5 Things to Do Instead of Overindulging Your Grandkids

Do grandparents have the right to overindulge their grandchildren?

Posted Oct 12, 2020

As a grandparent, you want the best for your grandchildren. You understand the risks that grandchildren face if you overindulge them. Most of all you do not want to lose time with your grandchildren because you don't follow their parents' rules when you are with them.

Here are five suggestions of things that grandparents can do instead of overindulging their grandchildren.

Pexels-Pixaby/License CC0
Source: Pexels-Pixaby/License CC0

1. Set Clear Expectations

Often grandparents fail to state clear expectations for their grandchildren and are upset when they fail to live up to those unspoken expectations. Being straight forward and clear about your expectations is the best policy. Remember, your grandchildren can't read your mind. You need to be very clear about your expectations. State them upfront.

Scenario 1

Your 5-year-old granddaughter comes over to your house. You have several clear plastic boxes filled with toys she likes to play with. She takes out every toy and has a great time playing with them, but neglects to pick them up and put them back in the boxes. Consequently, she leaves you with a big mess to clean up. You think to yourself, “How irresponsible children are today!” Instead, the next time she comes over you need to say,

I have a new rule. If you are going to play with Grandpa’s toys, you need to pick them up and put them back where you found them when you are done.”

At first, she will need reminders of your new rule. The reminders will help her adjust to your new expectations. After a while, it will become second nature for her to put things back where she got them when she is finished.

Scenario 2

Instead of getting upset with your teenage grandchildren for not engaging in conversation at the dinner table because they are on their smartphones, make a rule. “No smartphones at the dinner table.” 

If you don’t want your teenage grandchildren to use their smartphones at the dinner table, no exceptions, place a basket on a side table, and tell everyone (including the adults) to put their phones in the basket. “No phones until the meal is over and everyone is done."

Scenario 3

If you loan your 23-year-old grandson your car and expect that he return it with a full tank of gas, make this clear from the outset. Instead of not saying anything about it, or worse, giving him a weak expectation like, “It would be nice if you filled the tank before you return it,” say, “I expect that you will fill the car with gas before you return it.” Remember, you are helping your grandchildren by being clear and stating your expectations.

2. Share Your Stories

Every afternoon, I came home from school to find my Grandpa Bredehoft smoking his pipe on our front porch. Taking the empty chair next to him, he would ask how my day was and then begin to tell me and my two brothers stories.

My grandparents John and Emma Bredehoft
Source: Bredehoft

He was a wonderful storyteller. He told me tall tales of his youth, most I still remember today. In these stories, he gave the gift of himself, more precious than any toy he could have given me! Stories that have lasted my lifetime. Stories that taught me about character. Stories that shared his cherished values. Stories that had a moral center to them.

Instead of showering your grandchildren with gifts that fall apart, get lost, or quickly lose their interest, share your stories. Your stories will last your grandchildren’s lifetime.

3. Share Your Favorite Hobby or Pastime

Do you have a favorite hobby or pastime that you are passionate about? If so, share it with your grandchildren! If you love it, they will love it especially when they are small.

My father-in-law Gene Shepherd with scope birdwatching
Source: Bredehoft

Maybe your hobby or favorite pastime is quilting, stamp collecting, photography, gardening, looking for fossils, scrapbooking, painting, canning, dancing, sewing, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, magic, antiquing, art collecting, reading, ice skating, or bird watching. If you love it, they will love it too.

These shared moments with your grandchildren will last forever. Take plenty of pictures! Share the moments!

4. Model Your Cherished Values

Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk! Whether we realize it or not, we all have cherished values. Ideas and beliefs that we hold near and dear.

My father John Bredehoft with his granddaughter Jennifer
Source: Bredehoft

Do you know what your values are? If not, follow these 6 steps from MindTools to decide what’s most important in your life.

Step 1: Identify the times when you were happiest

Step 2: Identify the times when you were most proud

Step 3: Identify the times when you were most fulfilled and satisfied

Step 4: Determine your top values, based on your experiences of happiness, pride, and fulfillment

Step 5: Prioritize your top values

Step 6: Reaffirm your values

Remember, your grandchildren are watching. What’s more powerful, words, or actions? The adage is true, “Actions speak louder than words!

Don’t just Talk the Talk when it comes to your cherished values, Walk the Walk.

My mother Elsie Bredehoft with her grandsons Joe and Michael
Source: Bredehoft

5. Start a College Fund

One thing a grandparent can do instead of overindulging their grandchildren (Too Much, Overnurture, and Soft Structure) is to start a college fund. Instead of sending them money that gets spent on what you might consider as frivolous things, set up a college fund. Yes, it won’t be seen by your grandchild as “cool” as the latest and greatest hot toy every other kid wants, but come college time it will be a welcome choice: (1) money from a college loan to be paid off over 20 years or (2) money from the college fund? Which do you think they will choose and be very happy about?

Do your homework. A good place to start your homework is by reading an article in The New York Times by John F. Wasik, “The Best Way to Help a Grandchild With College,” May 27, 2016.

As You Consider What Your Job as a Grandparent Is:

  1. Think about the kind of grandparent you want to be.
  2. Think about the role you want to play.
  3. Think about the place you have in the family structure.

Practice Aloha. Do all things with Love, Grace, and Gratitude.

© 2020 David J. Bredehoft


Bredehoft, D. J., Mennicke, S. A., Potter, A. M., & Clarke, J. I. (1998). Perceptions attributed by adults to parental overindulgence during childhoodJournal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education16(2), 3-17.