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Grandparenting in the 21st CenturyIssue1234

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

Structure and consistency are crucial elements to raising well-behaved and resilient children. And, yes, grandparents play a role in this, too. It can be tempting to let your grands have their way and try to make every minute with you an experience they'll cherish forever. In fact, grandkids often expect it. But that can put you in a tough spot.

The easiest way to avoid becoming the "mean" or "strict" grandparent is to set expectations for good behavior from the start. This way, you won't have to backpedal, and your grandchild will never have had the chance to cross boundaries in the first place.

But let's be honest. It doesn't always work that way. Maybe you tried things your own way, and over the years, your grandchild has learned to manipulate you to get their way. In this case, it's probably time to ask Mom and Dad for advice.

Yes, we said go to your children for parenting advice. Why? Because children need consistency. Whatever Mom and Dad expect from your grandchild is also what you should expect from him or her. Whatever Mom and Dad are doing to discipline (or reward) is what you also should be doing. Same expectations, same rules, same consequences.

Consistency Is Key

Here are the basics for creating consistent expectations for your grandchild:

  1. Learn as much as you can about what your grandchild is and isn't allowed to do at home. You may not be able to cover everything, but ask Mom and Dad for a list of do's and don'ts.
  2. Create a list of rules for your house that's consistent with the rules in your grandchild's home. Show the list to your grandchild and discuss it with them. This way, they'll know they can't pull any fast ones on you.
  3. Know what consequences your grandchild faces at home for breaking the rules or exhibiting bad behavior. Do they get a warning? A time-out? Learn the sequence of discipline from their parents and then implement it yourself.
  4. Equally as important, understand how Mom and Dad reward their child for good behavior, and make your rewards consistent with theirs. Mom and Dad won't be too pleased if you reward something simple, like making their bed, with a trip to the playground if the reward at home is a high-five.
  5. Respect and do your best to follow Mom and Dad's rules and methods of discipline, even if you don't agree with them.

Consistency isn't only about how you discipline or reward certain behaviors. Sticking to your grandchild's daily routine is another way to add structure, and it actually will help keep their behavior in check. (Added Bonus: Your own kids will thank you!)

You Can Still Do Some Things Your Way

While it's important to keep your grandchild's routines as consistent as possible, that doesn't mean you can't put your personal grandparent stamp on activities throughout the day. Unless Mom and Dad have given explicit directions for how each activity should be carried out, there's usually room for you to do some things your own way.

For instance, having your grandchild eat a healthy, balanced lunch might be the expectation, but no one said they had to eat it at the table. Your grandchild would love to have lunch picnic-style outside on the lawn or on the living room floor. A nightly bath may be nonnegotiable, but you can introduce a new toy or game to make bath time at your house extra fun. If reading before bed is another expectation, think of it as another chance to do things your way: Mom and Dad might prefer Sandra Boynton or Roald Dahl, but if you're more of a Shel Silverstein or E.B. White enthusiast, introduce your grandchild to those authors.

Putting your personal touch on routine activities ensures that your grandchild has the best of both worlds. Their schedule remains intact so they're less likely to deviate from expected behavior, but they have memories of extra-special moments with you.  

Teaching Activity

The Lost Art of Letter-Writing

Writing letters has become such a thing of the past that it may end up becoming a new and exciting activity for your grandchild. Taking them through the steps of writing a letter will naturally incorporate several skills, including communication, spelling, and penmanship. Here are the steps for this activity:

  1. Help your grandchild choose a letter recipient. It really doesn’t matter who it is—their teacher, their pastor, or their best friend, all are acceptable. What matters is that the experience could come full circle if they choose someone who will write them back.
  2. Instruct your grandchild on the components of a letter: date, salutation, body, closing, and signature.
  3. If they need ideas for what to write about, brainstorm with them. What would this recipient like to know? What’s new in your grandchild’s life? What might encourage a response?
  4. Help your grandchild fill out an envelope with the recipient’s name and address and the return address. Explain what all of the elements of the address mean and why they’re needed. This might be a good opportunity to show them how to find an address, too.
  5. Don’t forget the stamp. Explain why the letter needs a stamp. You might even discuss how much a stamp cost when you were a kid versus what it costs now.
  6. Mail the letter. Walk with your grandchild to your mailbox or, better yet, take a field trip to the post office.

Social Skills

Asking for Clarification


As you work to establish rules at your house that mimic those in your grandchild's home, your grandchild may naturally have some questions along the way. This will be especially true if you set new expectations for them.

Encourage your grandchild to ask for clarification of new rules so everyone's on the same page. This is also a great opportunity to teach them about how to ask for clarification, a skill that will come in handy their whole life. Here are the steps:

    1. Look at the person.
    2. Ask if he or she has time to talk. Don't interrupt.
    3. Use a pleasant or neutral tone of voice.
    4. Specifically state what you are confused about. Begin with "I was wondering if . . ." or "Could I ask about . . . ?"
    5. Listen to the other person's reply and acknowledge the answer.
    6. Thank the person for his or her time.

Coming up in Issue 3

You Disagree with Mom and Dad’s Parenting Style. Now What?


Plant the Seeds of Good Eating Habits


Making an Apology

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