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When Granny wants to be nanny: How to say no

  • Chicago Tribune
  • Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 10:21 p.m.

Grandma’s vying to replace your nanny. How do you politely decline?

Start by assuming that the offer comes from a good, generous place.

“No granny in her right mind would want her daughter or daughter-in-law to be unhappy with her,” says parenting coach Betsy Brown Braun, author of “Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents” (HarperCollins). “There’s no doubt she just wants to be helpful.”

But keeping baby-sitting duties and grandmother duties mostly separated isn’t a bad idea, she adds.

“Things have really changed a lot in 25 to 30 years,” says Brown Braun. “The way young parents want to (raise their kids) is often very different — letting them cry or not letting them cry, putting them down to sleep on their backs or their tummies, giving them candy or not giving them candy.”

When those new parents have handpicked the nanny — and pay him or her — they find it easier to spell out the house rules.

“I see this all the time in my practice: Moms say they aren’t happy with something their mothers or mothers-in-law are doing, but they say, ‘I’m just so grateful she’s watching them. I can’t say anything,’ ” Brown Braun says.

Preservation of the family bond is a perfectly valid reason to turn down the offer and should be your stated reason when you break the news.

“I would start by saying, ‘We’re incredibly grateful that you would want to give this much of your own time, but this is our time to raise our children our way, and we wouldn’t want to do anything that would put us at risk of damaging our relationship with you. You mean so much to us,’ ” Brown Braun says.

“Granny should enjoy her relationship as a grandmother and be that special, loved person and know that mothers feel very different about nannies than they do about grannies.”

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