Grandparents, It's Time to Update Your Playbook: What Not to Say to Your Grandkids

Written by Henrik Rothen

Apr.21 - 2024 6:25 PM CET

Discover why some classic grandparent phrases are due for a makeover and how updating your words can strengthen family bonds.

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In the gentle yet firm realms of grandparenting, some age-old phrases and tactics have become relics that might do more harm than good.

These comments, often made without ill intent, could leave children feeling uncomfortable or insecure.

Here's a look at five outdated sayings that need revising for better harmony between grandparents, parents, and children.

From "Little Secrets" to Transparent Ties

The idea of a grandparent being a child's secret keeper might seem quaint, but in practice, it can lead to unhealthy habits.

Perinatal psychologist and parenting expert, Sofía Lewicki, speaks out in her book Tan mal sí salimos. Cómo dejar de educar para empezar a criar about the need for transparency in child-rearing.

Encouraging grandkids to keep "little secrets" from parents can inadvertently normalize secrecy and might expose them to risks.

Where Boundaries Blur

"The grandparents' house is an anything-goes zone" is a notion that needs a serious update. Although letting kids watch a bit more TV or indulge in extra treats might seem harmless, it often erases the boundaries set by parents, leading to confusion and mixed signals for the child.

Lewicki advocates for a balance where grandparents respect the core values and rules established by the parents to maintain consistency and security for the child.

The Trade-Offs of Affection

"Give me a kiss, and you'll get a candy."

This kind of transaction teaches children that affection is something to be traded rather than freely given.

Experts like Lewicki suggest that children should never feel compelled to show affection to earn a reward. Instead, respecting their bodily autonomy and choices fosters their development into self-assured individuals.

Overstepping Autonomy

"Your mom doesn't want you to..." is a classic line used to enforce parental rules, but it can sometimes strip grandparents of their authority and make them seem like mere enforcers rather than caregivers. Lewicki stresses the importance of grandparents owning the rules they apply, which should align with the family’s overall wellness strategies, not just parental preferences.

Establishing Harmonious Relationships

The differences between being an occasional caregiver and taking on a primary caregiving role can significantly affect the dynamics within the family.

Grandparents who are more involved in day-to-day care face more challenges around issues like discipline, diet, and screen time. Lewicki recommends open and honest communication to manage expectations and maintain harmony.

Fostering Better Communication for Family Harmony

Lewicki proposes several guidelines to foster effective communication and understanding between parents and grandparents:

  1. Open Dialogue: Engage in direct conversations beyond digital messages to discuss feelings, experiences, and expectations.

  2. Collaborative Solutions: Work together to find approaches that serve the child’s best interests, rather than simply enforcing rules.

  3. Consider External Support: Sometimes, a third-party mediator like a family therapist can facilitate better understanding and compromise.

  4. Child-Centric Decisions: Always prioritize the child’s well-being over adult preferences or egos.

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