Dear Grandparenting: More than once I find myself overreacting when my grandchildren misbehave in public. Afterwards I always regret it. I don’t know which is worse – my behavior or theirs. I am embarrassed by something they do and then I am embarrassed again by what I have done. Sometimes passers-by will stop and stare as our little dramas unfold. I am mortified when that happens.
Here’s one example that happened last Tuesday. I was tired but I stopped to buy my two granddaughters some ice cream. It was a hot day and I knew it would melt quickly but they both wanted cones instead of a cup. As soon as we left the store the trouble started. My younger granddaughter was so concerned about the ice cream dripping on the ground she didn’t realize she was tilting her cone. All her ice cream fell from the cone onto the ground. She started crying. My older granddaughter thought it was funny and started laughing. So the younger one knocked the older one’s cone out of her hand onto the pavement. Both of them were in tears. I raised my voice to insist they stop and realized I was making a spectacle of myself. Any tricks for helping me keep my cool? I know I am setting a bad example for my granddaughters. Angel Phillips, Everett, WA
Dear Angel: Before we begin, we’ll give you credit for assuming responsibility for these meltdowns instead of blaming the grandchildren. We can all become frazzled in the heat of the moment, but grandparents unaccustomed to such stressors are more susceptible.
Taking a deep breath and counting to 10 are good for starters, but there are other ways to regulate oneself. Before setting out with your grandchildren, remind yourself to consider whether the situation at hand is an emergency, should a problem arise. What’s the worse that can happen? Usually it’s nothing that won’t blow over. The sooner grandparents regain their sense of safety and security, the sooner they’ll regain their composure. Once triggered, you’ll be unable to help anyone calm down. Job number one is to control yourself, and then begin to reassert control over your grandchildren.
Good listening is generally more effective than forcefully issuing commands. Grandchildren who feel they are being heard are more inclined to stop acting out and return to their normal voice. They’ll take their cue from you. Shouting teaches all the wrong lessons. Youngsters learn emotional moderation by modeling their elders.
If all else fails, simply take a break. Tell your grandchildren you need to calm down, and then you will all find a way to make this better. Less drama makes for better grandparents.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Holly from The Villages, Florida, told grandson Mark she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and would become more forgetful.
“You mean you might even forget the time I ate the icing off one side of your cake?” said Mark.
“Yes,” said Holly, “but I’ll never forget how you admitted doing it right away instead of blaming someone else. I was so proud of you for that.”
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.