John Cowan - Grand Grandparents

Publish Date
Friday, 14 July 2017, 2:04PM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan

Being a grandparent can be, should be, wonderful. Having grandparents involved in your kid’s lives can be, should be wonderful too. But over the years I’ve heard niggles from both parents and grandparents – so I know it’s not always Disneyland – but I’ve also seen it work well, so here is just one tip that can iron out a lot of typical problems.  The tip is an attitude – respect.

Parents:  respect your own parents’ and in-laws’ knowledge and experience; respect the fact that they will be acting out of good intentions, even if they are not doing exactly what you would like; and respect that their parenting ideas were formed in another era. Here’s a big one: respect your partner’s relationship with his or her parents… it’s very straining on a relationship to grizzle about your in-laws. And perhaps the biggest one: respect your own ability and authority with your own kids. I know it’s your Mum and Dad, I know they are always worth listening to, and you hate offending them,  but they are your kids and the buck stops with you.  Respect yourself enough not to be upset or offended if your parents want to push in too much or offer advice that sounds like criticism.

Now –  Grandparent  –  you’ve been listening in to that advice. What do you reckon?  I bet you agree with it and it’s probably the advice you would give any young parents dealing with their parents.  So you won’t mind me pointing out that you’ve got some respecting to do as well with your own kids. I know you can see faults and problems, I know you want to help, but we of the older generation have to respect their rights as a mum and dad: no one should push in to that role of the parent with their child.  Of course, occasionally, sad stuff in families happens around drugs, crime, mental health and then grandparents might need to step in, for the for the sake of their grandkids, but, normally, we cheer from the sideline and help when asked. 

One other area or respect, Grandparent: respect your own boundaries. Don’t allow your willingness to help to be taken advantage of. Help when asked, but only when you want to and when it is convenient. If it clashes with your judo classes or mountain biking?  Tough! Your kids will have to find someone else.


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About John

John has been with The Parenting Place ( for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.

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