Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Differences Between Parents and Grandparents That Can Help Your Child

“A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer.”- Author Unknown

Parents often find themselves in the awkward position of negotiating rules for their children with their own parents. Each generation has its own set of parenting advice, fads and safety concerns. Odds are good that eventually you’ll have a disagreement with your child’s grandparents about child-rearing, nutrition or safety.

While it’s important to stand your ground on important safety issues and to ensure that there is some consistency between parents’ and grandparents’ houses, not all differences between parents and grandparents are bad. Your child can actually benefit from being exposed to different lifestyles, customs and beliefs. Here are 3 ways the differences between you and your child’s grandparents can actually encourage psychological and intellectual development in your child.  

Critical Thinking Skills

Perhaps your parents are devoutly religious and you’re raising a more liberal-minded child. Or maybe your parents were partying hippies and you’re a hard-working disciplinarian. Being exposed to differences in religious, political and cultural beliefs can actually encourage critical thinking skills in your child.

You might worry about your child’s grandparents indoctrinating her to a perspective that you find offensive or out-dated. But unless your child is living with her grandparents, odds are good that she’ll be more inclined to adopt her parents’ perspective. Being exposed to different viewpoints, however, can encourage her to understand other people’s thinking, to defend her own beliefs and to think critically about important issues.  

Understanding Rules

Although grandparents are well-known for their tendency to spoil their grandkids, some grandparents are actually stricter than their grandchildrens’ parents. While basic rules about how to treat people, honesty and kindness should be encouraged in both houses, some differences regarding manners, bedtimes and television are bound to spring up.

These minor differences in rules can actually help your child become an ethical person. Children who understand that some rules are a result of tradition and some are a result of basic, fundamental codes are better-equipped to make good moral decisions. Further, encouraging your child to respect the rules at both houses can help her to become sensitive to the differences that exist between different people, which promotes tolerance.  


Most parents know that children thrive in a predictable, routine environment. Understandably, then, it can be frustrating when grandparents alter bedtimes, change your child’s diet and otherwise alter the routine your child thrives under. However, an important part of growing in a mature adult is the ability to be flexible. Children should be able to thrive in a variety of environments, and slight alterations in a child’s routine can actually make him more resilient.

Sleeping in a bed with a trundle instead of her usual bed is not going to harm your child. Instead, it may make her better equipped to adapt to a variety of sleeping circumstances and sleep better during the night. Similarly, minor changes in diet simply teach your child to accept and appreciate new and different foods.

Flexibility is also key to having fun. Adults who are rigidly set in their ways struggle to adapt to changes in jobs and family structure and may suffer from depression as a result. Spontaneity and adaptability are both skills your child can learn when she has to adjust to a different environment at her grandparents’ house.

We’ve all heard that in life and in parenting it’s wise to choose our battles. Before you draw a line in the sand with your child’s grandparents, consider the possible benefits to your child of adapting to different environments. The changes that are so stressful to you might actually end up teaching your child new skills that will serve him well in adulthood.  

About the Author: Christobel Edwards became a grandmother two years ago and views this development as an important next step in life. She’s also learning to keep her mouth shut! She loves buying things for her grandchild and recently bought her bunk beds with stairs. This was a better choice than the Captains Bed design as it meant that if her daughter had another child the bunk beds would accommodate both children.

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