If anything defines the generation gap, it is the differing parenting styles between grandparents and parents. As a grandparent, you may find it frustrating to establish your own set of rules when they conflict with the freedom allowed by the parents.
While you want your grandchildren to enjoy their time with you, you want to ensure that the your rules are followed. Children need limits in their lives but the way you approach boundaries may differ drastically from their parents’.
Establishing the Rules
You may feel tempted to play the “My House My Rules” card with your grandchildren’s parents, but it may be beneficial for all parties involved if you had an open and civil discussion about what their disciplining methods are.
Use this opportunity to express your idea of what discipline involves. If the two opinions differ, try to find some common ground or a compromise for when the children are at your house.
If you have issue with the freedoms your grandchildren have, discuss with their parents why you feel they need more limits and why it’s important for you to enforce them in your home.
For example, the parents may let your grandchildren use tablets or smart phones in bed. You may oppose this because it disrupts sleep and you want to spend time with your grandchildren before bedtime.
Here are some example scenarios of what may happen when inconsistency clashes with the grandparents’ rules:
“Come on, you guys. It’s 9:00 o’clock and time for bed,” says David and Paul’s grandmother.
“Oh, come on, Nana. Mom and Dad let us stay up until 10:00 o’clock,” says Paul.
“Yeah, Nana, They let us stay up ’til the news starts,” whines David.
“Bedtime is at 9:00 o’clock at our house,” Nana replies.
“Nana, pleaaaaaase, just another half hour,” begs John.
Nana states again, “Bedtime at our house is at 9:00 o’clock.”
Definitely some discipline and consistent rule leadership needed here.
Or try this scenario:
“O.K. kids, everyone in the back seat,” says Meagan and Tom’s grandfather as they start their trip to the store.
“Oh, Gramps, Mom and Dad let us sit in the front seat now,” says Meagan.
“Sorry, Sweetheart, but Nana and I feel like you are safer in the backseat,” replies Gramps.
“But we always get to sit in front now,” whines Meagan. “I’m five now. I’m big.”
“Yeah, Gramps. Mom and Dad know whether we’re safe or not and they let us sit up front. Only babies have to sit in the back seat,” gripes Tom.
“Pleeeaaasee, Gramps, at least let one of us up front with you. We want to sit with you,” says Meagan.
Gramps states again, “Sorry, kids, but in our car, you ride in the back seat.”
As a Grandparent, What Can You Do?
Calmly repeat the rules. Don’t acknowledge, argue, or pass judgment on the parent’s decisions. Simply state and restate the rule at “your” house.
Children will push limits because, sometimes, it pays off. Grandparents are probably bigger softies than parents. Children discover if they try hard enough, long enough, and loud enough, the grandparent often gives in. Giving in even once makes children to continue to question discipline.
Discipline is Not Punishment
When you simply state the rules, you are giving your grandchild a choice – they get to choose the consequence of their behavior. You are not punishing your grandchild but instead giving them a choice.
This approach to discipline and rules empowers children. They are responsible for their own decisions.
You have continued with consistency. You have concluded with a consequence. All actions have consequences. Notice that if a child chooses to behave in a certain way, he/she selects the consequence.
Your grandchild might be surprised the first time a consequence is enforced, but he/she will soon begin to realize that his/her behaviors have consequences, even at Gramp and Nana’s house. Our grandchildren’s behavior will change if we continue to be consistent and use consequences in a calm fashion.