5 things wise grandparents do
by Dr. Dave Currie
I am called ‘G-Pa’ referring to my role as the very proud grandfather of 12 amazing grandchildren. I haven’t heard anyone else called G-Pa in my life, likely because I made up the name. We’ve all heard of Grandpa, Grandfather, Granddad, Opa, Papa and even Granddaddy (we have southern relatives), but G-Pa – no way! The closest version came when I had a back-stage pass from a friend to meet celebrity Christian musician Michael W. Smith. In our visit, we realized we were both new grandfathers – he was G-Daddy and I was G-Pa! Fun.
Let’s not waste any time on the age-old debate of whose grandkids are the best. In our hearts, we all know, ours are! They are totally amazing because of the special place you can have in their hearts and they have in yours. You can make such a difference and become such an influence. I have been working hard at making a career of being the best G-Pa I can be. I think when I retire it will be easier as I will have more discretionary time to commit to the opportunity. I have a lot of adjustments I still need to make. If there was ever an article that I would like to be Poster Boy for, this would be it.
Now, having 12 grandkids gives me a lot of practice on how to create connection and make a difference. I love watching others in their grandparenting. I get a ton of great ideas. Watching some of them leaves me really impressed and seriously challenged. Sometimes I feel like I am starting to get a few things right in this role. So, here’s the core of what I have come to value so far as to what wise grandparents do. I really would like your feedback on this one – if for no one else, to help me improve.
- Let your Adult Children Call the Shots
Stand down. No matter how many times you think you know better, child-rearing is now their show and they should star in it. Let them lead. Listen to their wishes and directions. At best, you might be assistant director of the production of these young lives. Quit acting like you are the executive producer and a Dr. Phil wannabe. Hear how your kids want things done and mirror it as much as possible. Show respect. And one of the hardest things I have had to do is to stop giving advice. Really. The notorious I-give-advice-to-everyone Dr. Dave does not give advice to his own children on how to parent. I have told them that once they are married, I no longer give advice on anything unless they ask me for it. Hard – yes! Right – oh my, yes! So remember, you do not have the lead role – you are the supporting cast.
- Create Connection Opportunities
It starts by making time for your grandchildren. Like me, some of you still may be working so it’s harder to do, but face it – we make time for what’s important. It starts with mastering the moments you get. I am not just talking about childcare or putting them to bed. I am talking about being with them, slowing down to listen, to laugh and to connect. It takes work but the rewards are so refreshing. Go on hikes with treats along the way. Make building blocks for them and then play with the kids making stuff. Reward them for their creative structures. Make a sandbox for them and then play in it with them. Colour. Take selfies of crazy faces. Be creative. Be intentional. Be engaging. Be fun to be with. In so doing, this chain of events happens: Your initiative creates an activity; sharing in this activity creates an opportunity to connect; connection is the beginning of love exchanged; love sustained leads to influence. That’s your ultimate goal. Find ways to bond. Join them in their world. Relax and be silly, crazy and flexible.
- Unleash Your Affirmation and Affection
Let’s keep it simple. Encourage more and hug more. Check out your affirmation level by first of all, listening to your tone. Are you always correcting, prompting and chiding? A negative edge sucks the life out of a relationship. Words matter. Positive spoken and written words influence and strengthen. Find ways to affirm, to build up and to be their greatest fan. Try colouring a picture for them and put a personalized word of encouragement on it. Whisper in their ear – like it’s a secret – words of pride and endorsement of who they are to you. Then, follow up these words of love with acts of love. Hug them lots. Hold hands. Piggyback them. Tickle them. Wrestle with them. Race them. Make a game out of everything. But let your touch be always gentle, playful and inviting. Hug and kiss them goodbye. Don’t let them get away without it. With your tone right, your words affirming and your actions trusted, they grow safe with you.
- Keep a Technologically Safe House
Whether you fully realize it or not, you are living in a technological warzone. I am talking about all the electronic devices you have in your home along with Internet access. The amount of access your grandkids could have to all kinds of dark and hurtful information through your Internet is mind numbing. They can watch porn, learn how to make a bomb and how to commit suicide. Imagine them doing it with your iPad. They can watch videos and listen to music that could make a sailor blush. What can you do to protect your grandchildren? Put in some sort of digital filter in your home that impacts all your devices. I walk with a much higher level of peace because I have taken steps to protect our grandchildren. We have set-up a safety net in our home that will limit their access to any kind of adult material. We love it. It’s called Kids Wi-Fi (www.kids wifi.com). Even as the grandkids get older and come with their own cell phones, iPads, notebooks, computers and other gadgets, every device is safeguarded.
- Talk About Your Faith
First off, before you say one word to your grandchildren about God, faith or the Bible, it is essential that you live and breathe Jesus. He has to be Lord of your life and still actively engaged in the transformation of your actions and attitudes. Let Him continue to change you. Let Him still be active in your life. That’s your platform of credibility. Then, you are free to talk openly about why you love Jesus. Share your story of faith. Talk about what He means to you and how He has changed your life. Also talk about how the Lord got ahold of their Mom and Dad. Intentionally, weave God’s truth into a lot of little daily interactions. Read Bible stories when you put them to bed. Be a spiritual encouragement to each one in unique ways. Finally, pray with them, coaching them how to pray. Then pray for them with them. Pray for them daily when you aren’t with them because prayer really does change things.
Seriously people – especially you grandparent types – I would love to hear from you. Tell me your story of how a grandparent impacted you. Tell me what you are learning about influencing your grandkids. Go to www.DoingFamilyRight.com to leave your comments. And remember, you’ll never regret putting your marriage and family first – especially those grandkids. That’s God way!