by Dr. Ken Canfield

When his son married a woman with children, John knew that his step-grandchildren had been through some chaotic changes in the past few years. He decided he could step up and help them straighten up their manners and overall behavior. But he didn’t check with his son and new daughter-in-law first.

So, at family gatherings, John watched the kids carefully and occasionally chimed in to offer a quick lesson about how to behave, or he’d reinforce the household rules. Then, later that day or the next day, John would call his son and tell him what he’d observed. For the son, it was like a replay of his own childhood and pretty much the opposite of what he thought his children needed.

John thought he was doing something positive, but gradually the son started coming to see him less and less, and he didn’t bring the children when he did. He was working to become the stable, loving stepfather his kids needed, and it seemed like his own dad was trying to undo any progress he was making.

As the older generation, we should be the ones displaying more maturity than the younger ones. But all too often, it doesn’t seem that way.

Maybe we’re alarmed at what we see in our culture and in “kids these days,” and we’re convinced that we know better. Or maybe we get overwhelmed with joy and excitement at being part of our grandkids’ lives, and we lose perspective on the proper boundaries for our role.

John’s behavior is a common example, but there are others …

A grandfather might get offended when his children and grandchildren don’t come for holidays or special events, and his hurt and anger emerge in not-so-subtle passive-aggressive comments and actions.

A grandmother openly shows favoritism for a certain grandchild over the others.

Grandparents might try to be Super Grandma and Do-Everything Grandpa to try to make up for people who are missing from their grandchildren’s lives, or out of competition with other grandparents.

Or they will shower the grandkids with gifts and trinkets rather than really listening to them and sincerely trying to build a relationship.

It may be hard to believe any grandparent would do things that petty, childish, or disrespectful. But it does happen quite often, and although their intentions might be good, such behaviors are not beneficial for the grandkids or their parents, and may ultimately limit their opportunities to be the grandparents they want to be.

So then, what does it mean to be “mature” as a grandparent?

Here’s what comes to mind for me:

Mature grandparents know their place in the extended family and do the best they can within that role.

They generally put the needs, desires, and feelings of others above their own.

They are difficult to offend.

Mature grandparents have their priorities sorted out, and investing in their grandkids is one of the top ones.

They assume the best of people, including family members.

They don’t always have to have things a certain way or be “right.”

They’re quick to resolve issues when there are problems or hurt feelings—and that includes admitting fault and seeking forgiveness when it’s warranted.

As I often say, there are no perfect families or perfect grandparents, so we’re all works in process here. All of us have made mistakes and will continue to. The point is to recognize them and then grow and do better with our children and grandchildren going forward.

What would you add? What do you think it means to be a “mature” grandparent? What past mistakes have you learned from? Please leave a comment on our Facebook page.

This was adapted from Dr. Ken Canfield’s book, The HEART of Grandparenting. Find out more and get your copy here.