Six grandkids in six years has started me rethinking how I interact with my adult children, who are now parents.
More and more, I’m met with the fact that parenting isn’t a formula, and every kid is very different. I can’t expect my adult children to parent their kids exactly the way I parented them. So, as a grandfather for six years now, here’s what I am learning so far:
Don’t give advice unless you are asked.
Then, make suggestions, not declarations.
Nobody knows their kid quite like their own parent or guardian, so give them plenty of room to develop their style of parenting. Offering advice at the wrong time can be translated into, “I don’t think you’re doing this right.” But waiting to give advice until you are asked communicates respect to your kids. Giving a suggestion instead of an absolute also communicates that you don’t think you are smarter than them. Chances are, they are smarter than you about their kids. Even if you aren’t sure that’s true, you should act like you think it is. This doesn’t mean you don’t have something to contribute, you do. So, when they ask for your advice, begin your sentence with…
“I’m not sure, but what if…”
Don’t translate disagreement into disrespect. Respect how they disagree.
If you think you raised your kids to think like you, you need to think again. Your kids are individuals who have their own ideas, opinions, faith, politics, and views. Actually, the fact that they disagree with you is evidence that they respect you. The moment you translate their disagreement into disrespect, you shut down healthy dialogue. If you want to be invited into important conversations with your adult children, respect their opinions, especially when they are different from your own. Besides, didn’t you raise them to be adults? From time to time, they need to hear you say…
“You are teaching me to see the world in a different way.”
Don’t take it personal.
Make their family’s schedule your priority.
It’s easy to forget the busy days of parenting. It’s likely that as a grandparent, you have more margin than your adult kids during this phase of their parenting. So, accommodate your schedule to fit their priorities, don’t expect them to adjust their calendar to fit yours. For example, they are already stressed making rounds on their holidays to meet the expectations of siblings, in-laws, school, and other friends. So, when they can’t do Christmas when you want them to do Christmas, don’t take it personally. Invite them to come when they can come. And in some situations, if they can’t come, go to them. Make their schedule your priority. Then, maybe everyone will actually enjoy being together a little more. Less stress = better time together. Make sure they actually hear you say…
“We need to do whatever works best for your schedule.”
Don’t avoid admitting your mistakes.
Embrace your humanness.
Yes, I am suggesting you have been wrong at least once. I would also suggest that whether you have admitted it or not, your adult kids already know that you have been wrong. There’s just something healthy about being self-aware and admitting how you’ve struggled. Hopefully, you know by now your kids not only learn from your success, they also learn from your mistakes. Isn’t that the goal? You want your adult kids to be better parents than you were, right?
You were a human parent just like they are. If you are uncomfortable with the idea that you were perhaps wrong at times, your adult children may be uncomfortable owning their mistakes, too. So, just keep modeling your humanness.
I recently picked up one of my granddaughters from school to get ice cream. I have to admit I was a little nervous. I wanted to prove to her and her parents that I am a responsible grandparent. When I was taking her back home, I got a ticket. I was mortified when she saw the blue lights. I imagined she would probably tell her mom, my daughter, as soon as we walked into the door. As the policeman walked away, I heard her say…
“Oh, this happened to my dad, too.”
So, maybe one of my roles is to simply exist to remind my grandchildren from time to time that their parents are human, too.
Go ahead and start practicing this statement,
“Yeah, I was wrong about that one.”
Because you will need to use it.