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My grandchildren are annoying!

Q: I hate to say it, but my two grandchildren are brats. When they are over here, they talk back to my husband and constantly interrupt me. They won’t leave us alone for even a minute so that we can talk with our daughter – and she does nothing to correct them. I can’t stand it anymore – what can I say to her or to them?

A: Both of my grandmas were actively engaged in busy lives. Sometimes we were the focus of their attention, but often we were incorporated into their activities by completing “parallel tasks.” When they were cooking, we made small-scale versions called the “cook’s treat,” which we could consume ourselves. When Grandma Esta was working on her stamp collection, out came our child-size books to fill in with her leftover stamps. When adult friends visited them, an old-fashioned toy or game that had belonged to our parents emerged out of nowhere. Adults set the context and I never knew for sure what grandparents would be up to next. Special requests might be honored or they might not. They didn’t always pull out what I hoped for and there were disappointing moments. But it was an interesting contrast to the predictable daily routine that parents were more prone to!

Keep boredom at bay!

 An R. I. Fitzhenry quote gives a clue on how to change the household context: “Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.” It sounds as if your grandchildren are interrupting your conservation with your daughter because they are bored or seeking attention.

• When they arrive, plan an interaction that involves all three generations. For example, have pizza dough spread out on pans with tomato sauce and toppings ready to put on. Let your grandchildren each make a pizza, helping them settle in.
• Copy photos of your daughter when she was their age. Let each grandchild make a photo book to “surprise” mom with before they leave. The grandchildren will need to be in a corner so mom doesn’t see what they are up to!
• Plan different activities for each visit so that they don’t know what to expect.

Clarify the purpose of the visit

 Your daughter and her two children are visiting your home. But it sounds as if you really want time to spend talking with your daughter. It is likely that keeping track of her children distracts your daughter. Would she feel comfortable letting Grandpa care for the grandchildren while you go out to lunch with her? And then reversing the arrangement next time? This will give each of you a time to get to know your grandchildren as individuals as well.
    Hopefully, over time, your grandchildren will come to bring you joy: “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. (Proverbs 17:6)

Dr. Cathleen McGreal

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