First, remember that being a NICU parent is extremely challenging. The longer the child stays in the NICU and the more comfortable the parent becomes with the medical jargon, the more assertive they want to be about their role in the child's care.
If you're a parent, imagine giving birth to your child and feeling totally helpless. You can't even hold your baby, much less feed them, change them, or take care of their medical needs. You feel useless and rely on doctors and nurses to care for your baby. It's a very unnatural and unwelcome feeling.
So I'm sure you can understand, once the baby gets more stable and the parents learn basic care, why the parents feel it's so important to take hold of their new role and start making the decisions. They are the baby's parents and they have been left out for too long. They are tired of feeling useless. Rather than feeling like the nurses know so much more than they do, they now feel like they know their baby better than the nurses. Remember, they are at the bedside nearly every day, where nurses rotate every shift.
It's also possible that the parents do not feel informed about the child's care, making them even more apt to appear controlling. If the parent is requesting doctor's progress reports, it's probably because the doctor isn't giving them regular updates, in person, about the baby's status. These parents have spent weeks analyzing vital signs, amount of feedings, and ounces of weight. They don't like being kept in the dark.
While I don't work NICU, I do work PICU, and it's the same thing. Our patients often come to us from the NICU or have only been home for a short period. We also get a lot of children with chronic medical problems who frequent hospitals. I find that one of the best things I can do is tell them my plan from the beginning of the shift:
"Okay, Mom. This is my first time caring for little Jimmy, but I got a really great report from his nurse last night. Is there anything special you would like me to know about him? (Wait for answer) Okay. Thank you. Now, I see that he is getting fed Neosure 22 every three hours and his schedule today is 9a, 12a, 3p, and 6p. You'll be feeding him? Okay. It's really my experience that babies do best when we let them sleep in between feedings, so unless it's feeding time, I'll try really hard not to wake Jimmy up early, okay? (Here's a hint. When you say that YOU are going to try not to do anything, it's a hint for the parents to try not to do it as well.) Sometimes statement's like, "I agree with you, but unfortunately we have to follow this policy for weaning, just in case something goes wrong. I'd like to move him to an isolate faster too, but the hospital is really concerned about liability, and a few more days isn't going to hurt him." Pass the buck, if you can.
After that I'll ask if the parents have any problems with his schedule, questions I can answer, or specific concerns they want me to bring to the doctors. When I go in the room to do a procedure, I explain why I am there, what I am doing and why I need to do it. Sometimes I ask if there is something special that other nurses have done that make it go more smoothly.
I find that, almost 100% of the time, if the parent understands that you value their role and input, they are much more cooperative. But try to act like you know best, and they get up in arms really quickly.
Of course, some parent just want to micromanage, period, and nothing works. In that case sometimes you have to be frank to the point of saying, "I understand you want to be involved, but your decisions are hurting your son's care. And escalate the problem if you believe the child's safety is compromised.