6 Ways to Be a Better Grandparent

Most grandparents try hard to be the best grandparents they can be. But good intentions don't always translate into doing the right thing. Even the grandparents who try their hardest sometimes overstep their bounds.

When grandparents make mistakes, it may be a result of generational differences. Who knew the world would change so much so fast and leave such a gulf between the generations? Sometimes grandparents have spent a few decades in charge and have difficulty falling into a new role with different parameters. Sometimes it's just the opposite. Grandparents have been the enforcers for a while, and now they want to be the indulgers.

Mother and grandmother playing on floor with baby boy
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

Whatever lies behind these missteps, taking an honest look at your grandparenting and your relationship with your kids and grandkids can help you improve. This article explains six things you can do to become an even better grandparent.

1

Change With the Times

Grandparents have a lot to share with grandchildren. Children can benefit from being exposed to their traditions, their knowledge of family history, and their time-honored values.

Still, not everything about the "good old days" was good. Better ways have replaced some of the ways you used to do things. So grandparents shouldn't expect their grandchildren to meet standards the grandkids' parents have discarded. Here are a few examples:

  • Expecting kids to be seen but not heard: Many parents today want their children to practice speaking up. They want their children to be respectful but not afraid of people in authority.
  • Saying "because I said so": There is value in parents and caregivers explaining their reasoning to children. Kids who understand why rules exist may find it easier to comply.
  • Expecting kids to be independent: Many parents are more involved with school and extra-curricular activities and play than their parents were. Playing with children shows kids that they are valued and helps build strong bonds. 
  • Expecting kids to work around the house: Parents today still enlist their kids in household tasks. But chores doled out today may be far less than what was expected of their parents' generation. Nevertheless, chores are still an excellent way to teach responsibility and contribute to higher self-esteem.

Many children today have more demands on their time than children did a generation ago. As a result, parents often prefer that their children have a balanced approach to schoolwork, music, sports, and other responsibilities, like chores.

2

Share Quality Time

Some grandparents can't get enough of their children and grandchildren. They want to be included in every family celebration, outing, and vacation. Sometimes the younger generation is all on board. Multi-generational vacations have definite advantages, including having grandparent babysitters

Keep in mind that while your kids and grandkids probably love spending lots of time with you, sometimes, they may also want time alone with their circle of close friends and other grandparents.

It's natural to want to spend special days like holidays with grandchildren, but there are ways to ensure everyone meets their needs. Sometimes you can merge the two sides of the family into a single celebration, but this doesn't work for every family. Some families choose to alternate years and celebrate early or late rather than on the actual holiday. 

3

Follow Your Child’s Lead

Child-rearing has changed tremendously since most grandparents were parents. That means that sometimes you may need to be brought up to speed on new guidelines or ways of doing things. Some examples include:

  • Safe sleep: With newborns, experts instruct caregivers not to put them to sleep on their tummies because that increases the risk of SIDS.
  • Product safety: Likewise, more recent research has led to recommendations to avoid baby powder and cribs with wide slats or bumper pads because these can lead to breathing problems or suffocation.
  • Feeding: Adding infant cereal to bottles of breast milk or formula has also been shown to be too hard for babies' tummies to handle, increasing the risk of allergies.

Remember that changes in child-rearing are usually based on the most current research on child health and safety. 

If you want to get up to speed quickly, taking a grandparenting class before your first grandchild arrives can be a great option. Not only do classes help inform you about best practices, but they also demonstrate to your kids that you take your new role seriously.

Check with your local hospital about grandparent classes. If they don't offer them, they may refer you to a local class.

As your grandchildren get older, respect food restrictions, bedtimes, and your kids' rules for the children in general. If you're having a sleepover and you want to bend something like bedtime rules, be sure to communicate your thoughts with your child. Ensuring everyone is on the same page can help you avoid unnecessary conflict or hurt feelings.

4

Respect Differences

When the generations clash, it may be tempting to say, "I didn't bring you up that way!" But try to resist.

Adults make their own decisions, and sometimes they change their minds about something they learned as children. Chances are, you probably did, too. So try not to take it personally if your children or grandchildren choose a different religion, hold differing political views, or parenting philosophies.

5

Be Supportive

Being a parent is hard, and your adult children deserve support as they endeavor to do their best as parents themselves. New parents are especially vulnerable to suggestions that they should have done something differently.

While sometimes grandparents feel their experience has granted them the 20/20 vision of hindsight, remember that grandparents don't always know best. Even if you disagree with some of your children's parenting rules, keep in mind that a grandparent's role is to support the family culture that your child is working to establish.

Flippant remarks or humorous quips may cut a vulnerable parent to the quick. In addition, comparisons can also be hurtful, so avoid comparing your grandchild's performance or development to another child's. 

6

Say "No" Sometimes

A grandparent's right to spoil grandchildren is firmly ensconced in our culture, but good grandparents know that there are limits.

Say "no" when your grandchild asks for something that their parents don't allow, whether it's a sweet treat or an extra hour of television. And, of course, say "no" when the grandchildren ask for something that could harm their health or safety.

When purchasing an expensive gift for your grandkids, it's wise to check in with your child. Even though "no" is sometimes the correct answer, there will be plenty of times for grandparents to say yes!

A Word From Verywell

Even the best grandparents can improve their grandparenting skills. Being adaptable, teachable, respectful, and supportive can lay the groundwork for being the kind of grandparent your kids and grandkids can trust.

Don't beat yourself up if you realize that you've made some grandparenting mistakes. Parents and grandparents aren't perfect, and everyone has room to grow. Instead, if you worry that your past behavior may have caused a rift between you and your child, try bringing it up with them and telling them the ways you want to improve. Chances are, they'll be glad for an opportunity to try again.

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6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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