Dear Grandparenting: I’m having another one of those bad days when my grandson wants to argue. Jack used to be so easy. Now he’s a 15-year-old know-it-all who locks horns with me over anything and everything, and won’t take no for an answer.
Since I want to be fair, I try listening to what Jack has to say. But he comes back at me with something I may have said or done before, or he flips things around and takes things out of context to help build his case.
Jack is just so darn argumentative, like a little lawyer. We just got into another spat when he wanted to go out with friends at 7 p.m. on a school night. I got so twisted around by all his arguing that I gave in against my better judgment. Help me straighten this out. Bette Moore, Johnson City, Tennessee
Dear Bette: Your grandson’s behavior would make perfect sense to neuroscientists who study the development of the human brain.
The teenage brain is a work in progress, not an exact replica of an adult brain with fewer miles on it. After learning to find their way in the real world, a child’s cognitive powers ramp up in middle school as they begin to entertain more abstract possibilities, play with different ideas and bend the facts to fit their fancy—the tools of a little lawyer.
While youthful grandchildren may be able to tee it up verbally and present their case, most lack the wisdom born of experience to make good choices. Frontal lobes that act as the brain’s control panel aren’t fully formed until after age 30.
That helps explain why grandchildren mount maddening arguments that tie adults in knots. While we admire your instinct to give your grandson a voice in such matters, there are limits to how much free speech a grandparent can tolerate. A family with young minors is not a democracy. What we have here is a failure to fully assert your authority. Lay down the law, set consequences and follow through.
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GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK Hap Harrison from West Lake Stevens, Washington was saying goodbye to grandson Joey on the phone.
“If you’re good you go to heaven Joey,” said Hap.
“That nice,” replied his grandson, “but how about Disneyworld?”
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.