Good grandparenting, by TV agony aunt Denise Robertson

04 June 2013

Following a survey on spoilt grandchildren to mark the launch of Parental Guidance on Blu-ray and DVD, This Morning's agony aunt Denise Robertson answers our questions on the dos and don'ts of good grandparenting.

1.Some children behave badly after visiting their grandparents. Why do you think this is?

It’s natural that grandparents tend to be indulgent with their grandchildren. The responsibility of turning out well-behaved children is no longer directly theirs, nor are they under as much pressure as parents. They can afford to allow rules to be broken because, in most cases, they no longer labour under the demands of work and the consequences of breaking those rules. Tired children with digestive problems can be handed to mum and dad when the visit ends.

2. Which issues typically flare up between parents and grandparents after a visit?

Children will use their grandparents as weapons. ‘We’re always allowed to do that at Grandpa’s’. ‘Gran never makes us eat stinky sprouts.’ ‘We can watch TV as late as we like.’ Bedtimes and table manners are two bones of contention, with parents being made to appear ogres because they have to get children up for school or monitor their nutrition.

3. Do you think there is a difference between how grandparents treat their grandchildren nowadays and how, say, grandparents of two generations back would have treated their grandchildren?

I think grandparents have always tended to be indulgent but this has definitely accelerated in the last twenty years.

4. If the fault really does lie with the grandparent, how can the parent tactfully approach the subject?

A wise parent turns a blind eye to minor infringements of the rules but where childrens’ wellbeing is at stake they have to stand firm. While accepting that grandparents too have rights they must assert their right to be principal carer and therefore maker of the rules.

5. What are the absolute no-nos a grandparent must not breach?

Deliberately breaching a known parental rule is unfair and bound to lead to trouble. It’s tempting to treat your grandchildren like co-conspirators... ‘Let’s be naughty together’... but this is really currying favour with your grandchildren and unfair to parents.

6. The research appears to be conducted from a parent’s point of view, but could the issue sometimes be unrealistic or unbending parents.

I’ve heard from hundreds of sad grandparents over the years, people who simply wanted to love their grandchildren but were either denied access or bound by such stringent rules that visits were a misery. Children should be enjoyed by all the generations. A wise parent welcomes grandparental involvement, knowing how much it benefits their children.

Parental Guidance, the family comedy film, is out now on Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

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