Jill asks Jo Lamble for advice on how to connect with her difficult grandson.
Jill wants to connect with her grandchild but, due to his behaviour and attitude, she’s finding it difficult to cultivate a relationship with him. She has asked YourLifeChoices relationship expert Jo Lamble for advice on how to deal with this tricky situation.
I’m finding it hard to love my grandchild. He’s four years old, always nasty, rude and cries all the time when he doesn’t get his way. I feel as if my daughter does a good job, but he’s really hard work. I would never tell her how to raise her child, and even feel like I can’t discipline him when he’s out of line. Do you have any suggestions or know where I can get help?
A. It can be really tough for grandparents to stand by and watch a grandchild behave badly and not have any control over him or her. I love that you recognise the good job your daughter is doing and you seem to empathise with her for having a tricky four-year-old. Fingers crossed that he gets easier as he gets older, but in the meantime, I would continue to let your daughter know she has your support. In other words, don’t feel like you have to step in to discipline your grandson. It can be more helpful to stand beside your daughter and ask if she’s okay when the little boy has been nasty or rude.
It’s good for your grandson to see his mum get the attention when his behaviour is out of line rather than him. If he is given the attention for that behaviour, it might get worse. It’s a win-win situation if you show support for your daughter. She feels cared for and your grandson learns that his behaviour has really affected his mum.
One final strategy to try if you are alone with your grandson when he is crying non-stop is to give him empathy but encourage him to use his words. For example, you could say to him: “I can see you’re really upset and I want to help, but you’ll need to use your words and tell me what's wrong’. That way, he is not ignored if he’s upset, but he is being encouraged to express his pain in a way that makes it easier for you to help him.
If he’s crying because he hasn’t gotten his own way, a good response is to say: “I know you really wanted to have that/do that and I can see how upset you are, but I’m afraid you can’t. Instead, you can have this or do that ...” If he is still crying, then stop giving him some attention for a while until he calms down and then reinforce his calmer behaviour by suggesting a game or a book or something appropriate.
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