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You may have breathed a sigh of relief now that you’re a Grandma or Grandpa and you’re able to leave the discipline of the grandchildren to their parents. But if you spend any time with the grandkids at all, you’ll soon be reminded that children need consistency in the rules and expectations placed upon them. That means when you’re in charge, you’ll have to do a bit of disciplining too.

When you’re visiting the family and don’t have sole responsibility for the grandchildren, it’s important to keep a low profile in terms of discipline, but take note of the rules already in place. But when you’re in charge, especially if you have the care of the grandchildren for several days or more, you’ll need to work out a plan.

Canada’s Journal, Paediatric and Child Health, has written a very helpful article entitled Effective Discipline for Children. The word “discipline” means to impact knowledge and skills—to teach. The true meaning of the word has more to do with teaching and training than with punishment and control. The article states that for discipline to be effective it must:

Be given by an adult with a close bond to the child

Be consistent

Be fair

Be developmentally and temperamentally appropriate (by age and personality)

Be self-enhancing—meaning it should lead to a child’s self-control

The goal of discipline is a child who fits into the real world happily and effectively. Discipline should foster acceptable and appropriate behavior and produce emotionally mature adults.

Since discipline can be a “hot topic” in any family, it’s important to keep lines of communication open on the subject. Each child is a unique personality and while most families have rules that apply to all the children, it may be necessary to apply the rules to each child a bit differently. It’s all more an art than a science. Here are some do’s and don’ts that will help you as you find your way as a responsible grandparent.

Do defer to the parents when they are present. Their rules are the ones the grandkids will  need to follow on a daily basis. Know what is being taught and the methods being used.

Do allow for some transition time when you take over the care of the grandkids. They may need to “feel out the situation” by doing a bit of testing. Gentle reminders may be all that is needed to get behavior back on track.

Don’t cause problems for the grandchildren or your own children by being too lax. Children need to know that appropriate behavior must be maintained everywhere they go.

Don’t say anything to your grandchildren that contradicts what they are being taught. Don’t “badmouth” the parents efforts even if you don’t agree with some of their parenting choices.

Do feel free to let the grandkids know that you may have some different rules in your own home than they have at home. For instance you may not allow active play indoors, while they are free to do that at home. It’s fair to say “not in my home.”

Do allow grandchildren some choices to help them to feel responsible. When it’s bedtime they may choose which pajamas to wear or which blanket to use on the bed.

Don’t use harsh punishment with your grandchildren even if that is the norm at home. Corporal punishment is seen as abuse by many and studies are showing that it is not the best discipline to use for children’s later mental health.

Do plan special activities and spend quality time with the grandchildren while you have them. Read to them, play board games, go for nature walks, do arts and crafts and cooking projects. You have the pleasure of enriching your grandchildren’s lives.

A good book on the subject of discipline is Discipline: The Brazelton Way by T. Berry Brazelton and Joshua Sparrow. When effective discipline is securely in place, everyone can relax and enjoy quality life, day by day.

Effective Discipline Article