Disciplining Our Grandchildren…Where do we Stand?

a special feature from Grandma extraordinaire, Jane Steiner*

There is a certain feeling of comfort for all of us when we know exactly what is expected of us. This is even truer of young children. There is a very fine line between unconditional love and teaching life’s lessons. Do we dare cross it? Is it even our job to do so?

We love our grandchildren and think everything they do is so “adorable”. While they come to us with all the behaviors they have learned at home, remember we are not their parents!

So, what should we do in terms of discipline? More importantly, what should we NOT do? First rule, never undermine the parents’ rules, even when you know you may be right. All of the rules that apply at home, must apply at Grandma’s.

Kids may think: “What’s the deal when I go to Grandma’s house? Can I test her, can I push her buttons?” The answer is simply, “No!” So how can a grandparent achieve this and still maintain that “this is a special place” atmosphere? Disciplining someone else’s child is a delicate issue. If expectations are discussed in a non-threatening way ahead of time, your job becomes easier. It is very important when giving a directive to explain the reasoning behind it. Try not to use the word “Don’t” too much. You can remain loving and steadfast at the same time. As always, choose your battles.

As an educator of young children, I was often asked, “What is the priority in your classroom?” And the answer was always the same – SAFETY! That should be a grandparent’s priority too. Keep them safe. Yes, the grandkids come to play or swim at your house and have a wonderful time. No, they cannot jump off the garage into the pool like my son did when he was young.  And by the way, he’s okay, he’s almost 50 now.

Bottom line: Be firm about your expectations and still be the most fun grandparent around.

*Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Jane Steiner received her BA in Early Childhood Education from Roosevelt University, and her post-graduate work at UCLA. She taught in the public schools in both Chicago and Los Angeles; and for ten years, she was an early childhood and preschool educator at Wilshire Boulevard Temple Mann Family Early Childhood Center in LA. Jane and her husband Jerry have three children, and seven grandchildren (and she believes that’s where she got her real education!).