BY ELIZABETH EDWARDS
The Secret Grandparent Factor
After being with our children and their partners over the school holidays, we were brought face to face with the overwhelming tsunami of advice our children now receive on how they should parent. Facebook, Doctors, Mumsnet, web sites, schools, magazines etc., give pointers on everything from providing the ‘right’ tactile experiences to adopting strategies for disciplining but staying friends.
Hundreds of years ago, my Mom and Penelope Leach were my gurus. They were gentle and liberal – but even they contradicted each other at times! Our own children, on the other hand, are under much greater pressure not to ‘fail’ as parents and to make sure their children achieve at every level and stay safe on every front. If you overlay this with the inevitable burden that going back to work creates, I wonder how they – or the grandchildren – sleep at night.
Many of we grandparents are in the blissful, enviable position of being able to alleviate some of that pressure, at least on the grandchildren. We have the luxury of time, that our children lack, and are unhindered by the wealth of advice that surrounds our off-spring. And our own lifetimes of parenting, together with those of friends and families, have enabled us to compare the elements of ‘parenting input’ with the subsequent ‘outcomes’. In other words, to see what works!
For example, most grandparents I know:
Tend to generate ‘fun’ – because pressurised key stage assessments, suffocating levels of homework and cruel social media need an antidote;
Tend to encourage our grandchildren to take themselves less seriously in an age of self-indulgence and increasing mental health problems amongst children;
Tend to leave mobile phones switched off – because listening with undivided attention helps young people articulate ideas and resolve problems for themselves;
Tend to be more relaxed about table manners, potty training or sharing – because these skills can take months – or even years – to develop.
Tend to be more accepting about chosen directions in life – because we know that the right occupation, whatever it is, is more likely to lead to self-fulfillment. (And do we really need more lawyers?)
Of course, we could be seen as just another source of advice on ‘how to parent’. But we tend to keep our approach to ourselves, so I won’t be sharing these thoughts with the kids!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – ELIZABETH EDWARDS
Elizabeth was a non-fiction writer for 20 years. Now retired, she is a proud granny to two boys aged two and one. Elizabeth lives in Hampshire in UK.