Three generations of women - newborn baby, mom and grandma in hospital room

10 Commandments for Grandparents

The 10 Commandments for Grandparents

Three generations of women - newborn baby, mom and grandma in hospital room

The news that I was going to be a grandma was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. I just couldn’t wait! My husband and were still young enough to really enjoy our new roles as grandparents. This was going to be the highlight of my life!

Grandmother holding grandchild, Nana holding granddaughter, grandparents
Don’t judge! It was the middle of the night. Not my most put together photo.

As I was having these total “delusions” of grandeur, I thought this was my chance to make right all the wrongs I had committed on my own children. Certainly, I could raise this next generation with much more wisdom and finesse than I could possibly have done 20 years ago.

Imagine my shock when the reality set in that this was NOT a do-over for ME!! As a matter of fact, this had nothing to do with me getting a second chance at all.

As grandparents, we play an important support role in the lives of our adult children and grandchildren. However, we need to accept and respect that we are just that – the support cast – not the leading lady. Sheesh! What a diva I was! I guess we all have to come to grips with the fact that the spotlight has passed and it’s now time to help our children be successful parents – albeit, in a quiet, caring way.

Grandparents Commandment #1 – Thou Shalt Accept the Fact That This is Their Life and Family

Isn’t this what you have been waiting for? Your children are all grown up and ready to start a family of their own. It’s your chance to be proud of the way you raised them. Slow down, girlfriend! Remember that this is their chance to be parents and do things their way. Think back to when you were a kid. Weren’t there things that your parents did that you said you would never do?? Yeah, me too!

However, let me share a secret with you. If you wait it out – 9 times out of 10 – they will do exactly what they said they wouldn’t anyway. I remember telling my mom, “I will NEVER yell at my kids.” Oh my! Every once in a while, I would lose it and let my kids hear me loud and clear. . .I just had to remember to shut the windows, so the neighbors wouldn’t hear me too! <sheepish grin>

Grandparents Commandment #2 – Thou Shalt Accept Thy Supportive Role as Grandparents

Similar to the first commandment, you have to not only accept that this is your children’s life but accept your new role in that life. There are a few levels within this role as well. Let me explain.

If you are a grandparent on the maternal side of things, then you may have a more prominent position. Mothers tend to gravitate more towards their own parents first and since they’re usually the primary caregivers, you’re going to be much more in the know about your grandkids. (I do recognize that this role of primary caregiver is changing these days, but for now, I believe that this still holds pretty true.) However, if you are a paternal grandparent, you may end up feeling a bit left out now and again.

Don’t be disheartened if you feel a bit left out at first. Everyone is adjusting. The worst thing you can do is assume or insist that you have primary position on the grandparent ladder. If you overstep your bounds, you just may end up as the “other” grandparents. (Did you see the movie, Parental Guidance??) Don’t compete! Stop worrying about everyone else. Just do you! Don’t try to fit into anyone else’s mold and as the grandchildren grow, so will their love and respect for you and how you fit into their life.

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Grandparents Commandment #3 – Parents Shalt Make the Rules – Not the Grandparents

Your child is now in a relationship with someone who grew up with a whole different set of rules than your child did. Now, they have to work out the bugs of bringing two lives together under one roof. This will probably involve some compromise between them and they don’t need you trying to tell them how to do that.

In addition, their children are going to have different little personalities from your children. We all know these Littles don’t come with an instruction book, and they are each tiny little individuals of their own. They may need a different kind of discipline or reasoning or motivation than your children needed. Let the parents work through it and figure it out. Sit back and enjoy the fact that you don’t have to.

I’m going to build on Margaret Mead’s saying just a bit: “Grandparents are given a second chance to experience parenthood from a different view and actually enjoy it, because it has fewer of its tribulations and anxieties.”          ~ NanaJill

So, just sit back and enjoy the show. As I recall, it was Bill Cosby who told us that our mothers put a curse on us that our children would act exactly as we did. Well. . .I’m here to tell you that it works!! Just ask my in-laws. Every time one of my boys would do something. . .well, let’s just say. . .less than smart, I would ask what I ever did to deserve this. My in-laws would just smile, point to my husband, and say, “You married him!” (Then they would snicker as if to say, “That worked just as we planned.”)

So, I threw the curse on my kids, and it is working beautifully! There is no sweeter justice.

**I am going to throw in one caveat. That is that you still have the right to make the rules in your own home (see Grandparents Commandment #7). Just open the dialogue and let your kids know that the rules they grew up with still apply to this next generation. If they have issues with it, then talk it over with them. However, they need to understand that you do have rights to your own territory.**

Grandfather holding new grandchild, grandparents

Grandparents Commandment #4 – Thou Shalt Keep Thy Mouth Shut!

Bite your tongue, zip your lip, close your trap – whatever you call it – just DON’T say it! You know what I am talking about. Criticism, judgment, or anything that looks like either of those needs to stay firmly inside your head and never slip out onto your tongue. I dearly love and respect all my children and in-law children, but I can tell you that I have one sore tongue, because it seems I have an opinion about everything!

Honestly, it just isn’t worth stirring up bad feelings or resentment. If you absolutely MUST say something (and it had better be a life or death situation for you to go there), please “reverse your buts.”  I know, sounds weird. This is a technique I learned from someone about how to say something that isn’t pleasant. Just remember that everything you say after “but” is what sticks around in people’s hearts and minds.

Here’s an example: I don’t want you to move so far away, but I’m very proud of your ambition to provide a better life for your family.”

See? Not so bad. . .but now, reverse that statement. See how negative it sounds? See how that can be seen as you trying to control their life? The first one allows you to voice your feelings but still show love and support to your children. It also shows your acceptance of their decision. This gives your children the opportunity to validate your sad feelings because they want/need to move far away. At the same time, they won’t feel like you are trying to judge or control their life.

So, keep quiet unless you feel confident about how to say it or that it won’t set off WWIII in the family!

This leads into the next commandment. . .

Grandparents Commandment #5 – Thou Shalt Accept the Changes Thou Hast No Control Over

Your children have the right to change their plans, their lifestyle, their parenting rules, or any other aspect of their lives. As the old Serenity Prayer states: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and WISDOM to know the difference.” Amen! Don’t take their changes as a personal attack on you. Most likely, it has nothing to do with you.

My son and his family lived with us one summer while they were trying to figure out the whole career thing. One day, my son announced that he wanted to pursue a career that would inevitable take them out of state. My heart broke as I realized that he was taking three (at the time, now four) of my sweet grandchildren far away from me. However, his decision to better financially support his family had nothing to do with me or taking the grandchildren away from me. Sheesh! I just had to take a deep breath, and figure out how to be the most fabulous long-distance grandparent ever!

So, if your children change their plans to not go out to dinner with you at the last minute, or cancel a vacation that had been planned with you, or decide to live in another state, . . . just accept it. Remember. . .it’s their life. Seeing a pattern here?

Grandparents Commandment #6 – Thou Shalt Let Thy Children Set the Grandparents Boundaries

Everyone needs boundaries to keep healthy relationships. My daddy used to tell me that “good fences make good neighbors.” (I think Robert Frost said it first, but. . .you know. . .Dad wisdom) For instance, you may not be welcomed to just drop in when they need some space and time to bond as a family.

I speak from experience here. My father-in-law barged in just minutes after we brought our first baby home from the hospital. Ugh!)

Or maybe they have asked that you keep gifts under a certain dollar amount. Don’t be offended – they still love you! They just have needs too.

Remember that even when the grandchildren are with you, there still may be boundaries that you should observe. Things like: the amount of screen time their children can have, their sugar intake, or bedtimes. You should adhere to these requests.  However. . .there may be room for just a bit of spoiling. After all, we ARE grandparents, and spoiling is what we do best! Right?

Grandpa and grandkids standing at a fence, grandparents

Grandparents Commandment #7 – Thou Shalt Also Set Boundaries of Thine Own

Lest you think that I have forgotten, grandparents need to have boundaries too.  These commandments wouldn’t be complete without some of our rules also. You still have your own life to think about. Remember to care for your own self and well-being. Let’s face it, we’re not as young as we used to be!

Set boundaries for babysitting and regular childcare without pay, going places with them, supporting activities, and other expectations. Some of us still have jobs, friends, other children, a house, and a spouse that also need our attention. Balance is the name of the game. Remember the most important factor of all: What you do for one (especially the first) will be expected for all the rest. Be careful of the precedent you set.

I made this mistake a couple of times in my zeal to be the perfect grandparent. What did I learn? If the thing is too big, you may not want or be able to repeat it for all the grandkids. This can cause heartache for the grandkids and you too.

Grandparents Commandment #8 – Thou Shalt Keep Up with the Times & Stay Open to New Ideas

Things are rapidly changing in the landscape of raising kids. Everything from parenting skills to technology for families are moving at the speed of a 2-year-old with ADHD (I had one of those!).

Stay as current as you can. Be up to speed on things like car seat requirements, seat belt rules for kids, good and bad technology, what current TV shows are about, and other relevant things that apply to the ages of your grandkids. This is easier said than done! So stay on your toes!

Because things are changing so rapidly, you also need to be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. If the current “rules” say to lay a baby on their back to sleep, (but long ago you put all of your babies on their stomach to sleep), just go with the new way of doing this. Most likely, your child will be very uncomfortable with your old ideas. Especially if the current info says “this” is safer than how we used to do it. Ask questions and don’t argue. That’s the best advice I can give on this one.

And speaking of advice. . .

Grandparents Commandment #9 – Thou Shalt Not Give Unsolicited Advice

Please don’t give unsolicited advice to your children. Again, they are testing out the waters just like you did. And like you, they need to make the mistakes and learn from those experiences. However, if they do ask for your advice, tread lightly with love and most of all – don’t criticize! And please. . .don’t bring up parenthood trauma you experienced! That’s just NOT helpful.

Be a good listener and help lead them to discover their own solutions if possible. It’s the best way to guide someone to a good outcome without looking like a know-it-all. To be honest,  just give encouragement and reassurance that things will work out if they just keep working at it.

 

Grandparents Commandment #10 – Thou Shalt Teach and Inspire

You are in a position as grandparents to affect generations. There is more wisdom in your life experiences to draw on than any of the generations currently living. Just think. . .you are the keeper of all wisdom for your family. Don’t forget that you are still a parent and your children need you as much as your grandchildren need you. Teach and nurture your children as you did when they were young.

Be encouraging – especially when things are going badly, and celebrate the small victories. Tell them when you notice the things they are doing well  – both your children and your grandchildren.

Be the Best Grandparent Ever!

So what’s the point of keeping these 10 Commandments for Grandparents? It’s to help you realize that even though your day in the sun has passed, you now get to sit back and bask in the glow of a lovely sunset. Be the best you can be at supporting your children and grandchildren.

Don’t be meddlesome or bossy.

Do be encouraging and loving.

In other words, just help your children be the best parents they can be without “photo bombing” their life. Remember that it’s not about you; but it can be a wonderful reflection on how well you are doing your job now.

So, which of these commandments are you guilty of breaking??

Go ahead. . . Tell us in the comments below. Don’t worry. . .I won’t make you go to confession! 😉

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Nana Jill Signature with yellow flower

 

 

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43 thoughts on “10 Commandments for Grandparents”

  1. Such a great article! My first grand baby is about 18 months now and I do daycare for her 1 1/2 days per week. It’s hard to be invested as a caregiver and still back off when momma asserts herself. I’m a maternal grandma and my daughter and I are close. It’s so hard to see my daughter stressed and not help or have an opinion. I’ve focused much of my research and training on being a great caregiver that can be trusted, but now I’m finding out I need to focus on bing a good grandma. By reading this and other articles is helping. Thank you so much for the sage advice. I vow to be a better listener, hold my tongue and hand over the reigns unconditionally.

  2. Barbara Henneke

    This is great advice! I wish I would have read it 5 years ago when my first grandchild was born. :).

    1. Barbara, you and me both! I wish I had this advice when I first became a grandma too. I had to learn these lessons the hard way. I’m glad I was able to pass on a bit of wisdom to you. Enjoy your grandparenting journey!

  3. My daughter & her husband had been telling us about a decision they had made, and although I didn’t agree with it, I kept my mouth shut. And prayed. A week later they told us they had changed their minds. When I expressed relief, they said, “Well, you didn’t say anything, so we thought you were in favor of it!” That’s when I told her that if she wants my advice or opinion, she needs to ask for it. And she asks quite often now!

    We’re currently having great fun with the grandkids while this pandemic is keeping us all at home. We’re doing online reading of books, playing Simon Says, filling in blank maps, teaching them to draw in 3D, playing games (like what’s missing from the tray of 10 items that they had 1 minute to memorize?).

    1. Nancy, that is so great to hear. Even though we grandparents have to walk a fine line, it sounds like you’ve mastered it already! Congratulations, girl!

      I’m glad to hear you’ve found the fun in what some feel is a difficult time right now. I love your ideas with the what’s missing tray and Simon Says. However, I’m not familiar with drawing in 3D. I’ll have to look into that. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your ideas with all of us!

  4. What a fabulous, wise, wise, wise post full of wisdom!! Truly. I need to commit #4 to memory. And with the possibility of my grands moving closer to home, I need to keep #7 in mind. Being a grandmother has truly been one of life’s best blessings. Thank you for sharing these commandments that, when followed, will ensure that grandparenting is always a wonderful experience.

    1. Thank you for your sweet comments, Leslie! For sure, we all have something we have to work on. So you are not alone, Sister! I’m happy you found them helpful!

    1. Yes, Ma’am! We have earned it, haven’t we? These Littles were so worth the time and effort that it took to raise their parents. It feels like a nice reward. As a matter of fact, I am often heard saying that if I could have just figured out how to skip the kids and gone straight to the grandkids, I’d be a millionaire!! Ha ha!

    1. Oh Candy, it sounds like you’ve got it all down just right! You must have been at this for awhile to have such wisdom and poise about the whole grandparenting thing. I’m proud of you!!

  5. Good information and it is hard to keep quiet at times ! Especially like you said when the grandkids are babies Geez so much has changed and I think to myself or maybe just maybe softly out loud “we’ll you kids survived that way”! But it is great being just the grandparents! I love all 9 of them and proud of the parents.
    Thanks for sharing great information!

    1. Thanks, Pamela! I think there is a consensus here that we all think it’s a bit hard to bit our tongue. . .because yes, our children survived! I have a difficult time when my kids ask me to do some things that are so opposite from what we did as parents with our babies. It’s tough! Thanks for visiting!

  6. All good tips Jill and advice but some are so hard to do! I use to hear my co-workers talk about their grandbabies before I became a Grammy and I just didn’t understand what all the fuss was about! Believe me, I do now! My grands are just so precious to me and have made my life better in so many ways. They can make me smile even when I’m not feeling well. Shared x 3 ♥

    1. Thank you, Dee! I agree that sometimes it is really hard, but aren’t grandkids the best? It comes with some of the greatest joys of later life. It was so worth not killing my kids when they were teenagers. Ha ha! I’m with you – my Littles are the sunshine of my life! Thank you for your sweet comments.

  7. I know all too well the problem with being a parental grandparent. My grandkids see their maternal grandmother a whole lot more than they see me. It really can be hard but at least they know me and they love to come over. This is a great list!

    1. Thanks, Angie! Since I have 5 boys, we are in the paternal grandparent position a lot! I have had to learn a lot of patience with that. I’m glad that you have found some peace with the time you have with your grandkids. I love my Littles, and I’m grateful for the time I get with them too. Welcome to NanaLand!

    2. Dee McCarthy aka Bubby

      I am in that situation! My 9 month old grandson is coming to my house for the first time this weekend! I am beyond ecstatic!!!!

      1. Yay, Angie! I’m excited for you! Grandkids are the very best thing to happen to us as we get older. . .and hopefully wiser. Ha ha! Enjoy that little guy and remember to mind your Ps and Qs. . .but absolutely do spoil him just a bit!

  8. Thanks for the post Jill. Some of these commandments are very hard to keep aren’t they! Especially when you think your child is making a parenting mistake or you are scolded by your own daughter!! Nana’s are special people and I love that you remind us of that.

    1. Yes, Nana K! It is super hard to keep quiet when you have so much experience and knowledge that actually might help them!! But, I guess that’s how we gained our experience and knowledge – by doing. As far as scolding by our children goes, it’s usually our Papa that gets scolded! Ha ha! I agree that Nana’s are special people and it’s those Littles that make us that way. Thanks for stopping by to visit!

  9. I have probably broken all ten. I find the not giving unsolicited advice the hardest. After bringing up five children I felt I knew a thing or two about parenting. Luckily I am still friends with my son and daughter in law and they did take some of my advice.

    1. Anne, I hear ya Sister! I’ve broken all of these at one time or another too. That’s why I was able to write this – experience!! It’s so difficult not put in your two cents when you’ve already been there and done that. I’m glad that you are still friends with your children. . .and wow! They took your advice? That’s a huge step in a great direction. I’m glad you stopped by!

  10. Don’t forget, they get to name their child what they want, and you have to pretend to like it! Ha Ha! Good Article! I have 10 grandchildren and all of this rings true.

    1. Oh my, Helen! That’s so true! My grandma never liked the names that I used for my kids. I have to admit that I have had to allow a few of my grandkids names “grow” on me as well while I pretended to like it. . .smiling all the while. I guess once we get to know and love them, it kind of settles in. Hae fun with all those grandchildren! They’re the best! Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I love this post! I’m Nana to four beautiful grandchildren and you are right…it is a balance between loving those kids and being involved in their lives, yet knowing where the boundaries are. I try to stay open minded and learn new ways of doing things from my kids. So far we are all doing fine 🙂

    1. Thanks, Candi! It sure is a balancing act! I learned the hard way about “what you do for one, you have to do for all of them!” I’m a little more careful these days. Even though it’s kind of difficult, It’s better than the alternative – not getting to be involved at all. I’d say if you have survived the first four, you’re on the right track and will do just fine!

  12. Pingback: Grandma: “10 Commandments for Grandparents” – Grandma

  13. I’ve found it difficult to know the boundaries, too. I’m so lucky my son and daughter-in-law are very tolerant but know how to tactfully remind me. That’s great – “good fences make good neighbors”. So true. Great post. Glad I’ve found your blog!

    1. Knowing the boundaries is the hardest thing to deal with in any relationship, isn’t it? It sounds like you are lucky to have understanding children. We do our best, but as grandparents, we all have to learn. . .sometimes the hard way. I’m glad you found us too! Welcome, Kimberly!

  14. Love this! I am about to be a first time grandma in the next few days so I am getting excited and have thought about a few of these. I love your 10 commandments great post!

    1. Thank you, Karie! I’m excited for you to become a grandma! There is nothing better than “Nanahood.” Savor every minute because it seems to actually go by faster than parenthood – which seems so impossible, but it’s true. Congratulations!

  15. I love this! I have 3 grandkids and 2 of them are in a different state so it is sometimes hard for me because I want to be the best grandma to all of my grandkids. So when I do see my 2 grandsons, it is so hard for me to not say something about my son’s and daughter-in-law’s parenting style. I just bite my tongue and love on my grandsons as much as possible before they leave. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh man! I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to bite her tongue. All you can do is love them (meaning your kids and grandkids). Four of my grandchildren live out of state for me and I have tried so hard to be a good long distance grandma, but I’m still learning. I do have a few posts about being a long distance grandma that you may find helpful. You can find them here -https://adventuresinnanaland.com/category/long-distance-nana/. Thanks for reading!

  16. This is beautiful! One of the biggest threats inside family ties….and it all comes back down to respect & love. I praise you for understanding the relationship needed as a grandparent. Though I am not nearly there yet, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to not overstep the boundaries <3

    1. Thank you! You are so right! Everything in my life has boiled down to respect and love. Could you imagine how much nicer the world would be if everyone lived by that??

  17. I probably have broken all ten, more than once!!! And now that I am a Great Granparent I have realized that there definitely is a pecking order in Grabdparenting and that was the hardest thing for me to accept!!

    1. I hear ya, Sister! That’s why I was able to write this post because over the past 12 years I’ve probably broken most of them myself. I’m trying to be much better as I get older and a bit wiser. 😉

      1. I love these commandments and all the comments and supportive answers in return. I can tell this a is a super positive and supportive group. However, I find my situation is a little different, but the main premise is that these commandments still apply. I have a daughter who has been in a two year relationship with a wonderful woman who has two biological children (6 & 9)of her own whom I adore. They are planning to get married. They live far away, but have invited me to visit a lot. I’m so fortunate that her partner and I are so very compatible. She’s very eager for me to step in as a grandparent because neither of the biological GP’s are involved. They will be moving in a year and would dearly love for me to move nearby so I can be there for the kids activities and so forth. I was really excited to see all the great ideas to do long distance with your Littles, in the meantime, to build upon what relationships we have already established. Thanks for all the great advice to someone who had thought she might miss out on grands, but instead is getting a late start. Better late than never!

        1. Oh Sherrie, I’m glad you’re getting a shot at grandparenting. It’s the absolute best! Yes, you are very blessed to have your daughter’s partner to be so generous to share her children with you. ❤ I’m sure you’ll be great! We definitely have lots of fun here in NanaLand. Welcome!

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