It is almost 50 years, since I started on my professional journey. It was in Jaunpur, a district of Uttar Pradesh, in a small school, run by religious nuns. It was mutually beneficial as they needed a trained teacher and I needed to do something with my life. The Principal offered to take care of my son, who was about 2 and half years old. He became the principal’s shadow, going on school rounds holding her little finger, he sat in her office and I think was quite well behaved.
So, that’s where it all began and since then, I have worn many hats — teacher, lecturer, trainer, counsellor, and education consultant. I have spoken to teachers, principals, parents, students, religious, doctors, been a panellist and a keynote speaker at conferences, not to forget a chief guest for different events and occasions. But, in September this year, for the first time, I was invited to be the chief guest for a ‘Grandparents’ Day’. This invitation was from the St. Joseph’s CBSE School in Bangalore. I was quietly happy with the invitation. Honestly though, a thought did cross my mind, — have I climbed up the ladder or down? Just a momentary thought! I decided that I was going to enjoy the morning and make my presence at the event an enjoyable one for all.
After a lovely entertainment programme, showcasing the talents of the children, teachers and grandparents, it was time for the formal part of the programme. In this blog I am going to share what I spoke. It was a conversation from one grandparent with grandparents of a younger generation. By the way, I think I know a thing or two about being a grandparent as I have been a Granma for the last 16 years.
Over the last three decades, I have conducted innumerable Parenting Orientations and spoken to thousands of parents. However, this is the first time that I am speaking specifically to grandparents. Of course, I am fully aware that a few grandparents do attend the parenting orientations, because they have been deputed to attend by their children who are too busy to attend themselves or they are actually doing the parenting of their grandchildren.
I have just two messages and I think they are important.
The first one:
A common question from parents is on how to handle grandparents who spoil and pamper the grandchildren by over indulgence and interfering in the discipline styles of the parents, and that to without disturbing the delicate balance of happy relationships in the family.
I generally take up for grandparents and ask them a pointed question, ‘Are you making use of your parents to bring up your children?
Most often, the answer is ‘yes’, as they are working parents, and then they do get a mouthful from me. I tell them that it is not the age for grandparents to look after young children. It is the time for them to enjoy and celebrate the little ones. After all, God created menopause to say, ‘Enough’ — no more children. You are too old to chase after energetic young ones.
Incidentally, if there is no other option and you have to take care of the grandchildren, then do not hesitate to ask your children to engage help to do the running around and the physical work.
This is what I tell parents.
Today, since I have you, grandparents as a captive audience, I have a different story to tell.
Let us talk about the main grouse of parents — the interference of grandparents in the disciplining of children — making it difficult to bring up their children with the objectives, values and style they would like to adopt. (At this stage, let me clarify that by discipline I do not mean punishment.)
There are two styles of discipline that are dysfunctional.
The first is inconsistent discipline. Inconsistent discipline which varies from day to day depending upon one’s mood or maybe even one’s state of health. The other type of inconsistency is when each disciplinarian in a child’s life follow their own style — so there can be a:
- Father’s style
- Mother’s style
- Grandfather’s style
- Grandmother’s style
Thus, thoroughly confusing the children by the subtle emotional blackmail at play.
The second is inadequate discipline. Let me ask you a hypothetical question — from what age should discipline of children start? The answers generally vary from 2 years to teenage years. Well, discipline starts right from the beginning when routines are set for the child.
Here are a few tips that will help to make relationships happy:
- Don’t interfere when parents are disciplining their children, unless there is physical or emotional abuse.
- After the child has been disciplined, avoid pampering the child.
- Sit together as a family and have a conversation about the parents’ objectives in bringing up their children. This is the time to discuss what values are important. Discuss and reach a consensus. Remember your daughter-in-law / son-in-law’s views are important. It is the parents turn to bring up their children.
- Perhaps, a Traffic Light can be of help to reach a consensus. A few Red light rules that every member of the family should follow — e.g. no foul language in the house. A few Amber light rules that are different for adults and children — e.g. a bed time. And the Green light which are about ‘Freedom’ times e.g. no helicopter parents and grandparents constantly hovering around and over protecting the children.
- And so, if there are rules, there are consequences which are Rewards and Penalties.
And from this whole process, we will have children who will learn to make the right decisions through life.
I now come to you in my second message.
How many of you would say and think that I was being selfish when I decided that I would enjoy, love and celebrate my grandchildren, but I would not look after them on a regular, daily basis?
Well, I did just that and have also stuck to the decision (not that my son or daughter-in-law asked).
The reason being, I have my own life to lead, my own schedules, my likes and dislikes, my friends. Do the things that I have always wanted to do but could not. Spend my money the way I want to. Have the time to stand and stare when I want to. Dress the way I like — Do you know that I deliberately chose to wear a bright saree today — I wanted it to be a message for life itself. It is your life — live it.
Dear grandparents, we cannot leave the grandchildren out of this beautiful day — so allow me to read a book to them on your behalf — A book I bought when my granddaughters were little. It is entitled, ‘I Love You Through and Through’ by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak and Illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church
I love you through and through
I love your top side.
I love your bottom side.
I love your inside
I love your happy side,
your sad side,
your silly side,
your mad side.
I love your fingers
I love your hair and eyes,
I love you running
I love you through and through …
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, too.
But you know what children, I would like you — and I am sure your grandparents too would like — to hear the same story read to them.
I read the story a second time and it was fun to see the grandparents get into the spirit of the book and doing the actions wherever possible.
And I am sure; there are innumerable children, teenagers, adults, seniors who would like to hear someone say to them.
‘I love you through and through…
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, too.’
Can we do that for at least one person a day? Thank you Father Principal and all the lovely people I have met today, for a morning well spent.