Today resident grandparent of Baby Hints and Tips, Deirdree Wallwork shares her personal experiences, decisions and concerns as a grandparent caring for her grandchildren. You’ll find her tips for making the grandchild, parents and grandparent dynamic a winning one at the bottom of this article…
Tonight as I was washing up, I heard a little voice, “Omi, I’m still hungry. Can I have some cake, please?” This was my younger granddaughter aged nearly 3. Her Grandad and I mind her 3 days a week and the “three gorgeouses”, as I affectionately call them, stay with us on Sunday nights.
Hmmm. “Cake” I pondered. Her older brother had been to a birthday party the day before and she knew her Mum had sent us a couple of pieces. There they were, sitting on the bench. She had eaten up all her dinner earlier, so I cut a small slice for her.
Are your alarm bells ringing? Or are you with me? This is the problem grandparents face! Are we too permissive? Are we too authoritarian? Where is the middle?
As my husband and I have minded all 3 since they were about 12 months old, we can’t afford to let them get away with too much. Often we are stricter than their own parents. I can see that if you, the grandparent, saw them only occasionally, then you could be more lenient.
So what do I do when faced with a problem like the above? I go with my instinct and do what I would have done as a parent. Sometimes the desire to be loved by our grandchildren clouds our good sense, that is the good sense we had when we were bringing up those lovely people who are now the parents of our grandchildren. And I try above all not to get into a competition with whom I call my co grandparents. Hard sometimes, I must admit.
Depending on what role you have reading this, you will either approve or disapprove of my decision. (Feel free to leave a comment below and tell me which!) Our daughter is happy for us to make our own decisions. Notice I said ‘daughter’ not ‘daughter-in-law’. It’s definitely easier if it is your daughter as she is well aware of your parenting skills. (Daughter-in-laws are equally amazing but there is more work, trust and communication required in this relationships!)
I am not a perfect grandmother just as I was not a perfect mother but I try hard to do the right thing.
Being a grandparent can truly feel like a minefield especially for those that care for grandchildren on a routine basis. Grandchildren are a blessing but conflicting approaches based on differing roles and expectations can be challenging and problematic. Here’s my top five tips for creating a harmonious working relationship between grandparents and parents:
Deirdree’s 5 practical tips for positive parent – grandparent relationships:
- Communication is key – talking through issues or concerns and clear set expectations will make for smoother relationships
- Parents: remember that your free babysitting is just that! Free! Flexibility is key, if you want it done in a rigidly defined routine for the sake of your relationship perhaps you are better paying for care to ensure an ’employee’ meets your expectations
- Grandparents: remember it’s lovely to indulge but Mum and Dad have to manage the consequence of extreme impacts to routine, over indulged children etc – middle ground is everything!
- Everyone remember: family is everything, count your blessings that you have one another and don’t sweat the small stuff
- Set ground rules – for things that are crucial to your relationship working (both Mums and grandparents) if its going to be a potential deal breaker set the rules early and before they become problems.
- And a 6th tip for divorced or separated families: Don’t cut out your children’s grandparents just because you are angry with your spouse. Children go through a hard time when their parents split and they need to know some things won’t change, grandparents are a great constant and have plenty of love to shower on your little ones when they may most need it!
Deirdree Wallwork is a retired teacher living in Sydney, NSW. Her passion for education remains strong as do her opinions and her love for a spirited debate. A self confessed stirrer and advocate for the underdog, when Deirdree is not minding any or all of her four grandchildren, and even then, you will find her on her soapbox politely expounding her theories on life.