54. Grandparents: Don’t Spoil the Grandchildren!

Why do so many grandparents declare they are going to “spoil” their grandchildren? Maybe they don’t mean it, literally. But what do they mean? Why do they say it? What is it that they do that they name it “spoiling?” Are they going to indulge them with expensive gifts? Are they going to ignore their own children’s rules and routines when they are with their grandchildren?

So what do we say to our friends who are hell-bent on “spoiling,” or “indulging” their grandchildren?

Discussions in the public spaces (i.e., print, online, You Tube, etc.) state that many young people today are spoiled, not used to hard work, not willing to work hard, expect to be catered to, not willing to spend the time and effort to learn skills, etc., etc. (Not the first generation to be called “lazy!”)

I’d say that the world is getting tougher and tougher for young people as time goes by. In this country, as in many others, wealth is owned by a few, middle-class dreams of life-long careers/owning a home/“getting ahead” are out of reach. Many young people are so discouraged by their prospects of ever affording college or paying off student loans, obtaining a good-paying and satisfying job, or having “their own place,” they may have an attitude or give up.

What do you wish for your grandchildren as they grow? To be successful, children and young people need to learn how to fit in in response to the demands of the world around them in order to be successful. Their strength and confidence will also be a key to success–even the ability to question authority. They also need to be able to put other’s needs first at times in order to have successful relationships or be part of a team at work.

I don’t think “spoiling” is good in the long run. Love and attention are good, fun activities together are good, enjoying one-on-one time with grandma or grandpa is good, listening with respect and supporting them as they grow are good. But over-indulging is not good. Undermining the parents is not good–their jobs are hard enough.

I would recommend:

  1. Support the parents and their wishes;
  2. Refresh your knowledge on children’s ages and stages, so that you can respond appropriately to behavior (i.e., don’t give a lot of attention to age-appropriate behavior that you don’t like, but know when there may be a behavior problem that needs to be addressed);
  3. Enjoy the children, listen with respect, love and support them;
  4. Accentuate the positive and learn from them;
  5. Provide interesting activities, fun learning activiites, activities that their parents may not have time or resources for;
  6. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and your history. (How many people do they know who experienced life before electricity and running water, who attended a one-room school, who watched while grandma cooked and baked on a wood stove, who had to create our own amusement for hours on end? Our generations will pass on, and the lessons we learned will be lost.(Thanks to my granddaughter, who caught my omissions and corrected my spelling!)

53. Grandparent On The Spot: Politics and Family

AC, CA, writes: “My daughter-in-law is arguing for a candidate for President she is supporting and thinks other family members should agree. This candidate has been freely expressing what I think are hateful statements, and I don’t think this candidate has the attitudes or the skills to be our President. I hate to see family arguments about politics. I don’t want to be silent, but I don’t have the confidence to respond constructively to her opinions.”

Getting along with family members is very important, and who becomes President is also very important! Being able to put forth one’s opinions effectively requires some effort to inform oneself about the candidates and the issues, as well as being clear about one’s values. It also requires the ability to listen, to respect, and to try to understand the reasoning behind others’ opinions. [I watch TV commentary but avoid the stations that do mostly “edutainment,” and find more balanced and in-depth commentary at CNN, BBC, and programs on MSNBC and NPR radio stations. I often watch Morning Joe, where both Republicans and Democrats participate and can disagree without rancor. In spite of the news, many people in both parties, as well as independents, have moderate views about many issues that face the country.] Continue reading

52. Should grandpa loan money to his son-in-law to start a business?

KF, Ohio, writes: “Our son-in-law has been talking about wanting to go into business for a while, wishing to have something to pass on to his children, our grandchildren. He has formulated a plan to open a business in a nearby town, where he thinks it will do well. He has asked my husband and I for a loan to get started, renting space and buying equipment. (He’s asked me not to discuss the business he has planned.) I am concerned that we might loose any funds we loan him, but my husband says he feels we ought to help as much as we can.

Dear KF: I see two big issues here. First, as Susie Orman (Financial Advisor, CNBC) would most doubtedly advise, unless parents have a savings or investment that will carry them through their retirement years, they cannot afford to loan or give money to their children, or anyone else. This includes co-signing loans. I would suggest you and your husband discuss some important issues with your son-in-law, possibly with the help of a competent financial advisor, in order to come to a decision. Continue reading

51. Back to school preparation, clearly stated

1-2-3 Magic Parenting website has “5 tips for helping children get ready for school.” Such good advice re adjusting bedtime gradually, planning homework time that works for the child, advance visit to any new school, school supply shopping with each child separately, and, always, “listen and talk.”

Accessed, with permission, from: https://parentmagic.squarespace.com/newsletter-archive/august-2015-newsletter

[1-2-3 Magic Parenting Newsletter by best-selling author, Dr. Thomas W. Phelan 2015, Simple, straightforward parenting advice and helpful tips from Dr. Phelan’s award-winning parenting resources. To learn more or to subscribe visit www.123magic.com/newsletters.]

[<a href=”http://www.123magic.com/newsletters“>1-2-3 Magic Parenting Newsletter</a></b>  by Dr. Thomas Phelan © 2014<br>Simple, straightforward parenting advice and helpful tips from Dr. Phelan’s award-winning, best-selling <a href=”http://www.123magic.com>1-2-3 Magic Parenting Program.</a>]

See also: Post #14. Is my grandchild ready for kindergarten?

50. Grandchildren and video game excess

MT, CA, writes: Our grandson, age 14, is spending hours each day playing video games. My daughter and her husband both work and don’t seem to know what to do about the time he spends with video games. They wind up spending weekends with chores and getting ready for the next work week, not doing many family-oriented hobbies or activities. His sister is involved with soccer, friends, and more physical activities. We live about an hour away, but our grandson has not accepted our invitations to spend the day or weekend with us. Should we be concerned? What could we do about it?

 If you are able to without causing discomfort in your relationship, I would explore your concerns with his parents. Questions: What kind of video games is he interested in? What other interests does he have, or had? How is he doing in school? Is he developing friendships with others? What kind of physical activity does he get? Many teens go through this “phase,” however, these are important “tasks” of adolescence. If he is missing out on one or more of these experiences and spending too much time alone, some suggestions could be generated for dealing with the situation. 

 Parents are primary in setting limits, so it would be their decision (i.e., recommended: two hours of play, only after the homework is done (“trust and verify”); screening and limiting the content of the games; planning for one parent-one child or family activities that the whole family would enjoy). 

If you proposed coming to their home on a Saturday, for example, would your grandson be willing/enjoy accompanying you to an activity or meal? [I’ve done lots of things with my grandchildren that we all enjoy (parks, movies, lunch, museums, plays, camping) and some things more specifically that they enjoy, such as a trip to the San Francisco Cow Palace to see wrestling (memorable and strange–my grandson kept jumping up and getting his leg caught in the folding seat–didn’t bother him a bit); bad movies (once or twice); a tech museum where they only played on the computers.] In some situations, he coud have the option to bring a friend.

Depression, inability to pay attention (attention deficit disorder), and/or low self esteem are issues that need to be intervened with. First, everyone appreciates being listened to, and if we show real interest in a child’s feelings and thoughts and can curb our advice and listen, we can learn and also develop good relationships across the generations.




49. Ready for a Vacation? What to do when your partner doesn’t want to leave home?

LG, Maine: My husband and I haven’t taken a vacation for many years. Now that we are both retired, we could take a vacation. I think we are stuck in a rut with our daily routines and somewhat sedentary habits. Our son and family live nearby, and we visit back and forth when their schedules permit. But, now that summer is coming, I wish for a break and am ready for an adventure, just us, or with our grandchildren, who are now school age. My husband says he doesn’t want to venture out away from our home. He is concerned, I think, about spending money or finding himself in an uncomfortable or strange situation.

 Many of us experience “Spring Fever,” and that can be a good thing–a time for renewal, getting outdoors, getting exercise and brain stimulation, connecting with others, enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables, even Spring Cleaning! 

 I would take some actions, but go slow out of respect for his feelings:

  • Make a plan for some things you can do yourself to get beyond that feeling of being stuck in your daily routines, short of embarking on an actual vacation away! A walk around the block each a.m.? Free Yoga classes in the park? A new exhibit at the Museum? Lunch with friends? Planning a nearby day outing with family? Picnic in the back yard? Began with an activity you will enjoy, and inviting your husband to join you if he so chooses. 
  • See if your husband will explore his reasons for not wanting to take a vacation. Talking about one’s reservations is sometimes freeing. There are so many choices these days for “getting away,” he may find a vacation acceptable if it is low-cost, or if it is within driving distance, or if it is for a short time (i.e., a 3-day getaway), or if there is a place to stay that is comfortable, has a kitchen, or has a flat-screen TV, or where there is entertainment, etc. He may like the beach or prefer the mountains, the city or the country. Would he consider visiting a favorite destination he’s been to before–or taking the grandchildren there?
  • When and if the time comes to plan a vacation, choose a destination, plan for activities that includes both of your interests, and if going with family, everyone’s interests. Planning ahead is the secret to a good experience.
  • No luck moving your husband? Would you consider a weekend trip–just you, with old friends or family? That would include a conversation with your husband. (A note: I loved downhill skiing, which began as a teen. As a mother of preschoolers, I didn’t ski, not wanting to chance being laid up with a ski injury. But as they were older, I wished to get back to skiing. My husband (now ex–for other reasons) refused to be any part of snow and ice. At some point, I made a plan to go skiing with my aunt–and lo and behold, he requested to come along!)

I would like to give a shout out to two amazing sources for ideas for vacations and travel. http://grandparents.about.com has several extensive lists of ideas for activities with grandchildren, both at home and away. (click on the “Susan Adcox” box as the link.)

http://www.aarp.org/magazine/, especially the last issue of their magazine Feb/Mar, 2015, has excellent ideas, including Samantha Brown’s “No-Sweat Family Travel” and “The Unexpected Joys of Family Travel.” The AARP April/May issue gives details of a successful cruise vacation.





48. Grandparents: A New Year for New Experiences, New Opportunities

995980_10151777423740827_1989866397_n This lovely sentiment was found on my Facebook page today, January 1, 2015. Having a caring family is so essential, but I have heard from many older adults that they don’t have many family members, or that family they do have can’t always be there for them. Those of us who grew up with traditional notions of “Family =  Mother, Father, Children, Dog, Cat, Picket Fence–and then living happily ever after (and, by the way, growing old gracefully)” know that those ideas are no longer a reality for most of us, nor would we want it to be the only way to live happily on this earth. 

I suggest that broadening our experiences and our expectations of our relationships can help create the supportive “family” humans need to thrive. 

  • Examples: An obvious example is the communities that are created by institutions of worship, organizations of people with common hobbies or interests, neighborhood groups, etc.
  • I have also seen individuals reach out to friends, nurturing their relationships in real-life ways, sharing tasks, meals, travel, and helping each other in ways that their biological families can’t or won’t do.
  • For those of us living in our homes but having difficulties paying the bills, sharing space with others can be life-affirming as well. This step takes a bit of planning and a willingness to make some changes, as well as a need to be willing to discuss one’s own needs, limits, and communicate on an on-going basis with those one is living with.
  • One of the best experiences I have ever had was my time as a parent in a “parent-child cooperative nursery school.” By participating with other parents and children on a regular basis, we shared responsibilities for each other’s children at school, discussed child development principles and how they inform our children’s behaviors–and ours, and made decisions together on curriculum, space, procedures. Sharing laughs and tough times, we grew to be a real family, stepping in for others  and being helped by others when needed–the best of “family.”
  • In the New Year, dare to reach out to others. Dare to try new things. And have a Happy, Healthy, New Year!


47. Let’s Talk Politics, Grandma! Grandpa!

10721355_626979274081260_844671544_nAs the November election draws near, I am reminded of the caution: “Don’t talk about politics…” unless you  want to cause trouble. But I would suggest, as did Ralph Nader, speaking at the Commonwealth Club*, July 3rd of this year, that politics is the way we govern ourselves, and we need to talk about politics if we are going to improve the way we govern ourselves. I think, as do many others of all persuasions, that we have lost the power to govern ourselves, and that power has been left in the hands of the few. But, if we are going to talk about politics to others who may not totally agree with us, there are several things that are important in order to keep the discussion positive:

  • We need to see where we agree and build on that. Then we can join together to raise awareness, take action, vote. (One organized movement, “No Labels”** can be found on the internet.) There may not be a meeting of the minds in any given discussion. But, because there are many sides to any one issue, listening to each other is often the best way to come to a better consensus or compromise.
  • People want to see changes but they don’t know how to get it done (Nader, 7/14). For example, the gap has grown hugely between the rich and others–leading to many questioning the American Dream. Citizens are sometimes ahead of our governing bodies in how they approach topics. Public sentiment is necessary, and then it is necessary to educate those who govern. Who will do that? How about grandma? grandpa? And what an example and legacy for our children and grandchildren. The Roosevelts (PBS Special by Ken Burns, September, 2014***) are a good example of integrity in public service. They were struggling against similar things that we as citizens are today. Quoting Doris Kearns Goodwin: “We were worried about the same thing at the turn of the century as we are now. I don’t think the answer is necessarily to go against the rich. America’s promise used to be, if you worked hard, you could move up the ladder. That’s less true today than it was before That’s what people should be fighting about” (AARP Conversation with Doris Kearns Goodwin, June 2014). 
  • We need to educate ourselves. I happen to love knowing what is happening beyond the 1- or 2-minute “news” flashes that TV news presents, to keep us entertained. One source (which the “right” may think is too left, and the “left” may thing is too “right”) that I respect is NPR radio, where topics are discussed more thoroughly, where discussions are among people who are informed but may disagree with each other, bringing out ideas they think are important. I’ve heard information that sheds light on what is happening beyond the headlines. 
  • Too many people take the easy way out–something is all bad or all good. It takes effort to get beyond this approach and find out what the issues are (Just last week, someone said to me, “We have to get rid of Obama. He’s the cause of all our problems.” I asked him how getting rid of Obama would change things. He said, “He’s raised the national debt.” I had just seen detailed charts of the national debt from the George W. Bush years, and it is lower now–so I said so. He said, yes, he gave up on the Republicans, too. It was an odd encounter, but no one came away bruised. Maybe it was a waste of time–maybe not.)
  • Don’t be shy to urge people to get involved and vote. This is all of our country, and everyone should have a voice.

Graphic: http://www.technologyrocksseriously.com/2012/01/before-you-speak-think-again.html?m=1#.VDJsjyldW7P









46. Grandparent advice on choosing a kindergarten

VS, Oregon, writes: My son and daughter-in-law will be sending their oldest son to kindergarten in September. They are considering two different schools, one is the local public school kindergarten and the other is a private school, also near their home. Neither one of them are sure which one is the best choice. The tuition for private school would be somewhat difficult, but they are willing to pay it if it would be a better choice. They’ve asked me for my opinion, as I will be picking him up and caring for him after school until one of his parents come to get him, but I’m not sure what to say.

 Dear VS, I personally sent my children to public school, and I liked the experience they each had, especially in socializing in a multicultural setting. But they also did not learn passion for learning.

I would urge the parents to visit for a period of time at each school if that is possible. (If the school doesn’t want parents there, that school would be off my list!) 

Does your grandson seem ready for kindergarten?, and if so, what type of experience? There are schools where time for learning through play is provided for, with some structure; others stress letters, numbers, and more structure–less socializing. Some questions to ask: How is your grandson doing, physically, emotionally, socially, in relationship to his peers? Can he ask new adults for help? Will he need a little more help with certain activities than his peers? Can he be a leader or follower in the group, depending on the situation? And, does the school have a policy for encouraging parents to participate in some ways? And does the school have a plan for how to ease the parent-child separation process?

This is an opportunity for the parents to clarify what’s most important to them. Most parents want their children to grow up to be productive and happy members of society, to be able to be part of the group but also independent when appropriate, but there are as many ways to achieve that as there are individuals. 

— Sometimes it comes down to the necessity of having a safe place for their child, with the hours compatible with their work schedules. Other times, parents have more flexibility. They can look at their child’s development and decide on the basis of what would be most beneficial for him at the time. 

 There are several developmental principles that apply to early childhood, including 5-yr-olds: 

  1. Separation between parent and child is a process, and when handled well, the child can grow in self confidence over time. The school should be able to help ease that process. There are ways to ease the separation if it is a difficult one (i.e., including the parent in activities, allowing the parent to stay for a day or a few days until the child gets acquainted with other children and adults, and reassuring the parent that the child will be ok when the parent leaves–even though he may cry at first.) 

— Incident: Our 5-yr-old granddaughter fussed when we (her grandparents) were taking her for the weekend by car to our city apartment. As we approached the city, we heard “Free at last!” from the back seat!!! Memorable!

2. Brain development is not complete, including the membrane between the right and left brain areas. This suggests that the child still needs to be moving about, exploring, learning naturally those skills that will later help him in his more formal learning, such as hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and also enjoying the experience. (Note, a child can perform some tasks better on some days that he can on others, so “performance” or “testing” may be stressful.)

— People, generally, continue to do what they do well and enjoy, and they shy away from what they find difficult. Exploration, enjoyment, build self confidence, allow for trial and error–and which carry people through many difficult times.

3. A kindergarten needs to be adequately staffed, so that when a child is having difficulty getting along with others or having a bad day, an adult can be nearby to assist him or her. Most often, children enjoy being part of a group, and the group experience helps them learn to abide by a group’s rules. But a child may need help in finding the right words to express frustration, anger, or to successfully approach other children, or to calm down after being excited–and an adult nearby can be a calming influence.

4. Threat narrows perception: A concept I learned in college, and one that I have found to be true in situations where a child or adult feels threatened or afraid. Limits/firmness with kindness help children want to conform to the classroom expectations. (On a visit with my granddaughter for lunch one day after preschool, she proceeded to show me her dolls, then yelled orders at them, using words that only an inexperienced or stressed teacher could have done. My daughter took another look at the school.) 

 5. Of the most popular characterizations of parental style, “authoritative” wins out over “authoritarian,” “permissive,” and “uninvolved.” “Authoritative parenting” are “warm, involved parents who are secure in the standards they hold for their children…provide models of caring concern as well as confident, self-controlled behavior. They exert control in ways that appear fair and reasonable to the child…and make demands that fit children’s ability to take responsibility for their own behavior…” (Berk, L.E., “Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 2005, Pearson Education, Inc.) THIS APPLIES ALSO TO TEACHING STYLES!

A thought-provoking post on kindergarten, from an experienced father: “An Open Letter to My Son’s Kindergarten Teacher (Philip Kovaks, Huffington Post,  07/25/2014 4:07 pm EDT Updated: 07/25/2014 4:59 pm EDT). While this article may be somewhat “tongue-in-cheek,” the author describes real concerns about how his child will thrive in an over-structured and not-so-creative typical kindergarten.

45. Grandparents of Gay Son: Family and “Coming Out” Issues

 LB, New York: “My son and his partner, Jim, have two beautiful children, now ages 3 and 5. We want to include Jim’s growing family more in our lives, but I’m afraid of our friends’ reactions to two gay men raising children. And I don’t know how to deal with questions that may come up about the “parentage” of the children. We are proud to be their grandparents, but can’t really say how or whether we are biologically their grandparents. My son and his partner prefer not to explain the specifics of the children’s conception.”

Thank you for your message desiring to include your son’s family into your lives. Being involved grandparents can bring so much joy and richness. I wish you well in this chapter of your lives. I would say:

 1. Supporting one’s children in raising their own children is so important. As gay or lesbian parents discover, they find they are “coming out” increasingly with each new day Continue reading

44. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

T.M., NY, writes: “My grandson, age 8, is disrespectful to his mother, my daughter. I don’t understand it, as she is patient with him. She tries to follow the Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He often announces that he doesn’t want to do what she has asked him to do, and he is rude Continue reading

43. A Grandmother’s Three Wishes: Education, Jobs, Savings

As Mother’s Day approaches, I celebrate the mothers among my family and my friends. I especially celebrate my daughters (by birth and by good fortune) who have been truly loving and supportive mothers to their children. I wish them well in their many roles and endeavors. It is with a sense of foreboding, however, that I think of my grandchildren’s generation: Scarce Continue reading

42. Memories: Making Sense of All These Years of Living and Passing On a Legacy to My Grandchildren

10003113_10152340093435460_650990473_nLately I’ve been thinking about the flood of memories that come at unexpected moments when you get to be an “older,” “elder,” or “senior.” Maybe it was the first anniversary of my father’s death at 102 this March, or maybe a function of all the years and experiences “under the belt” (along with all those desserts)!

The many chapters of my life don’t appear to have much to do with each other, each stage so different in setting, in experience. But in reality, each stage Continue reading