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Training Your Grandchildren to be Grandparents

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

A few months ago, I took several of our grandchildren out for pizza. I love being a grandparent – it’s like renting, instead of owning! It’s all the joy of parenting, without the worry of day-to-day maintenance.

So on the ride home I told them – again, how much I enjoy hanging out with them. So, one of them asked this question, “Why do you and Nana spend so much time with us?” My answer surprised them. “I’m training you to be good grandparents some day,” was my honest reply.

I went on to tell them, that when I was a kid, I remember distinctly observing how my grandparents, particularly my Dad’s parents interacted with family and friends (My mother’s parents lived full time in Arizona for health reasons and I knew them less well).

I can’t really remember any specific conversations with my grandfather, but I do remember how he made me feel. Grandchildren were allowed to sit around the edges of the adult conversations. Men on one side of the front porch of our family cottage, and women on the other. I felt included and loved.

At 12 or 13, I observed in my grandfather and father the gift of generosity and kindness. I remember well, listening to his stories of men he admired and men he didn’t, and why. He never turned to me and said out loud, “Now Clare, I want you to be like that, or don’t ever act that way.” He didn’t need to. His stories told me indirectly, what kind of man he admired, and therefore the kind of man he wanted me to be.

God in scripture does the same. In the story of David and Bathsheba, God never once turns to us, the audience and says, “Now, did you read that? Don’t ever commit adultery.” (Yes, God has made that command clear elsewhere in scripture, but not in that story.) Nevertheless, nobody can hear or read that story, and walk away unclear about what God thinks of adulterers and murderers.

The stories we tell, telegraphs to others what we value (and do not value.)

My grandchildren and your grandchildren are learning to be good grandparents or mediocre grandparents from watching us. My guess is, they’ve already figured out some of the character qualities they admire in me, and perhaps some (like my impatience) that they don’t.

Intentional Grandparenting But I want to move beyond the “sit around the edge of the conversation and hope they pick up what’s important to me,” style of grandparenting. I try to be very intentional in looking them in the eye and telling them, “I love you.” I take them one-on-one and share with them sinful, stupid decisions I’ve made. I want them to feel comfortable talking to me about anything.

I’ve taken several aside and told them how sad it makes me feel when I see them being unkind to their brothers or disrespectful to their mothers. Just last week, I had an opportunity to tell one of our granddaughters how much I admired her good judgment. A good friend once told me, “In your children and grandchildren, admire their character qualities, more than their accomplishments.” We don’t want our grandchildren to be performance driven, but character inspired! When Susan and I attend our grandchildren’s sporting events, we intentionally try to not talk about the score, but about the effort and sportsmanship of both teams.

Two years ago, we took five grandchildren to Washington D.C. to instill in them a love for our country. Last year, we took six more to San Francisco to see Francis Chan’s ministry to homeless people. Susan and I pray about and plan what we want to teach our children on these trips. The truth is, we have more fun times than teaching times, but even that screams to our grandchildren, “we love being with you.” Intentional grandparenting.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6, 7

Question: Please share with us, how you are intentional about parenting or grandparenting.

How following Jesus works in real life.

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