Dear Grandparenting: I have a bunch of grandchildren. Last time I checked there were 17, but who knows? That’s our family joke since we keep revising the number in an upward direction.
I thought I’d seen all kinds, but until our pretty pleaser granddaughter came along, I’d never seen one like her.
My grandchildren are kind of self-centered, the way I was as a kid. They aren’t rude or disrespectful, but they have their own agendas. That’s why Julie stands out like a sore thumb.
Granddaughter Julie is the exception. She seems to live for praise. She’ll wait on us hand and foot if we let her, but I‘m not so sure it’s a good thing.
I say that for a reason. Julie lights up if you give her a complimentary thank-you, but she doesn’t seem all that happy. She puts forth all this effort to please us, but I can’t see what she gets in return. Can you make sense of her behavior? Chick, Charlotte, North Carolina
Dear Chick: A perfectly pleasing grandchild could qualify as a miracle to grandparents beset by a bunch of the loud and disorderly stripe. What’s not to like about obedience?
But your point is well taken — appearances can deceive. Children will go to extremes to please because they fear the consequences of doing otherwise.
Dutiful young pleasers are made, not born, most likely because they don’t or can’t conform to the expectations of parents or guardians.
Afraid of being emotionally abandoned or punished, these children subordinate their own wants and needs. Their job is to make others happy — full service, albeit with an empty smile. The trade off is the sense of safety and security acquired by not rocking the boat, at all costs.
Pleasers who tire of being doormats can rebel against all involved and develop deep resentments. Because they depend on others to validate their worth, pleasers suffer from low-self esteem. The fix is self-validation, learning how to feel OK on the basis of one’s internal processes instead of external happenings, and it’s seldom easy.
That’s where grandparents can come in, giving grandchildren a safe time and place to voice their thinking and feelings, making affirming statements, validating their words and deeds. That’s the sort of nurturing that creates confident, independent adults.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Mike Ward from Seattle, Washington, changes his cell phone greeting when his grandchildren visit, warning callers he’s temporarily out of action:
“Sorry but granddaddy Mike can’t come to the phone right now. Mike starts acting goofy every time the grandkids come over. Mike runs out of gas and takes a long nap after they go back home. Better call back tomorrow when Mike is fully recovered.”
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.