Written by Mark Gregston.
I never met anyone whose goal was to be a bad grandparent. From the moment we hold that little bundle of joy in our arms, we dedicate our lives to guiding, protecting and loving our grandkid to the best of our ability. Unfortunately, there is no guide on being a good grandparent. We have to figure it out as we go along. And when our grandkid reaches adolescence, that’s when our parenting knowledge is really put to the test.
As a parent and grandparent in my own family, and as a counselor to thousands of teens over the years, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. But I’ve also learned a lot. Let me share with you what I think are the 8 most essential qualities we need as grandparents.
#1—A Thick Skin
Here’s the honest truth—that kid you love will say things and do things that will upset you. Our children and grandchildren have the capacity to hurt us in ways other people cannot. But as grandparents, we need to learn not to take everything our grandchild says and does personally. Chalk it up to hormones, growing up, private struggles, or teen angst … and move on. Developing a thick skin allows you to have a clear, rational mind when you deal with your grandchild, instead of operating under emotions of pain or hurt.
#2—A Soft Heart
Having thick skin doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a soft heart for our grandkids. In order to be the best grandparent we can be, we need to show compassion, empathy and love, even when our kids are at their worst. We should always be looking to understand where our grandkids are coming from, and building bridges to their hearts.
#3—Trust in God
God is working on your grandchild’s heart, and we can trust that He will finish what He started. There’s a sense of relief and freedom in knowing that though we love our grandkids, God loves them even more. Nothing that happens to our family is outside of God’s control. And He is working everything for our good.
#4—A Grasp of the Future
Every grandparent needs to have a solid grasp on the future. It’s knowing that every bump in the road, every hurdle on the path, every storm on our journey is only temporary. It might be tough right now. But tomorrow is a new day and there is hope right around the corner. You can approach every season in your life as a grandparent as a new chapter in your autobiography. Eventually, you’ll flip the page. These struggles and hard times will end. So keep reading—the best is yet to come.
#5—A Desire to Connect
In my experience, teens trust and relate to people who carve out the time to have a relationship with them. If you want to connect with your grandkids and be invited to speak into their lives, you have to enter their world. In order to further your relationship with your grandchild, laugh with him. Talk with her. Play video games with your grandson. Share your heart with your grand-daughter. Get to know what your grandkid finds funny, what makes them sad, what makes them angry, what inspires them the most, and anything else that makes them unique. Trust me, your grandchild wants to connect with you! Take the time to foster a deep relationship with your grandchild.
#6—A Listening Ear
How do you know if you have the essential quality of a listening ear? Ask yourself these questions … Am I lecturing less, and listening more? Am I asking good questions, or am I supplying all the answers? Am I giving my grandchild a chance to speak, or am I dominating the conversation? If we want our grandkids to talk with us more, we have to be better about hearing what they have to say. Would you want to open up to someone who consistently offered their own opinions and viewpoints without pausing to hear yours? Neither do our grandkids!
#7—The Ability to Laugh
We need a strong sense of humor to make it through adolescence. I’m sure the gaping hole in the drywall from that living room wrestling match didn’t look so funny when it happened. But develop the ability to laugh, make jokes, and see the fun in grandparenting. The wall can be repaired, but the emotional damage from an uneasy or tense home is not easily fixed. The atmosphere you create in your house is a magnet that can either draw your grandkids in, or push them out the door. So make your home a place where laughter is encouraged, joy is found, and fun is had regardless of the circumstances. Use humor to sidestep some of the pains, hurts and disappointments of parenting, and you and your grandkid will be happier for it.
#8—A Knowledge of Your Own Beliefs
Planning ahead allows you to communicate guidelines to your grandkids early and often. Then, when issues come up, everyone knows the rules and expectations for your home. After deciding and communicating your beliefs, stand your ground. Don’t waver. Your grandchild may not be happy with the consequences, but he or she will respect you for holding to your beliefs. Be loving, but be consistent in how you communicate, explain and uphold the rules of the house.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas. He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and 4 grandkids. He lives in Longview, Texas with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, 2 llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy. His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with over 2,700 teens, has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents.
You can find out more about Heartlight at www.HeartlightMinistries.org. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.