Dear Grandparenting: I am headed back to the future. Impossible, you say? My daughter just signed me up for some heavy-duty care and feeding of time my three grandkids, ages 8, 10 and 14.
I was laboring under the assumption that I had finished raising little people. That was before my daughter got divorced, went back to school and landed a job.
But I know this drill. I can keep my grandkids in line and they know I will. I can cook and do light cleaning, too. But I do have a little problem with treating my grandkids like they are little gods.
More specifically, I am talking about this endless praise and congratulations thing going around, as if kids can’t operate without a pat on the back every 60 minutes.
I have overheard my daughter too many times, dishing out compliments hither and yon, practically giving them away! All my grandkids have to do is drink their milk or tie their shoes and she lets loose with “That’s perfect!” or “Wow!” or my all-time favorite “That’s awesome!”
It’s not like I am a big meanie or anything, but let’s get real. That bears absolutely no resemblance to what life is like. Maybe you can help me wean my grandkids from this habitual praise without busting their little balloon? Angel Smith, San Antonio, Texas
Dear Angel: The lullaby of praise that serenades so many grandchildren marks a departure from the nurturing style of previous generations, a change not necessarily for the better. What happens when the music stops?
We have no problem with a good word for a job well done, but profuse praise can become toxic, leading grandchildren to measure their self-worth by their daily portion of external approval and motivating them to seek even greater praise. A University of Toronto study found that children routinely praised for sharing or helping actually became less generous. In and of itself, sharing became less valuable, but more valuable as a means to generate fresh praise.
When a grandchild does something impressive, a hearty “You did it!” hits the sweet spot, instilling deserved pride. When grandchildren exhibit generosity, draw attention to the salutary impact on the other person. Try less praise and more questions – instead of telling them what you liked, ask them what they liked most about the deed at hand. Your interest may be all the encouragement they need.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Ella Malone, of Lake Stevens, Washington, begs to differ with grandparents who would ration praise for their grandchildren:
“A child’s bucket of self esteem must be filled so high so that the rest of the world cannot drain it dry. I jumped at every to chance to volunteer for that job after becoming a grandmother. Who better?”
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.