by Dr. Ken Canfield

Grandparents, we can play a pivotal role in our grandchildren’s futures, and sometimes it can happen through simple words of encouragement.

In his memoir Lucky Man, actor Michael J. Fox talks about his Nana as one of the adult figures who influenced him most. She encouraged Michael to pursue his dream, even in the face of his family’s doubt. She helped to inspire a successful acting career that she would never get to see.

All of our grandchildren have special talents and big dreams. When we share uplifting words and insights about the gifts God has given them, that encouragement can motivate them to achieve greatness.

For parents, a big part of their role is to shape their children’s behavior, so even if the parents do a great job of giving lots of praise and encouragement, a child still may feel that she is often being evaluated or corrected, or being told to improve in some way. That’s the “heavy lifting” of parenting, and we get to leave all that to them (unless, of course, we’re raising our grandkids). But in most cases, as grandparents …

We have the privilege to be extra encouragers.

And we’re in a special position to do this. For us, there’s less pressure and expectations when we relate to our grandkids. We get to just enjoy them and give laser-like encouragement. That makes us great partners for their parents. It’s also great because our grandchildren will want to spend more time with people who encourage them in positive ways.

Also, since we usually aren’t with them all the time, we can step back and see the bigger picture: how they’re changing and growing. And all this is in the context of our years of life experience.

We need to become experts at this! Here are some simple reminders to help you better encourage your grandkids:

Be highly involved in their lives.

Our consistent presence means that we’ll be there during many of their victories, their failures, and everything in between. We’ll see their strengths and weaknesses, and we can be difference makers through our encouragement.

As grandparents, we are extra sets of eyes and ears focused on the best outcome. We can bring those positive words to help build up a grandchild’s confidence.

Speak those positive words.

In the adult world, many times we think or feel things but don’t always say them. And sometimes it’s appropriate to stay quiet. But let’s be clear: positive encouragement should never be held back, especially with our grandchildren. As my friend Charles Morton suggests, every time you think something good about your grandchild, say it to him or her. It might take time to learn this as a natural response, but start learning and moving in that direction.

Be ready with those words of encouragement. It can be as simple as saying, “Wow, look at what you did!” “I’m so proud of you” or, “I believe in you.” And often your encouragement will have an aspect of exhortation, where you might affirm a grandchild using phrases like: “I know you’ll do the right thing,” or, “I believe you’ll do what’s best. Let me know how I can help.”

This type of encouragement is magnetic and can often lead your grandchild to talk about challenges that are deeply held in her heart. It’s one of the privileges that the grandparent-grandchild bond affords.

Don’t Get Too Fluffy

A brief caution is warrented about going too far with how we encourage our grandkids. Giving them lots of positive encouragement does not mean gushing with overly fluffy, sugar-coated praise. Kids are often very good judges of our sincerity.

So, grandparents, keep encouraging your grandkids. This is a powerful way we can affirm the good things they do and balance out any negative messages they may be hearing at school or from others in their life.

What’s your favorite thing to say or do to encourage your grandkids? Please share some wisdom (and learn from others) at our Facebook page.

Encouragement is one of the main points in Dr. Ken’s longer article about meeting our grandkids’ emotional needs. Read more here.