Dear Grandparenting: Yes, I have a tendency to nag. Getting after people to do things right is my nature, and that means keeping on top of things until the job is done.
Yes, the grandkids hate it when I start to ride them. Behind my back, they call me Nanny Nag. It’s no fun being bossed around, and I don’t like repeating myself either. But if they can’t learn to follow directions, they have a very hard road ahead.
Our house is a battlefield sometimes. When I tell them to put the dirty plates and utensils in the dishwasher, I don’t mean dump it in there any old way. Plates go on the bottom stacked in the same direction, cups and glasses on top. Making your bed means tucking and straightening it up. Cleaning the bathroom does not include leaving toothpaste smears in the sink. Is nagging a relationship-killer? I hope you support me. Annie Murphy, Seattle, Washington.
Dear Annie: We have your back. A household is not a democracy — adults rule. Civilizing children requires a watchful eye, consistency and instruction, which is why so many guardians don’t want children to mistake them for a friend. According to child psychologists, children welcome constructive criticism since it shows that someone cares enough to worry about their wellbeing. Instead of beating them down, it makes children feel more safe and secure.
The trick is finding the middle ground. Constant criticism can break a child, but zero criticism is an abdication of a grandparent’s responsibility to help grandchildren evolve and flourish.
Good discipline is not about loud and angry words, heated conflicts and punishing kids for doing something wrong. It’s about setting and maintaining boundaries, expectations and consequences for breaking rules, so that grandchildren will learn self-discipline and right from wrong.
Avoid personalizing the situation. Make it clear that the task at hand is the problem, and not the grandchild. Instead of saying, “I want the bed made right” or “You didn’t make the bed,” stick to “The bed is not properly made.” It’s often not what you say, but how you say it.
Grand remark of the week
Jack Smith from Marshall, Michigan is retired, “but I have a part-time job that eats into my days — spoiling my grandchildren.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.