Seven Habits That Grandparents May Need to Break

Grandchildren Will Benefit, As Will Their Parents

Most grandparents enjoy indulging the kids and grandkids, and those indulged enjoy it, too. Still, if you want to do what's best for all generations, you'll curb the generosity a bit and make the younger family members responsible, too. Start with these seven habits you need to break.
  • 01 of 07

    Being Too Easily Pleased

    African-American grandmother with granddaughters
    Grandparents love their grandchildren so much that sometimes they are too easily pleased. Photo © Monashee Frantz | OJO Images | Getty

    Grandparents love to brag on their grandchildren, and they like praising their grandchildren, too. There's nothing wrong with that, but they should be careful not to overpraise. Praising grandchildren for every little thing can be counterproductive, especially when they get older. As grandchildren get older and more sophisticated, they will realize when they have done something really praiseworthy and when they have not. Handing out praise indiscriminately will just make the grandchildren...MORE question your judgment.

    I make a practice of thanking my grandchildren when they do something I approve of. "Thank you for making your bed" is an always appropriate response. "You are an awesome person because you made your bed!" may just be over the top.

  • 02 of 07

    Bringing Gifts Every Time

    Grandfather giving granddaughter a bike.
    Grandparents should consider carefully before they give gifts. Photo © Blend Images - Kid Stock | Getty

    If you see your grandchildren somewhat infrequently, it's easy to fall into the trap of becoming a gift-bearer. Think about what you are accomplishing, however. The grandchildren will look forward to your arrival, true, but they'll be anticipating it for the wrong reasons. What you bring to your grandchildren is more precious than any gift. You're bringing them a person who is willing to give undivided attention, play endless games of Go Fish and get down on the floor with them even...MORE though you'll have trouble getting up. That's one heck of a gift right there.

    Of course, there are occasions when you will want to give gifts to grandchildren. Some other gift-giving excuses can be dispensed with. When I first had grandchildren, I tried to buy gifts for them whenever I went on a trip. That worked fairly well when I had one, two and three grandchildren. It didn't work worth a darn with four, five, or more. I found that I was spending valuable vacation time inside gift shops when I could have been seeing something epic. So I dispensed with that practice, and no one seems to really mind.

    Learn More: Common Gift-Giving Pitfalls.

  • 03 of 07

    Being a Pushover

    Even grandparents need to say no occasionally. Photo © Sam Edwards | OJO Images | Getty

    If you never say no, you aren't doing your grandchildren any favors. Of course they should be told no when they want something that isn't good for them. There's nothing wrong with saying no at other times, too. The question becomes whether a grandchild's desires should be given precedence over economy, common sense and the desires of others. While it's okay to occasionally indulge them, it shouldn't become routine behavior unless you like the idea of self-centered...MORE narcissists for grandchildren.

    I'm thinking of the time when I took my granddaughter to buy a new shirt. Of course, she found two that she liked. I could afford to buy her both, but holding my purchase to the promised one item gave her needed practice in decision-making. She was temporarily disappointed that she had to leave one of her choices at the store, but she never mentioned it again, so obviously she wasn't scarred for life.

    See Also: Spoil the Grandchildren in a Good Way

  • 04 of 07

    Always Volunteering to Host

    Grandfather at backyard barbeque
    Grandparents shouldn't insist on being the host for every event. Photo © Jose Luis Pelaez | Image Bank | Getty

    When a family get-together is in the offing, do you always offer to host? If so, you are depriving your kids and grandkids of a learning experience. Doing the planning and preparation can be challenging and stressful, but think of how proud they will be when they pull it off. Maybe your home is larger and nicer, and you've been using that as a reason to host. That's sending the message that the venue for a gathering is more important than those attending.

    I remember the first time I gave...MORE in and let a child host a family gathering. It was so relaxing! It can be a lot of fun to be a guest instead of the host. Of course, it's best to offer to help the host, but you'll be forgiven if you get carried away with playing with the grandchildren instead.

    Learn More: When Grandparents Need to Say No

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Not Making the Grandchildren Help

    Grandmother and granddaughter cooking together
    Grandchildren should be expected to help with cooking and other tasks. Photo © Jupiter Images

    Grandchildren should be encouraged to help out any time they are at your house or another family gathering. When they are very young, they will want to help and really won't be much of an asset. When they are older, they will do their best to fade into the background so they won't have to help. But at all ages and stages, they should be included in food preparation and clean-up and other duties. Again, you will be helping your grandchildren get a firm grip on reality. Even fun activities...MORE require a lot of work on someone's part.

    This principle was reinforced for me at a family reunion, when the women of the family shared their memories of the family matriarch. Almost all of us had a favorite kitchen memory of her, because she expected and encouraged us to pitch in. If she had insisted on doing it all herself, we would have been robbed of some great memories. By the way, not all of the memories were about culinary successes. Some involved culinary fails! In today's less gendered society, grandsons can be expected to do their parts, too.

  • 06 of 07

    Handing Out Edible Goodies

    grandparents and grandchildren and food
    Don't let offerings of food be your primary expression of love. Photo © Fuse | Getty

    Grandparents have the reputation of being cookie bakers and candy stashers. Some grandparents have based their grandparenting personas on the handing out of goodies. With the concern about obesity in younger generations, the role of goody-giver is a risky one. Do you really want to be blamed for making your grandchildren fat? Much better to break the habit of handing out treats.

    When my grandchildren are coming over, I try to have something planned for them, but it's usually a new science...MORE experiment or an active game or toy. That way I can feel good about the initial experience and the lasting impact.

  • 07 of 07

    Always Picking Up the Check

    Do the younger generation a favor and let them pick up the check. Photo © Hola Images | Getty

    It's a great feeling to be able to treat family and friends. But eventually the day will come when a kid or grandkid will offer to pick up the check. Let them! One of the great gifts that you can give to someone is to let them give you something. But be prepared. If the shocked look on their faces says that their offer was made under the assumption that you wouldn't go along with it, go ahead and pick up the check. They won't make the offer lightly next time.

    When I was just a kid, I...MORE was going to meet a family friend for the first time. When he arrived, he offered me a stick of gum. I declined, thinking that I was doing something generous in letting him keep his gum. Later, my mother told me I should have accepted the gum, because it would have made him feel good. A restaurant check that can run into hundreds of dollars may seem like a far cry from a piece of gum, but the principle is the same. Let others do something for you once in a while. By so doing, you are giving them a gift.