I’m a big fan of Amy Dickinson’s advice column “Ask Amy.” My favorite letters involve challenges in the grandparent relationship. In this letter a grandma faces a common dilemma: how to offer parenting advice without offending her grandchildren’s parents. Since she’s a retired educator, her observations seem justified. But does that give her permission to impose her ideas on the parents? What do you think? Should she or shouldn’t she give advice?
Dear Amy: My husband and I went to visit our oldest son and his wife. They have three children, ages 6, 9 and 11. The youngest girl screams at the top of her lungs when she does not get her way. She also hits her mother when her mother tries to correct her. The oldest child baits the others to stir up trouble. The son hits his sisters with anything he picks up and never does what he is told. The house is in a constant uproar. The children are out of control at home, but are perfect at school and are excellent students.
I am a retired teacher with 26 years of experience teaching children from early childhood through sixth grade. I have had a lot of training in behavior modification. I know how to get these grandchildren in line, but everyone says I should say nothing.
My other two children tell me their brother will not take my advice well. The children act this way because they can get away with it. These grandchildren do not treat me the way they treat their parents. They cannot be happy living in this environment.
If these children were my students, I would recommend parenting classes for their parents. I want to have a good relationship with my son and his wife. I want to be a loving grandma. What should I do?
Dear Grandma: This is a common situation. But if these children are great at school and great when they are with you, then maybe you should let their parents run their chaotic household the way they want to, until they ask you for help or advice.
The father of this pack was raised by you in your household. He knows the difference between his childhood household and the one in which he is raising his children. He also knows that you are a skilled and experienced teacher.
You should spend as much time as possible with these children — one-on-one and in a group — outside of their home.
You should not suggest parenting classes. But you could say to these parents, “I had three children, too, and know it can get crazy at home. As a parent and a teacher, I’ve seen it all and I could probably help you and the kids with some behavioral issues. Let me know if you want me to try, and we can talk about it.”