I felt like a won a marathon last night when my grandson raised his sweet little face to kiss me goodnight. Who would have thought I'd lean the secret of being a better grandparent from playing crazy games? #grandparenting #grandchildren

I’ll admit, having a grandson for 2.5 years probably doesn’t make me an expert in grandparenting. But I have learned a thing or two along the way.

Being a better grandparent begins with being a better parent. When your children grow up enough to get married or get pregnant (no matter what the order), it’s time for you to release them. They turn into friends and you get to forget that you ever changed their dirty diapers and used to know a whole lot more about stuff.

When your kids grow up, it's time to release them! #parenting #grandparenting Click To Tweet

Your offspring (they’re adults now, so it’s time to quit referring to them as your babies) will appreciate you more if you stop trying to give them advice. Unless they ask for it, of course. They will relish relationship with you if you learn to respect their decisions. Even if the decisions they make aren’t the ones that you would make.

Once you release your offspring and see them as adult friends, you’ll discover that your relationship with them will strengthen and deepen. Keep loving them, don’t enable them, and enjoy the new phase of your relationship. When they have their own children, don’t let the new relationship fly out the window.

Armchair Quarterbacking

There’s nothing like cancer or pregnancy to bring out armchair quarterbacking from complete strangers—and parents. People with cancer (or a protruding pregnant belly) don’t want to hear your horror stories, victories, or what happened to your next-door neighbor’s Uncle Fred’s sister-in-law.

They want to know that they will survive the experience. Even more important, they want to know that you will come alongside them and allow them to guide the conversation and the questions. Who knows, maybe they will want to hear your horror stories.

Your offspring probably won’t want a playbook of how you raised them. Remember, they experienced it already. Most likely, they already have ideas about what they think you did wrong (gasp), and what they’d like to change. Respect that. Ask questions, but don’t judge. Maintain a sense of curiosity in order to engender conversations and relationship.

It’s Their Baby and Their House Rules

Once your precious grandchild makes his or her entrance, it’s time to pull out the handcuffs and duct tape. Figuratively speaking, of course. Don’t offer your opinion on how the new parents should feed the baby, put the little one on a sleep schedule, dress the baby, or pretty much anything. Ask before picking the baby up.

I felt like a won a marathon last night when my grandson raised his sweet little face to kiss me goodnight. Who would have thought I'd lean the secret of being a better grandparent from playing crazy games? #grandparenting #grandchildren

Instead, ask them what they would like you to do and how they would like you to do it. If they want to use disposable diapers, this isn’t the time to lecture them on saving the planet. When they pull out the diaper covers and cloth inserts, this isn’t the time to lecture them on saving the planet.

Ask about sleep schedules, feeding schedules, how they want you to hold the baby, dress the baby, talk to the baby, and interact with the baby. Remember, it’s not YOUR baby. Your offspring will greatly appreciate your willingness to take the back seat and play by their playbook.

Spoil Them with Play

As your grandchild grows older, you have one ongoing responsibility that will make you a better grandparent. It works every time. Just play with your grandchild. Yep. That’s it. Our grandson has never lived closer than 800 miles from us. We don’t get to see him in person very often, although we do FaceTime weekly.

When we do spend time with him, it takes him awhile to warm up to us. I’ve discovered that getting down on his level and playing games that tickle his fancy shortens the warm-up time considerably. Two summers ago, we chased each other around on hands and knees. Last Christmas, play involved him stuffing food in my mouth (at 18 months old, this provided the best entertainment).

Last summer, we played endless hours of Suitcase (pushing spinner suitcases around, hiding behind them, and popping out to scare each other). This Christmas, since the suitcases don’t roll very well on our carpet, we invented Knockover. My backside and knees feel a little tender from getting ‘knocked over’ by my yoga ball a gazillion times while screaming dramatically. But Abel’s cackles and belly laughs make every bruise worth it.

Pedro plays Knockover, too. In addition, he’s blown a billion bubbles and plays chase. If you want to be a better grandparent, you have to forget your dignity and get down on your grandchild’s level and engage in play.

The Payoff

Last night, when we told Abel goodnight, we received the ultimate payoff. Instead of tilting his head towards us for a goodnight kiss on the top of his head (his default method of accepting kisses from friends and family), he ran towards us with his little face lifted. Our daughter quickly instructed us in how to respond. “He wants to kiss your face!”

And sure enough. He did. Evidently, that’s a big deal in Abel’s world. He’s more of a head kisser than a face kisser. Up to this point, only his parents have received a face kiss. I felt like I’d won a marathon.

The trick now for me is to remember my own advice. As Abel gets older, his idea of play will change. His parents’ parenting rules might change. But if I want to continue my relationship (with both Abel and his parents), I have to let them lead. I have to enter in to their world and respect their boundaries.

That’s what makes a person a better grandparent. Not how much stuff you buy your grandkids, or whether or not your offspring chooses to parent just like you did. Good grandparents build relationships that foster mutual respect.

Good grandparents build relationships that foster mutual respect. #grandparenting #grandparent Click To Tweet

If you’re a grandparent, what wisdom have you gained from the experience? If you’re a parent, what do you wish your parents would do/not do?

This post is part of the Five-Minute Friday quick write hosted by Kate Moutang. Join us each Thursday night on Twitter (#FMFParty) for fun and fellowship, then grab a pen and start writing when the prompt goes live!

32 Comments

  1. Sounds like sage advice. I still have my children under our roof but hoping they will find their wings to fly when they’re old enough to do so. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Blessings to you and yours!

  2. Ooh how I love this! And I hope it is still up on the blog in many years when/if I become a grandparent, because I will need that advice on not giving advice unless asked for it!

    1. Having adult kids is amazing! And having grandchildren is so. much. fun. I’d move in if I could swing it ;). Although my daughter and son-in-law might get tired of me!

  3. Solid advice, Anita! I have some friends who have parents/inlaws whose relationships could be helped by reading (and implementing) this. I’ll try to pass it along, without trying to seem like I’m trying to give certain people very borad hints! 😉 Thanks, Anita!

  4. I’ll bet that kiss was like receiving a medal as part of a marathon. Sounds like you are learning along the way. Love all the photos you shared here too.

  5. My grandsons are three and one and my biggest challenge is watching them be disciplined by their parents! Oh, the sage parent that resides in me still knows it’s important to growing healthy, well adjusted children but it’s so hard on my MiMi heart! I respect my daughter and son-in-law for the hard work they are doing and I tell them often! That’s what I’ve learned…..instead of advice I offer encouragement and support for their efforts at the not always easy job of parenting!

    1. I get you! It’s so easy to want to spoil the grandkids by being permissive–but that doesn’t do anyone any good. You’re spot about the encouragement–that’s what they need to hear!

  6. Well said. I’ve got young adults, but haven’t reached the grandparent stage. I am still trying to master being a friend. There are not enough books and blogs on how to talk to adult children. It is so easy to mess up. We’ve been trained for so many years to parent children. There are books by experts on every phase of parenting minors, but very little on the relationship with an adult child. If you know of a good one, let us all know.

    1. I’ll do that! The best one I’ve read so far is Adolescence isn’t Terminal by Dr. Kevin Lehman–but it addresses dealing with younger adolescents more than adult children (I believe the same principles apply, though, for many situations).

  7. Eagerly awaiting a day when we might have grandchildren, and until then, I’m absorbing all the wisdom that really works well with our grown-up kids too! Listen, pray, play, pray.Thanks for sharing! I love the Suitcase game.

    1. I like it! Listen, pray, play, pray! Great advice. I’m kind of a know-it-all, so learning to listen is one of my big goals (listen with my mouth closed and my mind open).

  8. Sounds like good advice, though I’ll never be a grandparent. (Barb might; the chap I suspect she’ll marry after I’m dead – and I am delighted by this – has kids and grandkids, so there’s hope…but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

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  9. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t been a grandparent for very long – you’re invested in that child’s life and that matters so much. You’re respecting and supporting your adult children – that matters so much. I have a lot of respect for you, dear Anita. Thank you for being who you are!
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    1. 😉 Isn’t it funny how house rules are a big thing when our kids are growing up and then suddenly they’ve fledged and have house rules of their own? It’s like, how did my BABY turn into an adult with a mind of her own?!

  10. You know… I was a Mimi for a hot minute when I wrote an entire series on becoming a grandparent! LOL! This post is full of great tips! Not always easy… but always wise!

  11. Enjoyed reading your advice, Anita! You’ve been a grandparent longer than I have, so I’m listening. 🙂 In my almost one year experience, I’ve learned how hard it is to keep my mouth closed from giving advice until asked. But that’s been a high priority goal to keeping a good relationship my daughter. And play, play, play is my goal with my granddaughter, too! And spend as much time with her as I can. I want her to know who I am and we can keep building from there. We haven’t Face-timed as much lately because I always wait on my daughter to initiate it. Maybe in the future we can get a set time set up.

  12. I loved this thought: “if I want to continue my relationship (with both Abel and his parents), I have to let them lead. I have to enter in to their world and respect their boundaries.” Isn’t that the most precious way to be in relationships, to be allowed to enter into another’s world? Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our children are individuals with their own lives and world. It is truly an honor to be invited in. Thank you for stirring that thankfulness in me today as I read your thoughts here! Blessings to you!

  13. I grew up being very close to my grandparents. As a parent, I was open to suggestions from my parents, but I agree with you….grandparents should follow the parents rules. I bet that made your day when your grandson kissed you on your face!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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