The art of grandparenting has little in common with parenting. In most cases grandparents are afforded the opportunity to love and spoil a grandchild without having to participate in any of the less enjoyable aspects of child-rearing. After all, at some point, your grandchild will go home! All of the pleasure without any of the headache! Despite all the advantages, we do owe it to our grandchildren, and our children, to be the best grandparent that we can be. As with all life endeavors there is no universal glove that will fit all situations. Different circumstances require different approaches and tactics. However, there are a few simple guidelines that we can follow….
A few basic tenets for grandparents….
Respect the Rules and Philosophies of the Parents
Maybe your approach to child-rearing is well aligned with those of the parents. Perhaps not. Regardless of the degree of alignment, a grandparent should respect the values, rules, and philosophies of the parents as related to the upbringing of their children. The surest way to sour the relationship between parents and grandparents is for the grandparents to overtly—or covertly—circumvent the wishes of the parents. If you find yourself tempted to deviate from boundaries set by the parents just think back to how upset you would have been if your children’s grandparents had attempted the same type of subversion. This does not mean that you should kowtow to every parental whim, and you certainly have the right to establish simple behavioral rules within your home, but you should strive to adhere to parental wishes in all areas of major significance.
Leave the Hard Discipline to the Parents-Don’t Spoil the Fun of Grandparenting
As a grandparent you have the firm right to demand respect from your grandchildren. Period. You have the right to expect your grandchildren to obey your instructions and to behave appropriately. In those inevitable cases where your grandchildren will attempt to push your boundaries you should feel free to exercise some degree of discipline. A “time-out” period or the removal of some cherished privilege can be effective responses and deterrents. If a situation becomes unmanageable you should consult with the parents. A collaborative effort—and a united front—between parents and grandparents will go a long way towards finding an appropriate solution. Use of corporal punishment should be left to the discretion of the parents, thereby avoiding a potential source of hard friction.
Create Memorable Experiences-A Prime Objective for a Grandparent
One of the most rewarding roles of the grandparent is being the provider of memories. As adults, most of us have many fond memories centered solely around our grandparents. With the majority of the heavy lifting being done by the parents, you have the luxury of concentrating your energy into creating an environment that will foster happy memories. This does not have to be expensive or consist of extravagant effort. In many cases simpler is better…..and sweeter. Look for things to do that you know the parents simply do not have the time for. Don’t be afraid to let your grandchildren have some down time if they appear to want or need it. Many children/teens today are suffering from a lack of stillness and are, consequently, over-stressed. Allow them the pleasure of simply “hanging out” if they express a desire to do so.
Be a Consistent Source of Encouragement
Encourage your grandchildren in everything they do. Be an active supporter in their participation in sports and other activities. Encourage strong effort and performance. Do not patronize. Do not be too avid a supporter of the “participation trophy” http://reflectionsandtidbits.com/2017/10/31/rewarding-mediocrity-a-national-malaise/. Provide constructive criticism when needed. Be an active listener. And…..watch their faces light up whenever they spot you in attendance at one of their games or events.
Special Places in our Hearts
If you have multiple grandchildren, it is highly likely that one or two of them will occupy a special place in your heart. In some cases, the reasons for that special bond are fairly obvious. In other cases the reasons may be more subtle. Trying to keep those feelings subdued is one of the most difficult aspects of being a grandparent. Showing overt favoritism to one or two grandchildren can be extremely hurtful to your other grandchildren who, through no fault of their own, may not occupy that special, secret, place. Do your best to make all your grandchildren feel equally loved and appreciated.
Enjoy this period of your life! As with all other phases, it will be fleeting. Blink too many times and it will pass you by with no catch-up period forthcoming.
PS: The role of the grandparent is undergoing a shift in this country. Changes in societal pressures are blurring the lines between parent and grandparent and, as a result, many grandparents today are carrying much more than their share of the burden. More on that in a future post.