Be a supportive grandparent, not a partner in crime Be a supportive grandparent, not a partner in crime

When it comes to grandchildren, the ideal situation is for grandparents to be able to adapt to different situations, analyze the consequences and say “no” when necessary. 

Medical Advisor Laura Mier León Psychologist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare

With all the responsibilities and commitments that seem to grow to an exponential degree, time becomes a precious commodity. This is why couples often leave their little ones in the hands of those they trust the most: grandparents.
While they can now enjoy being grandparents to their grandchildren, at one point they used to be strict, rule-enforcing parents. Their lives are different now and they seem to barely recall this era of parenting; some even joke that their primary task is to spoil their grandchildren and give them whatever they ask for. This can become an issue for the modern family that cannot be as present and must pass the task of raising and disciplining their children onto others, who can sometimes disregard them.

It is important to remember, however, that it is one thing to be a supportive grandparent, and anther to be a partner in crime. Psychologist Laura Mier León explains: “Being supportive and flexible involves one’s ability to easily adapt to different situations. A grandparent that practices these characteristics is someone who adapts to different situations, analyzes consequences, is capable of saying ‘no’ when necessary and of saying ‘yes’ when it is appropriate.”

With all their life experience, grandparents can serve as an extra source of help to parents who sometimes lose perspective from being too attached to their child or feel the need to discipline their child to an extreme. This is when it can be important to be supportive to children.

“The concept of being a partner in crime refers to covering up actions that are otherwise frowned upon. In child rearing, this manifests in being permissive with certain rules or restrictions that have parents have established. Supportive grandparents contribute positively to their childhood because they have the opportunity to establish and enforce rules, as well as reach compromises and reward children after they have completed a chore they have been assigned. Grandparents that act as partners in crime favor rewards and don’t demand that a chore or responsibility be completed. This does not positively contribute to the child’s upbringing because the child or teenager may grow up to think that they can achieve something without putting in much effort,” the psychologist explains.

The restrictions parents place on their children are not only sometimes not followed by grandparents, but also by aunts, uncles or older siblings. The important thing is to find a balance without having to be an authority figure.
In the words of pediatrician Juan Enrique Ángel, “Children need to know what the correct path is. This is not only true for children but this is a human need that we experience throughout our entire lives. When children have an example to follow, they will be more confident and have more direction in their lives.”

According to Laura Mier León, “In their upbringing, it is important for children to see their parents as authority figures. This is achieved when there is a balance between good communication, affection, and establishing and following through with rules.”

In addition to an increase in disrespectful behavior and temper tantrums, when there is a lack of consistency between what parents say and do, children may begin to stop paying attention to the rules. They may also be more quick to turn to a more permissive authority figure such as grandparents or aunts and uncles in seek of support when they do not want to follow their parents’ rules.

6 of every 10 children that live with their parents come from big families that have grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, according to the World Family Map 2015.

Three keys to supporting children:

  1. Be consistent: In order to prevent any miscommunications from happening, it is important for grandparents and other family members to not take away the parents’ authority when it comes to the rules that they have already established.
  2. Set boundaries: Children should not see their parents as lacking in authority or feel that their parents do not follow through with the rules they establish at home.
  3. Quality over quantity: In today’s world where there is less time to spend with children, it is important for children to have quality, accepting relationships. These types of relationships allow grandparents to be supportive and also serve as companions for this journey of life.

Rules can help:

Grandparents should do their best to avoid running into problems with how their children raise their grandchildren. To do this, try to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Do not criticize family decisions, how a household operates or try to set the rules.
  • Avoid sacrificing your personal time such as trips and social gatherings to take care of your grandchildren.
  • Set clear expectations for what the exact times for caring for your grandchildren will be and do not hesitate to negotiate if needed.
  • Give advice to your children when they ask for it as they often times would rather not have an outside opinion.
  • Remember that there are always limits, even if they are not already established by parents.