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Grandparenting Principles Issue 1 2 3 4 5

Setting Boundaries And Expectations

When Robert Frost wrote, “good fences make good neighbors,” he was being ironic, pointing out that barriers actually tend to alienate one neighbor from another. When it comes to parenting, however, even Frost would agree that good boundaries make good children. That’s because without boundaries, children will keep pushing the limits of what they can get away with.

As a grandparent, if you want your grandchildren to behave a certain way, you have to set clear, specific expectations for their behavior, with no wiggle room. For instance, instead of telling your grandchild, “I want you to come in from playing early,” say, “I want you to come in from playing at four o’clock.” That way, the word “early” isn’t up for interpretation. More general, age-appropriate expectations might include the following:

  • Always clean up after yourself.
  • No cursing in the house.
  • Electronics (smartphones, tablets, video games, etc.) are a privilege, not a right, and they can be taken away at any time in response to negative behavior.
  • No social media activity until ALL homework is completed.
  • Drug or alcohol use will NEVER be tolerated.

The best time to discuss and agree on these rules and expectations is when everyone is in a calm and receptive mood. They should not be brought up in response to a negative situation, when tempers may be flaring.

You can set and practice certain fundamental expectations for your grandchildren early on. These may include following instructions, accepting consequences and accepting “No” for an answer. From there, you can progress to general household rules and expectations, such as those mentioned previously, as well as situation-specific expectations, such as bedtime.

By setting boundaries and expectations, you give your grandchildren the tools they need to behave appropriately. Without these boundaries, they will simply keep pushing until something negative happens.

Teaching Activity

Discuss Expectations and Boundaries for Using an Electronic Device

Pick a technology device your grandchild enjoys using, then discuss safe and secure boundaries and expectations, and put these and any necessary consequences into place. For instance, discuss the appropriate use of a smartphone or tablet. Let your grandchild know that using that item is a privilege, not a right, and you can take it away at any time as a consequence for negative behavior. Also, make it clear to your grandchild that this device is always open to your monitoring (no secret passwords allowed), and that you have the right to remove any questionable apps or content.

Parenting Strategy

Teaching Self-Control

Discussions about and enforcement of rules and behavioral expectations you set for your grandchild can sometimes cause him/her to get upset and lose self-control. That’s when you can use the strategy of teaching self-control. Teaching self-control happens in two parts: helping your grandchild calm down to reduce the intensity of the situation and then doing follow-up teaching that addresses your grandchild’s original inappropriate behavior that led to his/her loss of self-control (e.g., arguing about a rule, swearing, tipping over a chair).

  1. Calming Down
    1. Describe the problem behavior.
    2. Offer options to calm down.
    3. Allow time for the child to calm down.
  2. Follow-Up Teaching
    1. Describe the alternative positive behavior.
    2. Practice.
    3. Give a negative consequence for the original problem behavior.

Coming up in Issue 5

Developing Good Communication with Your Grandchildren


At the Table


Modeling Behaviors

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