8 Things Grandparents Can Teach Parents
Grandparents share a special bond with grandkids but don't believe in overindulgence. They know family values matter and that we must live life to the fullest — vital lessons for ‘ever-tense’ parents.
By Arundhati Swamy
As it is popularly said, grandparents are parents who give grandchildren ‘plenty’ of freeway. We impose fewer rules, allow grandchildren to sleep more, and let them eat everything delicious (read sugary!). We have our own style of child-upbringing, which is ‘tried and tested’. Yet, when it comes to raising grandchildren, there are disagreements with our own children.
Is it because of the generation gap? Communication breakdown? Changing times? Maybe yes, maybe not. Whatever it is, here’s what we want from our children.
1. Hold it right there! Give your child the best you can, but why overindulge? Teach your child to value what he has, and ask him to work hard for what he wants.
In an increasingly materialistic world, higher disposable incomes and changing lifestyles may influence the way you provide for your child. You now have the means to ensure that your child does not experience some of the deprivations you grew up with. While we are happy that you and your child enjoy the comforts of a better life, it is indiscriminate indulgences and excesses that cause us great worry and concern. So, be watchful and never overindulge.
2. Let your child be a child! Avoid putting down family members and discussing family issues in her presence.
Interestingly, this was a common preoccupation of large households (joint family systems) in which many of us (grandparents) grew up. In retrospect, we realise the negative impact of these complex dynamics. It’s hard for children to resist the curiosity that draws them to listen to adult conversations, unaware that they lack the cognitive and emotional maturity to understand them. So, remember to keep your child away from such negative influences. Let him relate to adults on his own terms and based on his own experiences and comfort. He will learn to value positive behaviours too.
3. Chill! Relax! Be more patient with your child when he is being difficult – use gentleness, explanations and motivation.
The demands and stresses of modern life may make you impatient with your child. Parenting then becomes stressful rather than enjoyable. But, it helps to be cool as a cucumber when handling demanding situations. Fortified with age, experience and wisdom, we (grandparents) tend to use gentle and tender approaches with our grandchildren. You should do the same.
4. Live free! Stay free! (For as long as we can manage on our own). We will support you but, please respect our space, independence and freedom.
It is mutual understanding, respect and unconditional support that defines the grandparent-parent-grandchild relationship. Many of us (grandparents) prefer to live independently of our children. This is due to several reasons including privacy, enjoying the comfort of being in our own home and to avoid conflicts. Sometimes, we also take a side step to motivate you to take ownership of your family and children. While we are happy to step in and take care of grandchildren while you pursue your careers, we would also like to have our ‘me’ time. So, please respect our space.
When it comes to raising your own child, you don’t agree with your parents on many aspects.
5. Allow us to indulge! We want to connect over simple, joyful things.
We look forward to retirement and relaxation with our grandchildren. We have a distinct way of relating to the young ones who delight at our twinkling eyes, mischievous smiles and fascinating stories. It’s almost like we (grandparents and grandchildren) are in a special circle where we connect over the simple joyful things in life, free of grown-up worries and responsibilities. So, let us have our moments under the sun.
6. Take it in the right spirit! We mean well when we advise or give you feedback.
Isn’t it easier to see things more objectively when we are outside of a situation? We (grandparents) tend to look at the big picture. Our advice can be valuable, and we know it must be given respectfully and sensibly. We are aware that if we expect all our advice to be taken seriously, it can only lead to conflict and heartbreak. We will offer you advice genuinely, and leave it to you to accept what you are comfortable with.
7. Practise what you preach to your child! Model the behaviour you want your child to learn. Let him learn by seeing you in action.
You are attuned to the exciting opportunities and experiences that drive your progress and ambitions. You modify for yourself, family rules and self-expectations, to accommodate the demands of an evolving lifestyle. You end up not practising what you preach to your child! However, your child is expected to adhere strictly to family rules without exception. That just doesn’t sound fair, nor does it work. You may wonder how we got you to abide by family rules. The answer is simple. We followed them ourselves and you simply followed suit. So, just do it!
8. Our family is one-of-a-kind! Continue family values and rituals. They are your family heritage and uphold the family dignity.
The identity of a family is defined by the ways in which members follow certain customs and practices — the uniquely different menu for a festival, the fun games, the protocols followed during functions and so on. They create a reference for future generations and anchor the family spirit. We did it with a smile when you were young. No reason you shouldn’t continue to uphold the tradition. Gift your child a treasured inheritance of charming and meaningful family practices that highlight your family values and priceless fun moments. And blend in some new ones too!
About the author:
Written by Arundhati Swamy on 15 December 2018.
Arundhati Swamy is a family counsellor and Head of the Parent Engagement Program at ParentCircle.
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