Real Parenting: Learning to Grandparent
by S.M. Ford
It's easy as a grandmother to just see this one time—not the overall picture. We don't live with the little ones—usually—so this one time thing isn't a big deal to us. Grandmas (probably more so than grandpas) get caught up in a number of not so great habits:
- Wanting to spoil our grandchildren. Sure, it’s okay to give treats, buy special things, etc. But we need to be reasonable. Our grandchildren shouldn’t grow to expect us to always buy them something, always give them candy, let them have their way, etc.
- We love those grandkids so much, we hate to see them sad. True love though remembers how important discipline is. It’s not okay, this one time, that the kid won’t share or hits his little brother.
- Wanting to share our wisdom, which can be taken as "we think they (our kids) don't know anything" - though my daughter has said HOW it is said can make a big difference. The way my daughter and I worked it out was: talk it over when we weren't in the midst of a "situation." She's told me she appreciates that I tell her she's a good mother. That I compliment her on things she does well with her boys. I don't ever say she's not a good mother, even if there are things she and her husband do with their boys that I don't agree with. When she expresses frustration over something her child is doing, I might ask, “What have you tried?” Then make suggestions. Or, I'll ask, “Have you tried xxxx? it worked well when you were little.”
- We can see where sometimes parents are too harsh or unfair. We need to remember we also were too harsh or unfair to our children sometimes—it’s normal. We SHOULD remember the rule we had when our kids were young—I’m speaking to myself too—never disagree about discipline in front of the children. (Forgive me, God, for failing here! Help me not do it again!)
So, what should a grandparent do?
- Be supportive. We should back our adult children‘s rules, such as “Yes, you must brush your teeth” or “It’s time for bed.” My son-in-law wanted the boys to say, “Yes, Ma’am or Yes, Sir,” so we reinforced that when the grandchildren were with us.
- Spend time doing something the grandchild wants to do. Kids love having an adult sit down and play trucks or blocks, or color, or even watch a show together. As they got older, my husband played some video games they liked with them.
- Never put down a grandchild’s parent. Your grandchild doesn’t need to hear about your areas of disagreement. Nor should you complain about a sibling.
- Spend alone time with each grandchild. Since we’ve rarely lived in the same town, we’ve taken each child for a few days or a week at least once a year. During their week, they get to choose something special to do out of opportunities we offer. It could be a movie, a play area, an activity, or even a trip to a store to buy something. (We’ve offered bookstores a lot which they love.) We usually let them decide what we’re eating part of the time—especially breakfasts. Or if we’re going out to eat, we’ve let them choose the restaurant. However, they are still asked to help out with food prep or clean up or some small tasks.
- Set a limit on gift spending. Not only do we have a budget, but we keep the gifts similar in value. And we worked at not outdoing what the parents could give.
As my grandchildren are now teens, we’ve found a lot of payback for these practices. We text or message as well as occasional phone calls. The boys still enjoy spending time with us. Last summer the youngest was even concerned that his brother had gotten “one more” day with us—he hadn’t. And this past fall the oldest helped us prepare for a move. We’ve loved seeing them grow up to be responsible kids. It’s great we’ve gotten to be a part of that.
About the Author
SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, who has also lived in the Midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey).
She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.
Sue likes traveling and animals, especially those in the cat family.
She loves kids and writing. You can find out more about her at her
or on Twitter.
You can read Sue’s “Real Parenting” column on the 4th Thursday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.