What do you value in life? What shining virtues stand above time and progress? What personal qualities do you want your children and grandchildren to carry into future generations?
Grandparents, you know you can have a powerful influence on your grandchildren. This is one great way to make a difference in the next generation, to leave behind something of lasting value for those you love. This can be one of your grandest roles as a grandparent.
Yes, you can be an important teacher in this area.
Grandparents have a special window into a child’s heart. When a parent relates to his children, there is often a struggle for control going on under the surface. He’s the adult in charge, the disciplinarian, and it’s hard for a child to set aside that authoritative image.
But if you can get the child alone, away from her parent’s expectations, often she can relax. She’ll listen better and ask more thoughtful questions, like: “Grandpa, when Daddy was seven, was he like me?” “Did he have to clean up his plate?” Or maybe, “Why did Aunt Julie get divorced?”
She’s trying to learn about her world, including school, family, and relationships in general. With you, she may be more open to learn, and you can help shape her young mind.
Usually, you can’t plan these opportunities — they just happen. That’s why it’s good to spend lots of unstructured time with your grandchildren. You may teach something without even realizing it: something happens, you take an action, answer a question or explain something, and the child learns something new.
Listen to your grandchild.
This is important because you can never do enough cultivating your grandchild’s trust. Attentive listening communicates that you are interested in him, you consider him worthwhile as a person, and his ideas are worth your time and attention.
Also, when your teaching is guided by careful listening, there’s a much greater likelihood that what you’re teaching will be “on target” for him.
You have lots of wisdom and life experience to draw from; you’ve seen a wide variety of events and changes. Even your mistakes have a positive purpose. Children can sense that you have knowledge about many different topics, and they’re eager to hear about it.
Many of your stories from life have valuable lessons attached to them. Your grandchildren will learn about perseverance, loyalty, hard work, patience, sacrifice, and on and on. If you were impressed and inspired by a particular president or other leader in history, tell your grandkids about that person and what about him appealed to you.
This isn’t to suggest that you preach at your grandchildren or subject them to lengthy lectures. Just tell your stories in a lively, engaging way, and let the story do the teaching. Ask lots of questions to get your grandkids thinking about the values involved in your stories: “Why do you suppose my father turned down that opportunity?” “What do you think you would have done?”
Once you embrace your role as a teacher and see how important values can be passed down in this way, you’ll probably notice more and more opportunities and ways to play this role for your grandkids. It’s one of the most significant parts of being a grandparent.