Of all the different stereotypes of grandma, the one that’s most proliferated is that grandma’s job is to spoil her grandchildren.
Recently, a friend sent me a cute Hallmark book called Life Is Good At Grandmas (Hallmark). The “spoiler” stereotype is driven home on every page:
- At grandma’s you can check the rules at the door.
- Grandma says “yes” a whole lot more than she says “no.”
- If grandma takes you shopping, chances are she’ll buy you something really, really nice (Mom may think grandma spoils you, but grandma says that’s just part of her job.)
- Grandma has some cool stuff but if you accidentally break something, she definitely won’t get mad … and she probably won’t even tell anybody.
The day after reading this book, I spotted a headline in Ask Amy’s advice column: “Spoiling grandchild not a right.”
An expectant couple wrote to complain that their well-off in-laws were buying all sorts of expensive new toys and clothing for their future grandchild and insisting it’s their right to spoil their grandchild.
I loved Amy’s answer: It is not a grandparent’s right to “spoil” a grandchild. Grandparents really don’t have any automatic right to behave in a way that undermines the parents, certainly if the parents are reasonable, rational and intentional.
She advised the couple to tell their well-meaning in-laws what their needs are and the values by which they live. Acknowledge their generosity and suggest they might derive a lot of satisfaction from starting a college fund for their grandchild or find another creative way to contribute that doesn’t involve a mountain of goodies.
Amy’s advice was not only wise for this specific incident but also for setting some boundaries for the future. In my book, When Being a Grandma Isn’t So Grand: 4 Keys to L.O.V.E. Your Grandchild’s Parents, I interviewed mom’s and asked what advice they would give grandmas. Here’s one of my favorites on the subject of spoiling:
Moms don’t appreciate grandmas who believe that the best thing about grandparenting is to spoil the kids and then send them home. Kids will respect grandmas more if we have some rules just like home. Then, when the parents get the kids back, they don’t have to re-teach manners and rules.
I believe a little bit of spoiling is one of the pleasures of being a grandma but I don’t think I’d go around wearing a tee shirt that says: Grandma’s my name and spoiling’s my game.
It doesn’t send the right message to my grandchildren or my daughter.
Where do you stand on the issue of spoiling?