by Dr. Ken Canfield

My grandmother taught me lessons about trusting others, not holding grudges, about values and morals, how to sew and cook and garden, how to live a great life, to enjoy the simple things in life, to care about others, family traditions, and spiritual principles. My grandfather taught me the tricks of his trade, how to fish and tell funny stories, the importance of hard work, how to forgive others, to buckle down and get things done, and to plan for the future.

Those are just one adult’s memories, and they represent the diverse range of topics and principles grandparents have taught their grandchildren through the years—and that grandchildren remember for a long time.

I have always had a hunch that grandparents are incredible teachers, but after looking at many more comments from adults about their grandparents (like the one above), I was amazed. I’m realizing that the teaching role may be one of important roles grandparents play—maybe the most important.

Now, before you panic and say, “I’m not a teacher,” know that I’m not suggesting you need a teaching credential to be an awesome grandmother or grandfather. You don’t have to be able to give your grandkids lectures on scholarly concepts or walk them through complicated scientific processes. (Although if you both are very interested in a certain concept or process, seize the opportunity and enjoy some great time together.) In general, a grandparent’s teaching won’t involve a lecture or anything complicated.

Just think about what you learned from your grandparents—if you had the opportunity to spend significant time with them. Maybe some of you had grandparents who were full-time teachers, but I suspect most of our grandparents were factory workers, farmers, homemakers, hairdressers, mechanics, shopkeepers, construction workers, executives, tailors, bakers, bankers, and so on. Yet so many of our grandparents managed to teach us a lot about life and pass on skills and wisdom that we still carry with us today.

As for matters related to life, love, the pursuit of happiness, knowing right from wrong, recovering from bad choices, responding to suffering, and on and on—I know you are a teacher! To think of yourself as less than a teacher might mean missing out on a great grandparenting privilege.

I see teaching as a key aspect of the moral, responsible, life-giving role that each of us can play in our families, and I suggest we all proudly claim this part of our role and do our very best at it.

Teaching is one of the main fundamentals of grandparenting—the “T” in my book, The HEART of Grandparenting, and this is one area that overlaps with other aspects of our role. As I’m sure you know, we teach our grandchildren through our Example, the “E” in HEART. They pick up a lot from us simply by watching us and being around us; we’re teaching them something all the time by how we act, our routines, how we handle emotions, how we treat people, and so on. Likewise, the “H” stands for Heritage, and telling stories to our grandkids and sharing with them about the past are more great ways we can teach them.

What should you teach them? I suppose the possibilities are endless:

  • Family history.
  • Important lessons you learned earlier in life.
  • Proverbs and maxims: timeless wisdom from old sayings and/or from Scripture.
  • Discernment and other values that are important to you.
  • Skills and disciplines that will benefit them in life.

That list could go on and on. For now, I simply want to impress upon you that you are a teacher, and I hope you’ll be intentional about that role you play for your grandkids.

What are you equipped and/or passionate about teaching your grandkids? Please respond with 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.