Grandma repeatedly admonishes your daughter to 'act like a lady.' Help!
From our panel of staff contributors
Find a quiet moment with mom/mom-in-law and gently explain the terminology you prefer. "Act like a grown-up" might be preferable to a gender-based correction, but you might prefer that the admonishments (if any at all) be more behavior-specific: "That's not a nice word to use," or "please use your indoor voice," or "setting fire to the curtains is dangerous."
It would be great to request that grandma use different language, but it is also time to explain to your daughter how things have changed since grandma was her age and help her understand what grandma means. Terminology aside, grandma may have a wise message.
Tell grandma to act like a grandmother: Clam up and smile. That said, what is wrong with aspiring to act like a "lady" — or a "gentleman," for that matter? Both words, while a bit antiquated, do offer a certain sense of uplift and grace. One can indeed rise out of the muck and live life more nobly, gracefully and generously. And "lady" has long been considered a compliment (same with gentleman) in American society.
— Bill Daley
If grandma makes a habit of admonishing her grandchildren, it may be time for a larger discussion, says clinical psychologist Roni Cohen-Sandler, author of "Trust Me, Mom — Everyone Else Is Going! The New Rules for Mothering Adolescent Girls" (Penguin Books).
"Grandmothers have so much potential to have a really magical relationship with their grandchildren," says Cohen-Sandler. "Even more than parenting, it can be a relationship of pure joy and relishing each other in a nonjudgmental way with total acceptance. Grandparents don't have to be involved in manners or correcting behavior. That's the parents' bailiwick."
Perhaps a simple, gentle, "Oh, you don't have to discipline. That's our job," would work.
If that's not a conversation you want to have with your mother or mother-in-law, focus on putting "act like a lady" in proper context for your daughter.
"Come to the rescue of your daughter without making a big confrontation about it," Cohen-Sandler suggests. "You could say something like, 'Girls and ladies act in all sorts of ways. We think it's important to express yourself and be strong and brave.'"
Later, when you're alone with your daughter, you could explain what bothers you about the "act like a lady" phrasing.
"Call it a generational thing," says Cohen-Sandler. "'People from different generations had very different ideas about how ladies should act. Maybe you've learned about that during history at school or watched it in movies. Some people still believe that, but your dad and I don't. And if you're ever not sure about something that someone says to you, make sure you come talk to us about it.'"
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