able to handle confrontation.  This is because they have been shut down if they ever protested and never learnt how to be assertive. Therefore, when your daughter came along you and your mother’s toxic dynamic (of her way only) continued. She will be unaware that anything is wrong. This has to be handled quite delicately, because if your mum feels like she is being disobeyed she will feel threatened, hurt and angry. The fact that she would cut off her nose to spite her face tells me quite a lot about her personality. I would take things very slowly. My normal response would be to discuss your feelings, put your foot down and assert your boundaries, but this won’t likely work well in this situation.

I would drop things into the conversation like:

“So-and-So’s granny is so clever, she researches all the right foods to give her granddaughter, you can tell she loves her.” “So-and So dotes on her granddaughter she would never harm her by giving her e-numbers and preservatives” this has to be done quite subtly. Another way would be to flatter her, tell her ego that she is a clever woman, and that whilst slipping the child sweets was okay in the past, that such smart women don’t do that these days as there is more science to support healthy alternatives.

The more you tell your mum not to be racist or homophobic the more she will rebel. This is where a firmer hand is necessary but again appeal to her ego; “Mum you are a clever woman, so I know you don’t want any harm to come to your grand daughter. If she picks up what you are saying she will be damaged and get a reputation that could impact her at school and with our friends. You’re incredibly smart and I know you can see the knock-on effect it can have. You’re welcome to have your view, but she is too young to get into trouble for it.”

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