Recap: Grandpa wonders whether he should approach his adult children about the salient mistakes he sees them making as parents. A sensitive soul, he understands the ramifications of meddling, but he struggles with seeing his grandchildren being treated too harshly and would like to share the wisdom he has gleaned over the years.
Stay Out, Grandpa!
It doesn’t take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kids, smack their little behinds when necessary and say no.
Parenting is so different in our generation. While we grew up with our parents’ word as inviolable, today’s parents are practically condemned if they voice even a hint of criticism. And if they dare, they must carefully gauge the words they use and worry whether they have caused irreparable damage.
When a child is reprimanded, the parent often winds up apologizing. So even though this is not what’s going on in your children’s home, I wonder whether you’ll be the parent who winds up sniffling and making amends for having dared to open his heart and care.
From your description, it sounds as if your daughter and son-in-law run a strict regime (maybe they should visit my house for a few days and whip my kids into shape), and you feel your grandchildren are suffering. What to do?
I like your idea of taking your daughter out and having a heart-to-heart. If your relationship is close, she should be open to hearing your concerns and suggestions. Only you know your daughter and the intricacies of your relationship.
The other option is also good: raising a point in a general conversation or sharing something you overheard in a class or learned from the rabbi’s speech (before you started snoring).
Your grandkids are lucky to have you.
A Spoonful of Sugar
“A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”
Just speak straight from your heart: “Sweetheart, you and Jim are wonderful parents. You work hard to teach the kids the values of diligence, respect and responsibility. I’m really proud of you for raising such great kids. There’s just one thing I wanted to mention. Would it be OK if we discussed it?”
I would keep it short and sweet. At our age, we’ve earned the right to be candid.
Be a Model
How about modeling when your daughter and son-in-law are close? Kids are guaranteed (or your money back — no refunds on gray hair or wrinkles) to present you with endless teaching moments. When Abie smacks Sherry, put your methods into practice.
You come across as gentle and positive, so I imagine you’ll jump to say something like “Sherry, what a strong person you are not to smack Abie back! Excellent self-control. We can all learn from you.”
By steering attention away from Abie’s misdemeanor, you’ve taken the wind out of his sails, and you’ve built up Sherry.
If 15-year-old Bruce again forgets to take out the garbage, you could offer the following: “Oops! I won’t tell you how often I forget things I’m supposed to do. Here, let’s take it out together. And is there a reminder we can set up so you won’t forget the next time?”
If your daughter and son-in-law see the efficacy of your techniques, perhaps they will try to replace their authoritarianism with your positivity.
Discipline With Love
Parents are too scared today to be parents. What is the world coming to if we’re afraid to discipline our children? Discipline should be fair and thought-out, but it should and must exist.
If children grow up without rules in the home, how will they function in school and then as adults? Rules confront a person everywhere — in a job, on the road and just as a citizen. So I’m a proponent of consequences for infractions.
I’m also a big believer that home should primarily be a place of warmth and love. As long as the parent-child relationship is one of warmth and love, a little discipline won’t do harm, though it should be administered with a loving touch. (And please don’t fear: A mistake here or there will not cause permanent damage.)
Grandpa, are your grandchildren showered with warmth, love and unconditional acceptance in spite of their human foibles? When a consequence is given, is it followed by a hug and “I love you”? If so, I wouldn’t worry so much. If not, I agree that it’s time to talk to your kids — with love.
— Billy R.