How to Spoil Your Grandchildren
It's important, if challenging, to find the right balance between being an indulgent grandparent and respecting boundaries set by your grandkid's parents.
When I babysat my nephew I was a young college student, at least ten years from even thinking about my own babies. Considering my inexperience and lack of knowledge about kids, it must have been sheer desperation leading my sister to abandon her normal good judgment and allow me to take care of her precious firstborn. It wasn't long before she realized her mistake. My sister had strict rules about no sugar and no television, yet I thought it was funny when I gave her 18 month old handfuls of M&Ms and allowed him to watch hours of television. Forty years have passed, and I've raised my own two children and am now a grandmother. I've learned a lot more about children, and I hope I've learned my lesson about respecting boundaries!
When I look at my sweet, adorable grandson I can't imagine saying no to anything he asks. Is it possible to be the indulgent grandparent I long to be without causing issues with my daughter and son-in-law? With the help of a few guidelines on the hot-button issues, I'm hoping to make my daughter and son-in-law happy but still indulge my grandkids a bit.
1. Screen time- Screen time is a big issue, especially for older grandkids, and needs to be discussed with your grandchild's parents. Now there is not only television but computers and cell phones. One day when Callister was being fussy, I turned on Dinosaur Train and was shocked at how instantly he was mesmerized by the moving, colorful figures. I let him watch for ten minutes and then, feeling guilty, turned it off. Babies and screen time are probably not a good idea. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under the age of two. The more important opinion, my daughter's, has said 15 minutes if I deem it necessary.
2. Gifts- A friend of mine had a wonderful mother who provided stable, loving, free child care, a precious gift in itself, yet she insisted on bringing the children a small gift five days a week! Not only was the daily gift creating high expectations and greed, but it was also creating a horde of "stuff" my friend had to deal with. It's tempting to buy your grandchildren all the cute toys and clothes, but before you fill the shopping cart, discuss purchases with your grandchild's parents to ensure you are honoring their value system. If your money is burning a hole in your pocket ask the grandchild's parents what would help them out. Instead of a house full of toys, your money might help ease the cost of daycare, summer camp, extracurricular activities or the beginning of a college fund.
3. Food- This is going to be difficult for me. Although I know this isn't an emotionally healthy association, I find cooking food, specifically baking sweets, a symbol of love. My daughter and son-in-law are also vegetarians and my husband and I are not, but she is very reasonable about this choice and is planning to continue to have a vegetarian home. When Callister is older, he can make the choice himself when he's away from home. I raised my children as vegetarians and one set of their grandparents respected that choice whereas the other set didn't. Once again, these are their children, not mine, so I will follow their dietary guidelines. (Just please let me bake the occasional chocolate chip cookies and brownies!)
4. Behavior- Grandparents probably won't have the same standards as parents when it comes to behavior, but we also don't want to allow wild chaos at our house that takes days for the grandchildren (and us) to recover. Maybe slight infractions, such as a later bedtime, a little extra screen time or a bigger bowl of ice cream can be overlooked at the grandparent's home, but any issue that conflicts with the morals and values of the parents or involves safety issues cannot be compromised!
Despite my influence, my nephew grew up to be a great guy and my sister eventually forgave me for my babysitting infractions, but I'm planning to do a better job with my grandkids. Spoiling grandchildren typically involves being a discipline pushover, lavishing them with gifts and indulging them with sugary treats, but there are good ways to spoil grandkids. Spoil them with your time, spoil them with your attention and spoil them with your love! Everyone will benefit from that kind of spoiling!