6 Kinds of Grandparents Who Aren't So Grand

Most grandparents try hard to be the best grandparents possible. But good intentions don't always translate into doing the right thing. Even the grandparents who try hardest sometimes become problem grandparents.

When grandparents aren't grand, 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 the grandparents have spent a few decades being in charge and aren't about to give up their clout without a battle. Sometimes it's just the opposite. We've been the enforcers for a while, and now we want to be the indulgers.

Whatever lies behind these grandparenting mistakes, we need to take an honest look at our behavior and correct it if it needs correcting.


Grandparents Who Are Stuck in the Good Old Days

Girl Drinking Coffee with Grandmother

Fuse / Getty Images

Old-fashioned grandparents have a lot to share with grandchildren. Children can benefit from being exposed to their traditional skills, their knowledge of family history and their time-honored values.

Still, not everything about the good old days was good. Some of the ways that we used to do things have been replaced by better ways. Grandparents shouldn't expect their grandchildren to meet standards that have long been discarded by most parents. Here are a few of the problem areas.

In the old days, children were seen but not heard. Most parents today want their children to practice speaking up. They want their children to respect authority but not be afraid of it. They often tolerate what grandparents characterize as "sass."

We used to think that "because I said so" was a good reason. Parents of an earlier generation felt no need to justify their actions. Most parents today take pains to explain their actions to their children. They still expect obedience, for the most part, just not blind obedience.

Once upon a time, children were largely on their own. Most parents were minimally involved with school and extra-curricular activities. Possibly children were more independent as a result, but there were probably other times when they could have used a little more supervision. 

Children used to be expected to work. Chores amounted to much more than taking out the trash. They often involved long hours, adult tasks and hard physical labor. Perhaps today's children should be expected to do more to help out, but they do live in a different world.

Many children today are accelerated academically and have more demands on their time than children did in the good old days. Modern parents often prefer that their children focus on schoolwork and on other pursuits, such as music or sports, rather than doing household chores.


Grandparents Who Don't Want to Share

Senior African-American woman kissing her grandson on the ear.

Arthur Tilley / Getty Images

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. For example, multi-generational vacations have some definite advantages, including having grandparent babysitters.  At other times, parents cherish doing things with their children without extended family members.

Sometimes, they don't want to share their circle of close friends with their parents. In part, this is a function of personality. People who are relaxed and sociable may be fine hosting whomever shows up. Those who are planners and a bit on the introverted side will not be okay with grandparents who are always crashing the party.

Also, the best grandparents always remember that there is usually another set of grandparents around. It's only right to share with the other grandparents, especially at holiday time. You don't want to be a jealous grandparent.

It's natural to want to spend holidays with grandchildren, but there are ways to do this without being selfish. Sometimes the two sides of the family can be merged into a single celebration, but this may not work with large families, for logistical reasons. There are many other ways to handle the holidays, including alternating years and celebrating early or late rather than on the actual holiday. 


Grandparents Who Don't Take Instruction

Boy feeding Christmas cookie to grandfather

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Child-rearing has changed tremendously since most grandparents were parents. That means that we must be able to take instruction instead of doing things the way we used to do them. With newborns, for example, we should not put them to sleep on their tummies because that increases the risk of SIDS. We no longer put alcohol on their umbilical cords, talcum powder on their bottoms or cereal in their bottles. 

Grandparents must recognize that changes in child-rearing are usually based on what's best for child health and safety. 

Grandparents who want to get up to speed quickly often take grandparenting classes before their first grandchild arrives. That's a great way to show the parents that you can take instruction.

With older children, grandparents should respect food restrictions, bedtimes and the parents' rules in general. Bedtimes can be tough to enforce, though, especially when you are having a really great sleepover with grandchildren. Maybe the parents will let you slide a little.


Grandparents Who Don't Respect Differences

Side view of grandfather and grandson communicating while having coffee

Maskot / Getty Images

When the generations clash, the older generation can sometimes be heard telling the younger generation, "I didn't bring you up that way!"

News flash: Adults make their own decisions, and sometimes they change their minds about something they were taught as children. This applies both to our adult children and to our grandchildren. Sometimes children or grandchildren choose a different religion. Sometimes it's politics that divides us from them. And sometimes it is simply different approaches to life. 

Most parents want their children to learn to think for themselves. Grandparents have to respect the results when exactly that happens.


Grandparents Who Are Judgmental

Grandmother judging daughter's parenting

Stuart Hughs / Getty Images

Being a parent is a hard job, and our children deserve our support as they endeavor to do their best at it. New parents are especially vulnerable to any suggestion that they should have done something differently. Besides, grandparents don't always know best. Seasoned grandparents will usually admit that of the times when they have disagreed with a parent's decision, they have sometimes been wrong.

Being indirectly critical can be hurtful as well. Flippant remarks or humorous quips may cut a vulnerable parent to the quick. Comparisons can also be really hurtful. Never compare a grandchild's performance or development to another child's. 


Grandparents Who Can't Say No

Senior woman offering her grandchildren traditional cookies, Head and Shoulders, High Angle View

Inmagineasia / Getty Images 

A grandparent's right to spoil grandchildren is firmly ensconced in our culture, but reasonable grandparents know that there are limits. A grandparent who can't say no gives the rest of us a bad name. 

Grandparents should say no when the grandchildren ask for something that their parents don't allow, whether it's a sweet treat or an extra hour of television. Grandparents should say no when the grandchildren ask for something that could harm their health or safety.

When it comes to purchasing a requested gift, sometimes grandparents should say no. Even so, there will be plenty of times for grandparents to say yes!

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