A “Soft” Grandmother

Q: Our children are very close with their grandparents. We do not live in the same city as them but they are only an hour away and they see them very regularly. We expect our children to use manners and behave according to the standards we set in our own home when they are staying with grandparents. Grandfather is on board but grandmother can be soft, mainly with the way she allows them to boss her around. I want to trust that they would tell us if our children misbehave or there is a problem.

Our children love and respect their grandparents but we want this to last and for them to have a good relationship with them into adulthood. What is the best way to deal with this and what is the proper way to handle this expectation?

A: Ah, the conundrum of grandparents reminds me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears—either the grandparents are too strict or too soft…it’s hard to find ones that are just right in terms of expectations and child behavior/correction.

Let’s recap why grandparents exist: to spoil grandchildren. That’s their reward for doing the hard work of raising their own kids by correcting, loving and staying consistent (at least most did the right thing with their own children). Now that they have grandkids—grandchildren!!—they are ready to relax and let some things slid.

So let them. Let grandmother allow her grandchildren to be bossy sometimes. Let her enjoy them to her heart’s content. That doesn’t mean you throw up your hands and not expect your children to behave. You do expect good manners, and you practice/role play at home how to act when visiting grandma/grandpa. You also tell the grandparents to let you know if something goes array. Then trust that they will.

One caveat: if you see that one of your kids is taking advantage of grandma and is being mean to her, etc., then you’ll have to step in to deal with that situation. But if it’s just a matter of grandma allowing the kids to dictate what they’ll do or eat or go, then you let her decide how she wants to handle the consequences of her allowing the kids to make those decisions.

I know it seems counter-intuitive to let things be as they are, but I think you’ll find it works best when you allow a little indulgence by the grandparents. After all, one day in the distant future, you’ll have all the privileges and joy of spoiling your own grandchildren!

Helping Himself

Q: My young teenage stepson has been helping himself to my mother’s sodas. He’ll stop by her house (right beside ours) on his way home from school, go into her garage and snatch a soft drink from her extra fridge there. His younger brother goes along with it and drinks a soda himself.

To me, this is stealing. My husband’s not as upset as I am because he says grandmother would have given them the soda anyway. Mo mother thinks as I do that it’s not right. How do I handle it?

Image courtesy of Artzenter/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Artzenter/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: Whether or not your mother would give the boys a can of soda is not at issue here. The fact is, they are taking what isn’t theirs to take. She hasn’t offered the soda to them, nor has she issued a standing invitation for them to stop by and grab a soda on their way home from school.

However, this is an issue that your mother should deal with in her way. After all, it’s her soft drinks they’re drinking. I would tell your mom that you support whatever she wants to do in terms of consequences and going forward.

For the record, if it were my grandsons sneaking into my garage and taking my soda without asking, I would lock the garage and inform them they should not take any more items—food or otherwise—from my house without my permission.

Then I would add up the number of sodas they’ve taken without permission and present them with a “bill” for the drinks. I’d say that if they don’t have the money to pay for the drinks already consumed, then they would be coming over to my house after school to do chores until the debt has been paid in full. I think that will remind them of whose soda it was and to stop them from pilfering the drinks in the future without asking.