Getting it Right

In the same way that children don’t come with an instruction manual, neither do grandchildren.

The most significant way to get grand-parenting right is to constantly remember ‘I am not the parent’.

Behaving as though you are a grandchild’s parent – and especially that you know better than their parent – is the biggest recipe for getting it wrong.

How we brought up our kids is unlikely to be the way they’re doing it. In fact, parenting has changed significantly since your hands struggled with nappy pins. There’s now a lot of wisdom for parents to tap into, even if it does not match your own.

Things need to be done as the parents say they should be, which sometimes requires some biting of the lip.


  • 13 Top Tips for Grandparenting

    When it comes to getting it right, there are lot of tips to have in mind. The following is adapted and expanded from Rob Parsons’ book The Sixty Minute Grandparent. Its pages – full of wisdom and humour – are highly recommended.

    1. Don’t interfere or criticise your children’s parenting: Other than when there’s danger to life and limb, butt out. Instead, constantly give the affirmation and encouragement every mum or dad needs through the changing demands of each stage of parenthood. At best you are allowed an occasional ‘I did hear of someone who tried such and such’.

    2. Connect your grandchildren to the past:  Help them know ‘where they came from’ by telling them about their family. Hang on to old photos and other reminders and look for ways to share them.

    3. Develop traditions: Find some things that always happen when you are with them. Your own handshake. Your own game. Chip butty sandwiches. Your own silly activity. Things they will associate with being with you.

    4. Show unconditional love: You can’t say ‘I love you’ too often. But there is nothing more powerful than for a child to know they are loved ‘no matter what’; and that they don’t have to earn your love and are not at risk of losing it.

    For example, think about giving older children some reward before they get their exam results. Show you love them for what they do and not just for ‘success’.

    5. Linger with them: Unlike their parents, you don’t need to always be in a hurry. So move slowly through their lives, reading, playing games, exploring and more.

    6. Turn up: Every sacrifice is worth it to be there when they are ‘on stage’. Be it a sports event, nativity play or whatever.

    7. Don’t praise a grandchild for their looks: There is enough pressure to believe the approval of others depends on their looks – so don’t add to it. Instead, for example, tell them how proud you are of their effort, or how much you enjoy being with them.

    8. Don’t rush into a long term regular commitment: If asked to help with childcare, keep in mind that you don’t have to say ‘yes’. You did not choose to have the child involved and they are not your ultimate responsibility.

    If the answer is something other than ‘this is not going to be possible’, agree a review to see how it is working for all parties.

    9. Agree joint policy on bedtimes, rules for TV and sweets etc: A smart move is to state this in front of the children. That stops the rascals trying the ‘but my mummy says I can’ line.

    10. Never speak negatively about their parents in the children’s hearing: For a start, it will get back. And children need their parents as heroes, no matter how bad you think things are.

    11. Work hard at keeping in touch: The approach of ‘little and often’ can work wonders in your relationship. Tools at hand are Skype, little videos sent to their parents’ phones, letters, and more.

    12. Don’t compete with other grandparents: It is not a competition to be the best of the grandparents – especially where presents are concerned.

    13. Be wise about generosity: One of the joys, if you have the money, is to ‘spoil’ them a little. But rather than a surprise gift it may be wise to check with the parents first.

  • Passing on your faith

    What are your greatest longings for your grandchildren? Certainly, to have a long and fulfilling life. But also for them to grow up to know and love the God that made them.

    You will want your grandchildren to naturally capture what is the most important in your life. Respect here, for the wishes of your children, are important.

    Bring God into the picture: Even if their parents have not followed you in your faith, it ought to be possible make yours visible through simple prayers at bedtime when babysitting and the occasional bible story book.

    Show it in your life: The way you live and the words you use will all rub off. Without being pious, speaking of God’s love, goodness and his answers to prayer are all part of the story.

    Pray for them constantly: In addition to the example of our lives and our practical love, prayer for them is key. Try a prayer wall with their photos and special times of prayer for them on their birthdays.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife