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The Rise Of Helicopter Grandparents

Posted: June 21, 2012

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Disclaimer: This may not be true for everyone. I may be wrong in my outlook. This is not to point out fingers to anyone or anyone’s style of parenting or grandparenting. The whole point of this post was to just bring out certain aspects in styles of grandparenting. I apologise in advance if it hurts anyone’s feelings.

While most of us know about helicopter parenting (it was a big topic of discussion with tiger moms and what not) I wonder if anyone coined the word ‘helicopter grandparenting’..or may be its already there and I am not aware…….or is it because we have taken it for granted at least in the Indian parenting style.

I don’t know how popular the concept of daycare is in India (I think its catching up in the urban areas), but most ladies I know in my workplace, leave their children with the grandparents. In the washroom (its the favorite area of discussion in our office I guess! Many have complaints against their in-laws’ grandparenting styles…

Loads of people believe, that there is a great importance of grandparents in a child’s life. I wont dispute that. But in my case, I have had neither set of grandparents around permanently.The grandmothers would come visiting once in a while.I dont remember my grand fathers, they died within a gap of 1 year of each other, 1 year after I was born.  We were a nuclear family right from the start, and I have felt no lack of love ever. Whatever a grandparent is expected to do (show extra love, make your favorite dish, tell you stories) everything my parents have done for me and my brother.

I always believe in this ‘A parent knows the best for his/her child.’ But does a grand mother know the best for her grand child? After all she herself has been a mother and knows a lot more from experience.

I know of grandmothers, who overrule what a mother has to do all the time. you know mundane things. Like let’s say giving solids before  a certain age, or controlling what the child has to take at what time, or taking the child in their laps during a pooja or dictating a child’s choice of clothes even if the mother wants something else.

I would term that as helicopter grandparenting. Where a grandparent seems to have more say in a child’ life than the parents.

I dont know whether it’s good or bad. One part of my brain says ‘after all they are experienced’ but the other part of me feels ‘Shouldn’t the final decision lie on the parents?’

When grandparents try to be parents all over again, I don’t know whether its a good thing or not. Because as grandparents, you may have the experience, but you also are looking after your child’s child, so love often blinds your decision. This has happened in a lot of cases where the child then starts to understand after a certain age, that okay, if my parents are not giving me, I am sure my grandparents will. Basically leads to pampering. And a pampered child may not always turn out to be a balanced adult.

What happens when such pampered kids grow up? They think the world belongs to them, they think what they do is right, and they think they can get away with anything because that’s what their grandparents told them.

For example, let’s say a mother scolds a child for some reason and the grandparent supports the child saying the child is too young. Agreed the child may be young, but when you support your grandchild, you are sending conflicting messages to the kid. And finally the kid understands that his/her grandparent is going to always support him/her and starts taking advantage of that.

That’s wrong.

I am years away from being a grand parent, I don’t even know whether R is going to give me grand kids (I am never asking her!) but I think grandparents need to understand that their parenting styles may not always apply to today’s generation.

We did it to you and you turned out just fine, is not a logic that may be applicable always.

We never gave you a choice when  you were 6, does that mean you cant decide?

Well, it was a different world, perhaps if you had given a choice, we would have turned better?

I often come across grandparents, who are constantly telling the parents, what to do, how to do, when to do?

Seriously?

I mean, most parents seem to be sane enough, mature enough to decide whats right and what’s wrong for their kids,…and if you brought up your child right, how come he/she cant decide whats right or wrong for their children?

Again, if a grandparent is taking care of their grandchild in case both the parents are working, I think the right way would be to keep the parents informed about everything related to their child. They may know the best for their grandchild, but its always better to confirm with the parents, whether they think its appropriate that the child watches two hours of TV or goes down to play before doing the homework. I dont mean to say that keep asking the parents everything, obviously its only the major decisions and basic rules which need to be in place so that a child doesnt get conflicting message.

I am no expert in grandparenting or even parenting…but few things do come to my mind

1. Always be on the same page with the parents of the kids. If there are certain basic rules laid down, it becomes much easier to handle all the three generations

2. Never interfere when a parent is talking to a child. Even if the parent may be wrong. You can do it later, when the child is not around, otherwise the child thinks he/she can get away with anything when grandparents are there

3. Never encourage your grandchild to do anything on the sly and not inform the parents, you are not setting the right example there

4. Its absolutely important to remember that you are helping raise your child’s child and not your child, so a parent may have as important a say in the topic of upbringing as you.

I again apologise, if this post hurts anyone’s feelings. That is not the purpose.

R’s Mom is a working mother in Mumbai trying to balance work, home and

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