I’m worried that my daughter-in-law’s parenting is harmful

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 70s who lives alone. I’m worried about my daughter-in-law’s parenting.

Since my son married later in life, his daughter is still very young. My son is now in his early 50s and his wife is in her mid-40s. Their daughter will turn 4 soon. They live near my house.

My son’s wife seems to be obsessed with being clean. Since my granddaughter was born, I’ve only had two opportunities to hold her and each time, it was just for a few seconds. I think my daughter-in-law doesn’t want anyone but herself to touch her girl. I’ve never even seen my son holding his daughter.

Furthermore, even though my granddaughter is almost 4, my son’s wife still puts all her food in her mouth. She doesn’t even try to get her daughter out of diapers. My son said that even when he tells his wife to teach their daughter how to use the toilet, she doesn’t listen to him.

I think my granddaughter will be going to preschool soon. I’m worried about what will happen to her.

—T, Tokyo

Dear Ms. T:

The term “grandchildren-rearing” is often heard these days. Expectations are high for a helping hand from grandparents, as part of efforts to tackle the declining birthrate.

However, parents should play the main part in childrearing, and grandparents a supporting role. Grandparents should refrain from interfering in their children’s parenting as much as possible. Even when asked for advice or assistance, grandparents should respect what their children think. I believe this is a basic approach that grandparents should take in helping their children.

Even so, the way your son’s wife takes care of their daughter is worrying. Does she not allow her almost 4-year-old child to eat on her own because she doesn’t want the table and other things to get dirty? Has she allowed you to hold her daughter only twice, and only for several seconds each time, because of excessive germaphobia and distrust of others? If that’s the case, it’s a matter of concern how her attitudes will affect their daughter’s development.

I’m sure that after your granddaughter enters preschool, teachers will give her mother some advice. However, she may be upset about their remarks.

It would be better if steps could be taken before this happens. What can be done depends on whether your son’s wife acts like that only when taking care of her daughter, or whether she shows a similar attitude in other areas as well. Why not start by talking to a public health center or some other counseling service?

But mind you, that is not something you should do. Your son should do this as the father of his daughter.

— Masami Ohinata, university president