The Role of Grandparents

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Grandparents are super special, super important members of the family unit. It takes some figuring out, as you yourself are trying to learn and develop your own parenting style while also trying to take pointers from your own parents and then juggling in laws on the side. If you’re lucky like me, then you have grandparents who want to and enjoy being very hands on. For me, this set of grandparents happens to be my in laws. If we were on the other side of the country, it would probably be my parents, as geography would have it. Some couples live far away from both sets of grandparents, which is tough, but this post is for those of us who have grandparents in our child’s day to day lives.

Now, why does that matter? My kids will spend a lot of time with my in laws. Sophie has already had numerous sleepovers with them, and even when we’re in California, we stay with my parents, giving her 24/7 access to gramma and grandpa’s love and spoils. So, how do you keep a child from being spoiled, when they’re spoiled with the attention of doting grandparents? What is the role of the grandparents who see your kid on a weekly or even daily basis?

It seems like a simple question, but it’s one I really wrestled with at first. I mean, I was spoiled by my grandparents, and they hardly [if ever] disciplined me. Then again, I didn’t see them as often, nor were they “go-to” babysitters or in any other role that may have required them to actually help raise me instead of just dote on me. So what does this mean? Am I to instruct my in laws on how to discipline my child? That’s awkward.

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No, instead I’ve decided that a balance is best. The grandparents’ role is not to be a disciplinary, they have already traveled that road once. The grandparents’ role is to correct. What’s the difference? Discipline requires some sort of action: a spank, a time out, a punishment. Correction demands that the bad behavior be acknowledged, and that good behavior is instead encouraged. If you think this is “too soft” of an approach, let me tell you I have witnessed Sophie take the things her GG says under advisement, when normally it would take a punishment from a parent to get the same reaction. There is a certain amount of respect and fear of disappointing the beloved grandparents that fuels my child to listen to a correction from them. With me, Sophie will risk my disappointment and a punishment to get what she wants [which some psychologists contribute to the child knowing that they are unconditionally loved by the parent, and know also that the disappointment is only temporary]. Additionally, when we do indulge in rare visits to see my parents in California, we want them to have fun spoiling our kids. The last thing I’d want to do is taint an opportunity for my kids to have fun with my parents by having my parents punish my kids. Even if they are genuinely naughty, a grandparent can encourage better behavior with their grandchild, and then continue doing whatever fun activity they were doing. If a problem persists, then you as the parent can step in, or take some thing away from them as punishment later.

So, do I cringe when I see my child throw a toy inside her GG’s house? Yes. Do I want to take disciplinary action right then and there? Totally. When I see my child fussing, do I some times wish my in laws would just put her in time out already? Some times! But I know that when GG, Pap, Grandma or Grandpa gently remind my child that she shouldn’t act a certain way, that wisdom is being imparted on my child by her elders and it is an appropriate way for a grandparent to be involved of the shaping of my child’s temperament, while also still getting to be the fun-loving grandparents they’ve always wanted to be.

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