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Reality Check: When Grandma's too Easy

Q. My parents often babysit for my daughter, but they put her to bed late, let her leave toys out, and do other things I never do. How can I get them to follow my rules?

A. When you rely on family for babysitting, getting them to understand why they should parent like you can be dicey  -- especially if the sitters in question once changed your diapers. They'll be quick to note the irony of your telling them what to do.

To get everyone on board, you need to speak up, but you'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. When Mari was little, I'd "remind" my parents which (healthy) foods she liked to eat, and I'd give them an update on "all the great things" their granddaughter could do: scrape her plate after dinner, pick up her toys, take off her own clothes at bathtime, fall asleep on her own if tucked in by 8 p.m.-impressive signs of her physical advances and mental maturity that my parents couldn't wait to see for themselves.

This helped get them to follow at least some of my rules (much of the time without realizing they were doing it). But I tried to be realistic, too: Most grandparents are looking to spoil, coddle, and love their grandchildren with abandon. And sometimes that's okay. After all, your daughter's lifetime of sweet memories with her Nana and Papa are a tad more important than eating dinner at exactly 5:30 p.m.

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