Grandma Basics 101 Post #2
There are as many different kinds of grandmas as there are kinds of women … some are great grandmas, some are good grandmas, some glamorous grandmas, some Earth Mother grandmas, some grouchy grandmas, and some are uninterested and absent. Want to be the kind of grandmother that goes down in history as the best one EVER?
I am writing a series of 6 posts, each about a way of becoming that kind of grandparent … think of it as being enrolled in a basic course in grandmothering from the Gung Ho Grandma School of Awesomeness!
Here is the second post ….
Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice
Remember being a new mother?
It seemed that everyone you met was quick to unleash all their wisdom on you and give you advice. Family, friends, neighbors, people at church … even strangers, like the Grocery Store Grandma, would tell you that your baby was crying because he was either hungry or cold (despite the fact you had just fed him and he was all bundled up). You see, they have done it all before and because their children are alive and thriving, they believe that they did it the “right” way. Sometimes all this unsolicited advice got a little annoying.
Maybe we should buy all new moms this sleeper!
I personally don’t always get a great mark on my report card for this, though I am trying to be better. When my daughter wanted to try baby-led weaning (she had studied it thoroughly on the Internet), I started spewing all sorts of suggestions from my experience about how I had fed my babies. I think she got a little annoyed with all the advice and felt I wasn’t giving it a chance. It actually turned out to be a great thing and very successful … and I should have just bit my tongue.
Of course you know a great deal about looking after a baby or raising a child … you have had years of experience. But this is not your journey. It is one that the mom and dad are on and they need to make their own decisions and make some mistakes along the way (just like we did). In this day of Google, young parents have access to a wealth of parenting information and may want to try a different approach than you or I did, and that’s okay. Baby-led weaning was a good option for my granddaughter.
Be a Respectful Resource
You can still be a wonderful resource … just be a resource that is asked for. If you aren’t asked an opinion, don’t offer one up unless you get permission first. Maybe try saying something like, “Can I share an idea with you?” or “I also had that problem with your brother, Jacob. Would you like me to tell you what I found worked?” … and then wait for an answer.
Make sure that the parents know that they can ask you anything, anytime, but that you will not be meddling. Don’t reference how you did things. And if they do ask your advice and don’t put your advice to use, never mention it.
Don’t tell them what they are doing wrong, but praise and recognize those things they are doing right.
Parenthood is hard enough without your mother or mother-in-law making you feel inadequate. And parents who get their backs up all the time are less likely to grant you access to see the grandchildren regularly.
Please don’t give the mother passive-aggressive suggestions on how to do a better job under the guise of talking to the baby. “Just tell Mommy you need to wear a hat because your head is cold” or “Just tell your daddy that your are crying because you want more attention and to be talked to.” These things are not helpful and no one is so dumb that they can’t see what you are doing.
You should also be conscious of recognizing the good things that the parents are doing with their children. You are a grandparent, but don’t forget you are also still a parent. Brag about your kids. Don’t just think in your head, “I sure love how their mom reads to them every night,” or “He is such a calm father when the kids are having a meltdown”, or “It’s nice to see they expect my grandchildren to always say please and thank you” … SAY IT to them. Parents find great encouragement when they know others notice their efforts and think they are doing a good job in raising their children. It is often a thankless job and it may be one of the best ways you support them.
Note: There are circumstances when a grandma should intervene … like when a child is being seriously neglected or abused. No one should stand by then. But for most of us, our grandchildren are being raised by concerned, conscientious parents. We need to be their cheerleaders and support system, not members of the Watchers For Inadequacy Squad.
I still have work to do in this “advice-giving” area, and you may also, but even starting to be aware of trying not to give unsolicited advice will help you be more careful of what comes out of your mouth. And hopefully what comes out of our mouths will help build better relationships in our families.
How do you deal with giving advice? Please share it with us in the comments below.
And if you like this idea, please share it with other grandmas!