Listen Up Grandma: Go Ahead and Spoil Your Grandchildren!

Spoiling your grandchildren is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

Posted Dec 17, 2014

Between you and me, Grandma, not only is it ok for you to spoil your grandchildren. It’s the right thing to do. Especially now, during the holidays.

I’m probably biased. All four of my daughter’s grandparents died before she was born. In my opinion, that means my daughter has suffered a severe shortage in the spoiling department.

I mean I can’t spoil her, now can I?

Mind you, my daughter doesn’t think she has suffered. She doesn’t know any better. But I know what she’s missing.

Short story: When my daughter was about 5, I took her to visit one of my mother’s dear friends.  We arrived early one rainy morning, and my mother’s friend swooped my daughter up in a whirlwind of attention. She wasn’t just offering hugs and kisses. No, this wonderful woman—standing in as a temporary grandma—fussed over my daughter like no one’s business. Off came the wet clothes. Out came the towel. And then…the spoiling hit the sublime.

  • “Let’s go get you a cup of hot chocolate.”
  • My daughter lit up.
  • “And then, I have a box of chocolate that we’re going to open up.”
  • My daughter shot a questioning glance over at me.
  • “Oh, don’t worry about your mother. You’re in my house now.”
  • My daughter glanced at me with a smug glow. Victory!

It was early in the morning. Too early for so much chocolate? And no one had helped me out of my wet clothes. Nonetheless, my heart swelled. It sang.

I’ve written a lot about not using food for emotional reasons. And I still don't recommend that you distract your grandchildren from boo boos and other bad feelings with brownies. This is different, though.

Food has the power to create connections, to build bonds, to make magical memories.(It might even get your grandchildren to look up from their devices!) But I think this story illustrates more than the role—should I say sway?—of chocolate.

  • The rules are suspended!
  • Someone is more powerful than parents!
  • Attention! Attention! Attention!

So Grandma. Go ahead and spoil your grandchildren. But please, use these guidelines.

If you’re a…

Once or Twice a Year Visitor: Feed your grandkids whatever you want. This is your moment. Take full advantage of it.

Once or Twice a Month Visitor: Be a little more judicious—maybe let your children know what sweets and treats you have planned—so parents can prepare.

Once a Week Visitor: Get with the parents’ program, and fit your treat giving in with their feeding scheme. It's the only thing you can do to make sure your grandchildren develop healthy eating habits.

And then, once you’re done plying your grandchildren with treats, consider plying your grandchildren with something else: your undivided attention. That's a way to really spoil them!

We’re lucky. We have another dear family friend who also sometimes steps in as my daughter’s grandma. (Yes, I’ve made it a practice to recruit people for the position!) This grandma believes that one of the best ways to spoil your grandkids is to “listen louder” to them. Listening, she says, helps children feel safe enough to share their feelings, their worries, and whatever else is true for them. And what could spoil your grandkids more than that? Check out Ina Albert’s book, Granny Greeny says…Listen Louder. 

Happy Holidays!

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

© 2014 Dina Rose, PhD, is the author of the book, It’s Not About the Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating (Perigee Books). She also writes the blog It's Not About Nutrition.