If there were an official motto for grandparenting it might be, “All of the joy and pleasure of parenting with none of the work and worry.” Spending time with one’s children is lovely, but spending time with grandkids can be even better.
For the most part, grandparents are not in charge of nutrition, behavioural guidelines, or bedtimes — seeing that the kids grow up strong, healthy, and decent are the responsibilities of the parents. Seeing that the kids have some fun — well that’s up to Grandma and Grandpa.
Abiding by the Rules
Parents are the final authority when it comes to matters concerning their children. That sentence cannot be stressed enough and if all grandparents made a decision before their first grandchild ever came into the world to honour that message; there would be far fewer family disagreements.
Parents, especially first timers, often have very specific ideas about how they would like their children to be raised. Decisions about feeding, sleeping, outings, and discipline have likely been well thought out and most parents have strong opinions as to how they will guide and direct their children.
Grandparents must remember that although they have many years of experience in matters of childcare, the children in question are not their own and therefore the decisions about the children’s care are not really theirs to make.
Compromise and Flexibility
Many of us have fond memories of our own grandparents and the love that they gave so readily. Often, part of the fun of spending time with grandparents stems from the fact that they are a bit more relaxed and easygoing than mum and dad.
They have learned that as long as it is not an everyday occurrence, it will not harm a child to skip lunch in favour of a giant ice cream sundae and that while they must normally be tucked into bed by 8 p.m., a late night giggle session every now and then can do wonders for the soul.
Most parents will allow some flexibility in the rules when it comes to the time that their children spend with grandparents, but grandparents must ultimately be respectful of the parents’ wishes.
Asking permission to feed the little ones a fast food lunch or the like is only common courtesy, and if the answer is no, grandparents must abide.
Having a Heart-to-Heart
When opinions vary as to what is permissible in regards to the grandchildren, it is understandable for grandparents to experience hurt feelings.
After all, most grandparents are simply trying to form close and lasting bonds with their grandkids and are not attempting to usurp the authority of the children’s parents or to take their place. In even the most agreeable of families, conflicts will occasionally arise and they are best dealt with immediately.
Sulking and failing to address an issue will not solve it, so when parents or grandparents feel that the other isn’t being reasonable in their choices regarding the children, it is best to speak up — but in an open-minded and respectful way.
It is important that disagreements are not discussed directly in front of the children, as that will certainly make at least one generation of the adults feel that they are being put on the spot.
Instead, setting time aside to address any issues, while keeping in mind that the ultimate goal is a happy family relationship, should help everyone to keep a cool head.
When compromise seems impossible, though, grandparents need to remember the golden rule of grandparenting: parents are the final authority when it comes to matters concerning their children.
There are times when grandparents have a duty to speak up, even if it offends their grandchildren’s parents.
If the children are being neglected, abused, or put in situations that risk their emotional or physical well-being, grandparents are not overstepping their bounds to approach the parents with their concerns and to contact the authorities for assistance if the children’s parents refuse to take responsibility for the proper care of their kids.
While this can be a difficult thing for grandparents to do, the welfare of the children must be the top priority.