Selfish, rude, and juvenile are some of the ways parents describe the overindulging grandparents in their children’s lives. Parents are claiming that grandparents have no rights to “spoil” their children and break some rules because it disrupts their own immediate family’s needs and structure. If you’re a fed up mom or dad and your parents or in-laws give your kids candy, soda, and more toys than Santa’s sleigh can hold, you’re not alone. However, it’s time to search for the happy medium. Let there be some grand in grandparents.
Be Careful What You Wish For
I just wish his grandma wouldn’t buy him so many toys. I just wish her grandpa wouldn’t let her eat candy all day. If these statements sound like something you’ve muttered as you retrieved your child from Grandma’s house in a sugar-induced frenzy and unable to nap for 36 hours, you’re not alone in your struggles. Just scan the parenting boards online and you’ll see complaint after complaint about indulging grandparents. Yes- helping your children land safely back on planet Reality can be exhausting and you maybe just want the grandparents in your lives to follow all of your rules and everything will be so much better. Or maybe not.
The research clearly shows that involved, participatory, and even indulging grandparents are extremely important to raising healthy, confident, and resilient children. Researchers from the Institute of Education found in an in-depth study of grandparents and grandchildren that close relationships between the two helped to create “buffers” against adverse life events and that strong grandparent ties helped develop resilience in grandchildren.
In fact, research also shows that grandparents play an important role as a bridge between children and their parents, and because children sometimes view grandparents as “less strict” they sometimes feel more comfortable coming to grandparents with problems. In these situations grandparents are treated as confidants and children feel that their grandparents are consistent sources of support. The research shows that – Yes – grandparents are often associated with “spoiling” but that children recognize this special relationship and it doesn’t necessarily mean that “spoiling” is a bad thing.
Create Balance Between Grandparents and Your Kids
If your parents or in-laws followed all of your rules, did everything just as you do and want, and loved your children to pieces, they wouldn’t be grandparents – they would be you – the parent. As much as we may want to be the sole sun that sets in our children’s eye, the truth is that they need amazing grandparents. Grandparents are different and they do come with a different set of rules. It isn’t always easy to be “the heavy” and doesn’t always feel good to be the one to say “no” to your kids, but it doesn’t mean that grandparents shouldn’t be allowed to indulge some of their favorite people in the world – your kids. In order for your children to have the opportunity to benefit from relationships with their grandparents, it might require fewer rules and softer expectations.
- If it takes 2 days for your child to recover from the sugar and spice of Grandma’s house, plan accordingly. Don’t schedule a full day of events if you know that for 12 hours before your child will be living in the lap of Grandparent Luxury.
- Reiterate that what happens at Grandma’s, stays at Grandma’s. My kids absolutely know without a doubt that their grandparents have earned the right to indulge by putting up with me as a teenager, and someday I will hopefully have the same blessed privilege of being an involved grandparent.
- Ask your child’s grandparents for help – help cheering her on at her dance recital, sharing your family history, caring for her when she is ill, or any other way you can be the one to reach out and include them. The less you try to push their spoiling ways out the door and invite their presence into your lives the less they might focus on presents.
- Invite and include grandparents in fun activities. There is no replacement for the time and conversations that grandparents can give children. If you want to see them more involved in the doing and less in the material giving, help create situations where they get to be active in your child’s life.
- Be honest – in the kindest way possible. If you have a real and legitimate concern that has definitive health or safety repercussions, talk with grandparents about how important your concerns are to you and why they matter to your child. Reiterate that with affirmation of the importance of their love for your child – and how much you value that as well.
- Offer compromises. If you have big spenders for grandparents, request a certain dollar amount limit on indulging when your child goes to spend the weekend. In return, make sure you tell the grandparents that you are so very glad that your child is lucky enough to have grandparents who want to spend time with him and give him all the love he can handle, and allow them a little leeway to show that love.
The reality is that not all grandparents indulge their grandchildren, spend time with them, know their favorite lunch foods, and smile like they won the lottery when their grandchildren tumble into the room. The grandparents who live their own separated lives, casually interested from afar in the lives of their children and grandchildren, might make nap times easier and sugar highs less frequent. But they and their grandkids lose out on one of the most precious and rewarding relationships a child can have. Subtly loving from afar might seem easier and better, but it in no way compares with a significant and even indulging relationship.
There is something magical about the relationships my kids have with my parents. Yes – there is soda pop for lunch (with caffeine, even!), a drawer with sugary treats, and the carte blanche to do things I would have been grounded until eternity for doing at their ages. But there is real and unwavering power in the love that overrides all of those “spoilers” and connects my kids with their grandparents. That is worth all of the sugar highs in my world.
Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever. ~Author Unknown
Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation. ~Lois Wyse
What is it about grandparents that is so lovely? I’d like to say that grandparents are God’s gifts to children. And if they can but see, hear and feel what these people have to give, they can mature at a fast rate. ~Bill Cosby