What makes grandparents toxic in parents’ lives?
When there are conflicts between grandparents and parents, there is usually an issue with roles and choices. Parents and grandparents may not agree about all issues related to raising the children (grandchildren), and grandparents may not accept the fact that parents have the ultimate “authority” to make decisions and choices about how they are raising their children. A grandparents’ key role is to support their adult children in raising their grandchildren and to love their grandchildren unconditionally. If they don’t see their role that way, or if the parents see their role differently and there is no agreement, the relationship, (like any relationship wrought with conflict) can become very negative and even, as you say, toxic.
How can parents draw personal boundaries for themselves? For their children?
Parents need to be clear about their priorities and “deal breakers.” What are the issues that they feel the most strongly about? Is it most important that their kids stick to a strict bedtime schedule? Follow a certain diet? Be disciplined a certain way? Not receive certain gifts? There are always going to be things they feel strongly about, but it’s wise to pick your battles. Once you determine that, communicate your boundaries (or your children’s) in a very clear, concise way and be consistent. Be careful about how you communicate this- (see my tips below as they apply here too) – don’t turn it into a tug-o-war with the kids in the middle.