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Grandparenting in the 21st Century Issue1234

A Grandparent’s Role in Parenting

It's true that parenting is a lifelong responsibility. Just because your kids are grown and have children of their own doesn't mean your role as a mom or a dad is over. As a parent, it's natural to want to offer advice and guidance to your children, particularly when it comes to how they parent their own children. After all, you want them to be successful in parenting, just like you want them to be successful in everything they do. It's your job to offer support and experienced guidance, right?

Maybe not. When your child becomes a mom or a dad, it's their turn to decide what the rules are, how to discipline their children, and when to reward them. It can be difficult for grandparents to take a back seat to parenting when they've been doing it so well for so long! But grandparents who overstep boundaries often do so at the risk of harming their relationship with their own children.

So, how can you follow Mom and Dad's parenting style when your grandchildren are in your care? Here are some general guidelines for staying in the good graces of your children and their spouses, as well as for ensuring consistency for your grandchild:

  1. Observe and mimic. How do your grandchild's parents react when the child misbehaves? Take note, or even better, ask Mom and Dad what they want you to do. When you're alone with your grandchild, follow the same steps Mom and Dad would take. This not only creates consistency for the child but also reinforces Mom and Dad's go-to actions for discipline. The same applies for rewarding good behavior.
  2. Respect Mom and Dad's wishes. Whether it's a no-candy rule or a firm bedtime on the weekends, whatever Mom and Dad say goes. It's equally important to respect their stance on subjects like religion, swearing in front of the child, and what kinds of TV programs and movies the child can watch. Ask yourself, "Would Mom or Dad allow this?" If the answer is no, then you shouldn't either.
  3. Don't criticize or condemn. New parents have a lot to learn, it's true. But if you see Mom or Dad doing something you believe is wrong, be mindful of how you go about bringing it up. If it's a matter of your grandchild's safety, then it's important to speak up. However, if the issue is simply a matter of personal preference (it's not how you would do it), consider whether your feedback is necessary—or even welcome.
  4. Be available to give advice—when asked. Although you should tread lightly when it comes to offering unsolicited advice, if Mom or Dad asks for your help or opinion, be there to give it. After all, this is your chance to shine!

Popular opinion states that Grandma and Grandpa's house is supposed to be the "fun" place, where an extra cookie or a later bedtime is a perk of staying there. No one wants to change the fun part of a visit. But think about what happens when your grandchild goes back home if you've completely thrown the rules out the window at your house—especially if you're a regular caregiver for your grandchild. If Mom and Dad have to hit reset and feel like they're starting over every time the child spends time with you, then there's a good chance you'll be seeing a lot less of your grandchild.

Try to worry less about Mom and Dad's parenting style and trust that they're doing what's best for them and their child. The best thing you can do best as a grandparent is love and enjoy spending time with your grandchildren.

Teaching Activity

Coupons for Courtesy

If there's one thing parents and grandparents can agree on, it's the importance of teaching children the social skills of being courteous and using manners. Here's an activity you can do with your grandchild to help them remember how to use these skills:

  1. Help your grandchild cut slips of paper and use them to create coupons they can "cash in" for using their manners. On each slip, have the child write down an activity they can earn with good behavior. Activities might include an ice cream "date," a playground visit, or a trip to the library—inexpensive or free rewards that can motivate your grandchild to behave properly.

  2. Have your grandchild fold the coupons in half and put them in a jar or basket.

  3. Sometime during the day, remind your grandchild of the times they were courteous or remembered to use their manners and the times they didn't do those things during their time with you.  If the good outweighs the not-so-good, the child can draw a reward coupon to use before they leave.

  4. If the child doesn't earn a reward, encourage them to continue to try to use their manners so they can earn one in the future.

Social Skills

Helping Out at Home

Almost as soon as your grandchild can walk, it's acceptable to start teaching them how to become responsible members of the household. Learning early on that it's important to contribute gives children a sense of responsibility and involvement in daily chores and tasks.

Start with easy tasks for young children, and work up to more difficult jobs as they get older. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Pick up toys and put them away
  • Set the table
  • Help clear the table
  • Help put away groceries
  • Sort or fold laundry
  • Unload the dishwasher
  • Put dirty dishes in the sink or dishwasher
  • Bring in the mail or newspaper
  • Water plants
  • Take out the garbage
  • Walk the dog
  • Make their bed

Coming up in Issue 2

Kids Need Structure—And Fun. Grandparents; Here’s How to Give Them Both


The Lost Art of Letter-Writing


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