by Teri Gasser
My son glared at me through the glass. I had locked him out until he mowed the lawn. My husband was deployed to Afghanistan. It was just me and my belligerent thirteen-year-old. He never would have pulled this rebellion with Dad, but he was almost as tall as me and did not want to mow the lawn. “I’m going to run away!” he screamed.
“Fine,” I calmly replied, in a volume he could hear through the window. “When you get hungry, dinner will be served after the lawn is mowed.”
“I’m going to Grandma’s.” He thought he had me now.
I busted out laughing. “And what will Grandma tell you?”
What a relief to know I could trust my mom to have my back. She valued our relationship and never attempted to undermine my parenting. She expected my children to obey and never interfered when I had to discipline them. She required “please” and “thank you” from her grandchildren, and never indulged a “give me, give me” attitude. I knew if my son went to her house for a meal and sympathy, she would tell him to mow the lawn and send him home.
That’s the grandma I want to be, but it’s harder than I thought. I don’t remember disciplining my own kids as painful. Yet I almost break down in tears when my grandkids get their just dessert. Even though I know how important it is for them to learn obedience, it still hurts.
Lack of respect pains our culture. The news bombards us with stories of shootings and violent protest. Do we want our grandchildren to respect the law and law enforcement officers? Do we think it’s important for them to follow classroom rules and listen to their teachers? Do we long for our grandchildren to treat all people with dignity and respect? Do we hope our grandchildren will honor their Creator too?
If your response is “yes” to these questions, then grandchildren must learn to respect and obey their parents. Honoring parental authority acts as the human primer for all other realms of life. That means we must set the example. They need to see us on their parents’ side, respecting their parents’ wishes.
On occasion, I have blown it. Sometimes by allowing something I shouldn’t, sometimes by stepping up to join my daughter in the reprimand. I’m glad my daughter feels free to tell me when I’ve overstepped. She’s not resentful or angry. She too sets an example by responding to me in a respectful manner. She knows I mean well, and I know she does also. Mutual respect goes a long way with adult children.
Respecting Our Children’s Right to be Wrong
Sure, there are times we think we know better, but it’s not our call to make. I hope we’re honest enough to realize that we were not perfect parents. I don’t know about you, but I made plenty of mistakes. Our kids will have their own parental failures. I’m thankful my mom and dad respected me and let me do it my way, even if it was the wrong way. I need to extend that same respect to my children.
I remember my teenagers grumbling about how horrible of a mother I was, usually when they weren’t getting their way. I assured them I knew I wasn’t perfect. Then, instead of arguing with them, I’d put the ball in their court. “My grandchildren better have a better mom than you do.” To my daughter’s credit, I think she got it. She’s my hero! She’s more patient and consistent than I managed to be. I want to be her cheerleader. By respecting her as the mother of my grandchildren, I make her a better mom. She gains confidence and freedom to do her job well. And after all, don’t we really want our grandkids to have better parents than we were?
Expecting Our Grandchildren to be Respectful
In my house, there is one offense I always take the lead in addressing. I do not allow my grandchildren to speak disrespectfully to their parents. If I hear one of them make a defiant reply to either parent, my response is a firm, “Excuse me?! You may not speak to your parents that way in this house. Now, apologize.” I’ve only had to do this once or twice. Thus far, there has always been compliance, but I am prepared to deal with rebellion should the need arise. Trust me, there are plenty of perks and privileges at this Grammy’s, and I have no qualms about denying them.
Living Love and Respect Out Loud
Being pro-active also helps. I often tell my grandchildren their mama is my baby girl, and I love her very much. I hug and kiss her and my son-in-law in their children’s presence. I try to remember every time I’m with my grandkids to sing their parents’ praises:
“Your daddy is such a hard worker. He provides so well for you!”
“Your mommy cooks such yummy meals for us. Aren’t you thankful?!”
“Your mom and dad say ‘no’ because they love you and want what’s best for you.”
Comments like these encourage my kids as they do what, I believe, is the hardest job on earth. These comments also show my grandchildren I appreciate how their parents are raising them.
Have a Plan B
Plan A revolves around our grandchildren responding well to the previous steps, but what will we do if a rebellious grandchild turns up on our doorstep? First: listen. Let them vent. Then repeat what you heard so they feel understood. Next, we need to help them see beyond themselves and the immediate situation. Give them a glimpse of the bigger picture. Help them understand how this course could lead to more problems in the future. Assure them life is not fair, and everyone has a boss they disagree with at some point in life. Tell them now is a good time for them to learn to deal with it, and submit to Mom and Dad. Last, take them home and assure them you’ll be checking to make sure they have done what was required. We may even want to sweeten the deal by rewarding an attitude adjustment when it’s all said and done. Something like, “I tell you what. After you’ve mowed the lawn and had dinner, how about you and I go out for ice cream?”
Parenting is the hardest job ever. We know because we’re survivors. We shouldn’t want to make it any harder for our children. They need help to get through it too. My mom helped me get through by respecting my right to be wrong, by expecting my children to respect me, and by loving and respecting me in front of my kids. Someday, if any of my grandchildren threaten to run away to my house, I want my kids to be able to laugh in the face of such belligerence and ask with confidence, “And what will Grammy tell you?!”
Teri Gasser and her husband Bill enjoy grandparenting four rambunctious and precious grandkids, age seven and under. They’ve been married more than 30 years and have raised four children. Teri grew up as a Navy Brat and Bill just retired from 43 years of military service, including 30 years as a Navy chaplain. They reside in Manhattan, Kansas, where Teri works as a full-time homemaker and writer. You can read her blog at terigasser.com.