I have three grandchildren. Like most grandparents and moms and dads, I carry photos in my phone and show them to friends and family. When I meet other grandparents, we trade stories and look at the latest photo and talk about when we saw our grandchildren last, even if it was five minutes ago. Inevitably someone will say, “I bet you spoil them rotten.” And that is where the conversation gets interesting, because raising great kids takes work.
With great respect for parenting, I don’t believe in spoiling any child who has to grow up in this world and be an adult. Better parenting should be a class in high school and college, because raising great kids takes thought and mindfulness.
Loving someone and spoiling them are two different things. I get it if you consider spoiling them to be a figure of speech, but if you are raising kids, teaching them to live a healthy life in a difficult world is a wonderful gift to them. You will have to work at it.
I pour love on my grandkids, but anyone who is treated like they are the center of the universe on a regular basis will become someone others won’t want to be around.
Additionally, if you wait on them hand and foot, they will not learn to be self sufficient. As grandparents, the elder parent, our job is to help build the future of the child by raising them to be healthy adjusted adults. As parents, we are responsible for that child up until they reach adulthood. We brought them into the world. We are responsible.
Above all, It is lazy and destructive to not pay attention to how your behavior affects the children around you and adjust.
So, here are my top ten parenting/grandparenting tips:
1. Model and require good behavior. If you expect kids to mind, speak to you with respect, then model that behavior.
Your constant yelling, cursing, or slamming doors will be repeated by your children.
Speak calmly to everyone in the household when you need something.
Ask with please and say thank you. If you do it and require it, they will do it too.
Pick up after yourself. Don’t expect kids to clean their rooms if you can’t clean up after yourself.
Take a bath and brush your teeth.
The most difficult for some is to refrain from gossip, slander, griping, and adult conversation when there are children present. They do not need the burden of adult conversation. Your negativity will grow in them, don’t plant it there. Do not gripe about your ex or trash their other parent. Watch your language.
2. Do not subject a small child to programming or video games or meant for adults.
Shows about death, murder, sex and violence are not meant for children. They need some time to be unencumbered with adult things, so give them a reprieve from the world. Remember they will also sleep better if they have not just watched someone die or be attacked.
Let them be children as long as possible. Keep their innocence intact. Keep the trash away from your kids no matter what form it comes in. That includes other people or your own vices.
3. Teach manners.
It is embarrassing to see five year olds ordering their parents or grandparents around in the grocery store. When a child tells you to give them something, pause and say in a calm loving voice “Ask nicely please, say Grammie, may I have a drink please?” Repeat this each time they boss you or someone else around, then wait. Repeat until they ask. Also, don’t say it and then not require it. Then, they will be calm and use good manners when they need something.
Never give them what they have ordered you to.
Remind them what to say and require that they ask politely, then smile at them and wait. The hardest part is stopping what you are doing and requiring the good behavior, but it is worth it. They will be proud when they get it right and show respect to others!
Give respect to get respect is a great lesson and tool for growing up.
4. Eat healthy when you have the grandkids, but also act healthy.
You are giving them a healthier future if you feed them well. Don’t eat things in front of them that you don’t want them to not eat, which is really modeling good behavior. Telling them to eat veggies when you are downing a bag of fast food is ridiculous.
Don’t feed them candy, ice-cream, and cookies all day and expect them to eat a healthy dinner when you are hungry. If you feed them junk all the time, why do you get mad when they won’t eat meatloaf and green beans? All that sugar causes a rush and crash which affects behavior, focus and sleep. Do yourself a favor. Put up the junk and dyes and get some healthy snacks and kid food. They will eat what you have when they are really hungry. They won’t starve. At the same time, don’t obsess over the fact they don’t eat lima beans, What kids eat is one small way they can have some say in their world, just keep healthy food around.
Act healthy by being straightforward and the adult in the room. No manipulation, no dumping your emotional crisis on your child. you are an adult. Do not encumber them with adult emotion.
5. If you are a grandparent, back the parents.
If the parents say bedtime at eight, then bedtime at eight. Show respect for the parents by respecting their rules on parenting. That includes stuff you don’t agree with. If it is not harmful to the child physically, or damaging emotionally, back the parent. If you have a problem with the way they parent, talk to the parent and come to some kind of agreement. And that means backing the parent in front of the child when possible too.
Kids feel secure when the adults in their lives act like adults and resolve conflict in a calm agreeable way. Don’t go home after you pick up little Johnny and talk about your children’s bad parenting with Johnny in the room or car.
6. Let the kids learn to do some things for themselves.
Once kids can talk, they will most likely tell you when they are thirsty or want to go outside and play. Let them get hungry by not shoving food or snacks in their faces all the time. If they need something, let them ask and then go get it themselves if possible. Don’t wait on them hand and foot. They will learn to do things much quicker if you allow them to try.
Don’t you want them to learn to tell people what they need or want? Don’t you want them to learn to talk to you about what is bothering them and to learn to problem solve?
7. Be aware of and foster different kinds of activity for your grandchild: outdoors, indoors, other kids, and alone
They need outdoor or physical activity. Take them outside to your garden and have them help weed or water. Have them help carry groceries and sweep the kitchen or pick up pinecones. Teach them early to do some type of chore at your house.
They also need interaction with others, so get in the floor and play with them if you can. Play pretend or read them a book. Once in a while play tea party or get in the yard and throw a ball. Play hide and seek. Make yourself participate in an actual physical activity that is healthy for both of you. They are only this age one time. They grow up quickly and you will wish you had spent more time with them. Just do it.
They need to learn to be able to play alone sometimes too.
Kids need some time playing without constant media or someone telling them what to do. What better place to play quietly than in their room or at Grandma’s house?
Kids will adjust, create worlds, and play. Let them.
Let me say again, we will not do any child any favors by treating them like they are the center of the universe. Kids who rule their parents or grandparents are bratty and do not make friends or do well in school. Bratty children become defiant teens and a child whose every moment is monitored, hovered over, and protected becomes anxious and whines their way through life.
8. Be consistent, be calm, and do what you say you will do. Do not manipulate.
Do not threaten a child with a punishment unless you mean it. Do not overreact and dole out a ridiculous punishment for something small. If you want the respect of your child, mean what you say, be fair, be consistent.
Let the time fit the crime, but be consistent.
If you say I will not let you go to the whatever if you do this again and they do it again, then you have to go through with your punishment. If you don’t they will not respect your authority or listen the next time. If you overreact, they will not trust you.
Angry or inconsistent makes problem children.
Adults who do not respond in an adult way to a child’s misbehavior will create mistrust in a child. For instance do not use manipulation or emotional response to make a child do something. Crying or pretending to leave or be hurt is emotional manipulation. Even in jest, don’t do it.
They are kids. You are the adult. Respond as a well adjusted adult. Be firm, be calm, be consistent.
9. Do not hover, over control, over parent, and run interference for your kids at school unless crime or something dangerous is happening.
If they forget their homework, let them suffer the consequences. Do not rescue them every time they mess up unless you were the cause of the problem.
They will learn to problem solve and be responsible if you are not doing their work for them. However, if they forget their homework because you can’t get up on time, you need to adjust your behavior.
10. Teach them it is okay to say No to something that is wrong by teaching them how to disagree.
If you tell kids they should always obey every adult and never say No, then when confronted with something they should be able to say No to, they won’t have the tools to do that.
I gave my daughter choices to teach her how to make one and how to have an opinion. I let her say No to things as long as she could explain why she preferred to say No.
I give my grandkids a chance to say “No thank you.” or “I would rather not do that, could we do this instead?” I don’t like a blunt No, but they need to be able to disagree with adults and their friends. It may save their life.
Teach them to have an opinion and to express it in a calm reasonable way.
Let them talk to you. You will find out amazing things if you let them talk. People used to wonder how I knew things that were going on at my daughter’s school. I spent time with her, her friends, and listened. It helped me parent to know what was really going on.
Let’s do the world a favor and be great parents and grandparents. It takes unselfish behavior. It takes work.
Finally, this world is difficult, let’s give kids tools to win at life.
Barefoot and writing,