March 13, 2024

How to Talk to Grandparents About Sleep Training

Babies, Personal, Toddlers

Sleep training and how we approach sleep with our kids, in general, is a hot topic. Then bring that topic into a family where people might have different opinions and things can get tricky – especially with grandparents!

The way my parents approached sleep, and just the knowledge around sleep, was so different when I was little.

And working with families, I’ve seen firsthand the conflict that can arise when parents approach sleep one way, and grandparents think they should approach sleep another way. Or they just don’t understand the “why” behind the schedules and routines. Or maybe the grandparents are caregivers and there’s a disagreement in how sleep should be approached.

That’s why I’m excited about this interview with DeeDee Moore of More than Grand

Introduce Yourself and More Than Grand

I am DeeDee Moore – mom of four, grandmother of three, wife of one, and founder of More than Grand!

I started More Than Grand when I became grandmother because I was looking for websites with resources for new grandparents and couldn’t find one! So I decided to start one myself.

We share resources and inspiration for new grandparents who understand that being a grandparent is really important and who want to invest in their family. We cover topics to help build bridges between generations, including:

  • Concrete ways to help new parents
  • Understanding new trends in childcare
  • Meaningful ways to connect with grandchildren

And so much more!

What areas of parenting and grandparenting do you find families struggle with the most, or that kids and their parents have the hardest time reconciling?

The parent-child relationship changes massively when you become a grandparent. It’s hard for a lot of grandparents to make the shift from being the authority figure, and parents often struggle with this, as well!

It can be a challenge for parents to go to grandparents and open that line of communication from adult to adult. You have to learn how to communicate in that new relationship!

And there are four big areas of disagreement when it comes to parents and grandparents, and those are:

  • Food
  • Discipline
  • Screen Time
  • Sleep

Knowing that sleep is one of those more challenging topics…

What trends have you noticed, with your fellow grandparent friends or those you’ve worked with, specifically regarding sleep and differing opinions?

Grandparents are flummoxed by the intensity with which parents set and maintain a sleep schedule. They have trouble understanding how missing a nap or going to bed late one night is such a big deal. And parents often get angry with grandparents about those things!

When we were parents, there wasn’t such an emphasis on sleep (which also means we weren’t getting much sleep!). So it can be hard to understand how intense parents are about keeping those schedules now.

What was the “norm” around sleep when your kids were younger?

Sleep actually changed between our first child and our last.

“Back to sleep” started in 1992, which was between our second and third child. But we had cribs with drop sides, we all used bumpers and blankets, and cribs were full of stuffed animals.

There was sleep training, and the Ferber Method was “hot” at the time. But very little that we did was actually based on research like it is now!

So now things are different and sleep is quite the hot topic, what’s that been like for you as a grandma? Adjusting to the new norms and what sleep path your kids have chosen?

It’s been nothing but positive! I spent over 10 years in one stage of sleep deprivation or another, so I love the options parents have today.

When my son and his wife had their third baby, their toddler stopped sleeping, which isn’t uncommon! But it was during Covid, so I couldn’t come and help them like I would have before. I mentioned to them that a sleep consultant could help them, and after a few weeks of trying to figure it out and not getting any sleep, they asked for help and I was able to pay for them to work with someone.

So I totally embrace whatever they need and works well for them.

When I go to visit or am there helping take care of everyone, my grandkids go to bed well for me! They have such great sleep patterns and routines that’s it’s never been an issue. And I think that speaks to how well having a routine works. The kids (and I) know what the parameters are and exactly what’s going to happen, and it does.

And if I miss a part of the routine, I know my grandkids will let me know!

I also think the toddler clock is the best invention in the world. When I’m taking care of my grandkids, I’m woken up every morning by, “The clock is green!”, at 7 a.m. sharp.

What advice would you give to parents if their child’s grandparents disagree with their decision regarding sleep?

If the grandparents are not regular caregivers and they have a strong opinion about something, the best thing to do is to just nod and say, “Interesting point,” and move on. Don’t try to convince the grandparents of something that they’re not going to be interested in being convinced about – save it for something that matters more!

If the parents go out for the night and the grandparents are in charge and bedtime is extra late, for example, try to just shake it off! It’s just one night, nobody will be permanently damaged, and that night out was likely still worth it for you, as parents.

If, however, the grandparents are regular caregivers, it’s a different story. It’s important that the parents and grandparents are on the same page.

It’s helpful to start the conversation by listening to the grandparents. Start by pointing out what you’re thankful for and then try to lead into a conversation rather than simply telling them what to do.

For example, you could say something like, “It’s so helpful that you take care of him every Tuesday and Thursday, it’s such a financial relief and we know he is being well-loved. It seems like you’re having trouble getting him down for his naps, can you tell me more about what’s going on there?”

If you jump right into what you’re upset about, the grandparent will go into defense mode and it won’t be a fruitful conversation. You’re more likely to get to a solution when you’re working toward one together, and presenting the challenge in a positive tone.

Make it a team effort so you can figure out how to solve the sleep challenges together!

Grandma might have a good reason why he’s not taking naps when you want, so discuss what needs to be adjusted so that he gets the sleep he needs when he’s at her house.

It can also be very helpful to share resources with grandparents. If there are certain blogs or books that you’ve read, share those materials and websites with them so they can learn, as well!

What advice would you give to grandparents who disagree with how their grandchild’s parents are approaching sleep?

To put it simply, don’t!

There are a million ways to parent and a million ways to parent right. You have to accept as grandparent that you don’t get to make those decisions.

If you see something that is dangerous – so dangerous that if you saw someone else doing it you’d say something – that’s a different story. However, if it’s not dangerous, it’s up to the parent to decide how they’re going to do those things.

Similarly, if you think what they’re doing goes against current advice, it’s okay to share information. For example, say something like, “I just read this really interesting article, it’s pretty new to me. Have you seen this?” Rather than a, “You should…,” it’s a, “Did you know…?”.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

There are lots of ways to do things. There are lots of right ways and there are no “wrong ways”. People all over the world successfully raise their children in so many different ways – your child will be okay!

The most important thing to remember is try not to chase the perfect. Don’t try to find the “perfect” method of doing anything. Just do what works best for you and your family at that moment, and recognize that it may be different depending on the season, and that’s okay!

Conclusion

Parenting is a really amazing and beautiful journey, and it can also be a challenge. We are all going to use different resources as we learn and grow, and grandparents may be one of those resources!

When it comes to certain parenting topics, including sleep, this can sometimes be challenging, as we have different opinions.

Remember that at the end of the day, your relationship is more important than the sleep training methods, parenting styles, perfect products, etc. There might be some tough or awkward conversations, but remember that you are family and we all need a lot of grace!

If this interview has sparked some questions for your kids’ grandparents, or maybe gives you the nudge to have a conversation with them, specifically about sleep, we hope you feel more prepared, more confident, or more understanding as you do so.

If you’re curious to learn more about the many resources DeeDee mentioned, head to her website to check them out. Even just follow her on Instagram, you’ll learn so much.

And if you’re looking for resources to send to your child’s grandparents so they have a better understanding of your approach to sleep, or your goals, our A to Z classes are a great place to start!

About DeeDee Moore

More Than Grand was started by DeeDee Moore, a grandmother to three, as a way to share inspiration and resources for grandparents who understand the importance of their new role and want to invest in strengthening family bonds. DeeDee blogs about issues that matter to grandparents – and parents – such as concrete ways to help new parents, understanding new trends in child care, and ways to make mail to your grandchildren more fun.

More Than Grand’s signature guide, New Grandparent Essentials, offers grandparents a path to navigating the most important considerations when preparing for this new and exciting role. The digital guide focuses on practical ways to make a positive impact on your grandchildren and their parents, with strategies for open communication and a supportive partnership.

Connection Sparks is another helpful resource, with hundreds of ideas to connect with grandchildren, from birth to the teenage years, so that’s a really fun gift for grandparents!

You can check out DeeDee’s website and sign up for her blog and email list to receive a wealth of information and ideas for supporting new parents, and connect with her more @morethangrand on your favorite social media.