When Grandma Does Not Exercise Good Judgment While Watching Grandchildren Look for the Win-Win Rather than Consequences

When Grandma Does Not Exercise Good Judgment While Watching Grandchildren Look for the Win-Win Rather than ConsequencesThis Grandma wonders why people are surprised when someone does not exercise good judgment when they become a grandparent.  Just because we are of long (we never say old) years does not necessarily mean we all gain wisdom.  A mentor of mine once said, “sometimes practice does not make perfect.  Sometimes it just makes permanent.”

In the Sun Sentinel, August 23, 2014, Amy Dickinson, in her column, “Ask Amy,” was asked about a grandma who “Permits Child’s Unsafe Play.”  Here is the question and her answer:

Dear Amy: I have a concern about how my mother-in-law baby-sits my toddler son.  She is a very free-spirited woman who believes that my son should have a lot of freedom.

She feels that playing with sticks, running free in a store, chewing on ice and exploring the garage (which is filled with many adult tools) are all acceptable things for him to do.

 His dad and I have told her how many times how we feel, but she thinks we are being too protective, and she does these things and other unsafe activities regardless of what we say. She loves her grandson very much and loves to watch him once a week while I go to the gym or run errands.

We hate to tell her that she can’t watch him but we are thinking about informing her that she can only watch him supervised. How can we tell her more clearly that these activities are unacceptable? We have tried but she doesn’t see our point of view.  – Concerned Mom

Dear Concerned: Rather than debate the relative merits of free-range versus risk-reduction, let’s boil this down to its most basic component: You are the parents.

     The fact is that many readers (myself included) managed to survive childhoods that were dangerous – certainly by today’s standards. But I know of other children who did not survive their childhoods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 9,000 children die each year (and 250,000 are hospitalized) due to unintentional injuries. At the CDC, they don’t term these as “accidents” because they are “predictable and preventable.”

     Free play is wonderful, but no heartache could match that of a child being injured or killed while under the care of a loving grandparent.

     Your mother-in-law is behaving like a defiant, naughty toddler. There should be consequences. Invite her to spend time with him supervised until she shows she will respect you – or until your son gets old enough to demonstrate better judgment than his gran has.

This Grandma has been saying over and over again that we grandparents must obey the parents’ rules without question when it comes to safety.  The parents hold the keys to access to our grandchildren and we do not want to lose that access.  Our access is not without rules, and these are rules we may or may not like, but we must obey the rules.

However, in the case above, there is more going on than Amy Dickenson addresses.  There are issues of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.   Sometimes what may be a power and control issue becomes something that is detrimental to everyone—especially the grandchild.  There is a special love and bond between grandparent and grandchild that is beautiful and must be accommodated – of course, safely.

Additionally, communication seems to be an issue so stop the parent should communicating and act—but consequences should be a last resort.  Telling has not worked so why keep telling anything.  The parent always has the control and must take the responsibility here, rather than saying “woe is me.”  Instead of open ended playtimes,(and grandparents do not “babysit” grandchildren anyway), make them planned playtimes.  Sign the grandchild up for a “Mommy and Me” or other parent-child class such as “Music Together,” and let Grandma be the one to take the grandchild once a week.  Sign the grandchild up for gymnastics or karate or dance and let Grandma be the one to take the child.  Find a great child movie and have Grandma take the child to the movies.  Recommend a good place for lunch and what the child likes to eat there or frozen yogurt afterward.  As the parent, plan your activities during this time.  This Grandma is always looking for the win-win and avoiding confrontations and miscommunication.

Include Grandma in an activity or a trip, for example, to the playground where you are directing the play and what is safe and not and be vocal to the child, not the Grandma, but loud enough for the Grandma to hear.  Reflect your own frustration to the Grandma that you may be overprotective, but that is the way you are and the only way you are comfortable as a parent.  You are giving information indirectly that directly is not taken in or as you want.

Finally, “good job” is the new phrase we say go grandchildren when they do a good job.
“Thank you” and “good job” can be said to grandma too.  Everyone likes a compliment and it encourages the behavior you want to see and hopefully diminishes the objectionable behavior.

Yes, we need to keep our grandchildren safe.  This Grandma is more careful and more concerned when I am alone with my grandchildren.  “Not on my watch” do I want to see a grandchild hurt or injured.  I like when the parent is along and I have the joy and no responsibility.  I love when I am able to say to the parent that the grandchild is doing something they should not and the parent should do something about that.  Grandma likes being the good guy and parents should remember that—we are reluctant to discipline so parents should limit those times and places we may have to discipline.

Yes, not all grandparents are equal.  Sometimes we must accept the foibles and inadequacies of family members we did not choose – even those who gave birth to us.  Cut all family members slack.  We cannot pick them and we are stuck with them.  We can bring organization and boundaries to our interaction with them.

I think what Amy Dickinson missed is creativity.  Think outside of the box to make the dispute go away.  If the mother above supervises the grandma always, there goes exercising and the gym and free time for the mother to run errands.   Look for the win-win.

And, if you are a grandma and see yourself even slightly in Amy Dickinson’s column above, shape up or you might find yourself at the receiving end of those consequences as many read and follow her column.  You can find that local class in your local community and recommend it to the parents of your grandchild for you to take the grandchild during your once a week visit.  Or else, you could end up missing grandma






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