Don’t our grandchildren grow up quickly? They are absolute cherubs now and in the blink of an eye, reach the terrible twos. My grandbaby is going to turn one, and we can already detect a strong will behind his cheeky grin (that’s him refusing carrots). His parents will have to discuss discipline soon!
How many parenting manuals did we have in our time? Maybe Dr Spock? Parents now have a barrage of parenting apps, a mountain of books … information galore. Yet knowledge does not equate to wisdom.
My personal view is that firm boundaries give a child security. This is backed by Cloud and Townsend, well-known clinical psychologists.
In our time a smack was not out of the question. One of my siblings often got into trouble as a child and was banished to the toilet for misdeeds. This method is still in use! A young American friend recently told me that the most effective discipline for her 5 year old was being sent to the toilet for alone time. I burst out laughing because that story transported me back 50 years with my snivelling sister being locked up! The Chinese phrase for that practice is “wan see harng”.
What else do the experts tell us about discipline?
Professor Kim Oates, a pediatrician of long standing, reassures us that there are no perfect parents. Rather parents should aim to be just “good enough” Aha! By extension there are no perfect grandparents either! So let’s cast aside any anxieties as tip #1 is “No-one gets it right all the time.”
Tip #2 really sounds like a rule – love unconditionally. It’s not about letting the child have everything he or she wants. Rather it means giving regular and generous doses of affection. In my time as a parent I tried to encourage good behaviour by awarding gold star stickers. Three gold stars meant an ice-cream or some other treat. Alas! My then 5 year old son saw right through me. He disdained the gold stars and announced he didn’t like ice cream or ANY of the other treats. I got put into my place very quickly!
I’m going to skip to Prof Oates’ Tip# 5: be authoritative not authoritarian. Let me digress a little. In her bestseller Bringing Up Bebe, Pamela Druckerman tells us that French parenting is hugely different from American. A New Yorker living in France, one of her many observations is that French children do not throw food around and always ask to be excused if they want to leave the table. And it’s not just French vs. Americans – I asked a young French friend what behavioural differences she observed between French and Australians kiddies and, without hesitation, she pointed to table manners!
The French are authoritative parents – they are in charge not the kiddies. Yet within firm boundaries the littles are allowed quite a lot of freedom, and are not expected to be entertained or supervised all the time.
Authoritarian parents on the other hand do not allow their children to make decisions on their own. They are over-involved, pushy, and really at the end of the control spectrum. It’s a little unlikely that grandparents will be authoritarian – even the sternest granddad will probably be putty in their grandbabies chubby little hands.
Will we fall into the category of “parading” grandparents who crow about their grandchildren’s achievements? Oh, that’ll be me, for sure. “It’s a trap”, warns Prof Oates, parenting (or grandparenting) then becomes about us and not about the child, and the poor kid may feel pressured to live up to onerous expectations. I’ve seen examples where parading parents end up with children with a huge sense of entitlement. This trap also involves “illegitimate” or unwarranted praise – “you did so well in your test you must be the best student in the whole school, you’ll grow up to be a brain surgeon.” For goodness sake, let’s not be tiger grandmas or grandpas!
There’re heaps of other great tips … 17 more to be exact. Buy the books, and tell me your grandparenting tips!