Do you ‘spoil’ your grandchildren? Some people say that this is a common phenomenon. It could be argued that children all over the world are becoming increasingly unhealthy, overweight and demanding. Could this be due to the over-attentive care of grandparents?
We, grandparents, it is often argued, give those visiting children too many cookies (or ‘biscuits’ as they are known in the UK) and not enough exercise. This is, of course, the easy option.
Sit them down in front of the television with an extra piece of cake. Perhaps some grandparents buy the children’s affection by letting them have what they want.
Well, I’m not. And plenty of others aren’t either.
Yes, we give the occasional treat in the form of an extra cookie. Or give them pancakes for breakfast and ice cream in the afternoon – or even ice cream for breakfast! But lots of us are also clever at getting children to eat well and establish good eating habits.
It could be argued that grandparents let grandchildren play with their ever-expanding forms of electronic games. This is especially an issue if such time is limited by their parents at home.
Personally, I limit those games, with children always working ‘to get to the next level’. Most grandparents would like a little personal interaction during the brief periods we visit, and so electronic devices often get put away.
My book Celebrating Grandmothers is based on interviews I took with women talking about what it is like to be a grandmother. In the course of writing it I found the shoe to be on the other foot.
Although many were impressed with the childcare given by their own children, many others were deeply concerned about what they saw as regular spoiling.
The grandchildren had too much stuff, they said. One said her granddaughter had so many Christmas presents, they were found unopened months later. Too much screen time was a common cry – and not enough running around.
Indeed, such issues were the source of considerable family tensions, although the grandmothers agreed that they were wise to be quiet. Every grandmother should be ‘issued with a zip’, one suggested.
Finally, it is well known that we, grandparents, give a lot of help to our children in the form of free childcare. Most of us are not complaining because we find it fun or, indeed, fulfilling.
But it is nonetheless work, and, like any work, we don’t always get it right. Indeed, sometimes we do take the easy route.
If we do offer the occasional extra ‘treat’, maybe that is the price our children must pay for our help. Or, as one grandmother put it, giving little treats to grandchildren is the grandmother’s ‘privilege’.
The term ‘spoiling’ is an awful one – as if grandchildren could be forever ruined like a spoiled pudding we were preparing. It tends to be used as a term for doing too much, but the grandmothers I interviewed tended to reject the term.
One spoke for many when she said that what she did was not spoiling but ‘showering them with love’. And for me, that is one of the joys of being a grandparent.
Do you spoil your grandchildren? Do you feel that giving your grandchildren extra treats is a problem? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.