816 North

Grandmothers say slow down, accept help, stop hounding and don’t bail kids out

As attention turns to mothers on Sunday, it’s good to remember that grandmothers are full of valuable parenting advice on everything from colic to curfews.

Raising children is easier if you realize that it takes a village to raise a child, said Pam Tobin of Lee’s Summit.

“Do not believe that you are the only one with the power to make your child happy,” Tobin tells younger moms. “Accept help when it’s offered. And don’t undermine Daddy just because you don’t like how the diaper fits.”

And Tobin, who has one daughter and recently became a grandmother, found the best time to learn about a child’s day is immediately after school. Later in the evening, she said, they are not as eager to share.

Barbara Snyder of Kansas City, North, who has 12 children ranging in age from 26 to 46, warns against bailing youngsters out of difficult situations. She remembers staying up late or getting up early to help her children finish a book report or assignment, and now she wishes she’d known better.

“Later, I came to realize I was robbing them of the opportunity to learn there are consequences when they do not carry through on their responsibilities,” Snyder said.

Chores, Snyder said, can teach that good work brings rewards. “During the summer, I would make individual chore cards for each child. If the chores were checked off by noon, we could all enjoy an afternoon at the pool,” she said.

Hounding and yelling is a waste of energy, said LuEllen Oppenheim of Blue Springs, who has a daughter and three grandchildren.

“Keep it to one- and two-word commands, very short and concise. Everything else is just blah, blah, blah,” she said. “Keep the discipline and consequences consistent. Kids learn by example and watching. Expose them to good role models — be one.”

Charlene Madden of Parkville, biological mother of three, stepmother to five, grandmother to 16 and great-grandmother to eight, found it’s wise to pick your battles. “Forget the small stuff or you’ll drive yourself and your kids crazy,” she said.

And when step-parenting, Madden said, “There is usually about a six-month sweetheart period and then the real tension starts.”

She learned to get involved in decisions only when the parent was absent. “The best thing the step-parent can hope for is to be a friend,” she said. “They can never replace the actual parent.”

Cathy Whited of Lee’s Summit, who has three children and a grandchild, discovered long ago that life with a family rarely goes as planned.

“The only thing we have control over is ourselves and how we react,” Whited said. When thrown a curve ball, “try to take a deep breath and realize that children are always changing and growing.”

If children take an interest in sports or clubs, Whited said, parents should offer encouragement and support. But insist that they finish the season even if they lose interest.

“Communication with your children is the key,” Whited said. “Keep trying because they do listen to you. They just don't want you to know it.”

Phyllis Balagna of Lake Winnebago, who has two daughters and a grandson, said, “Mothers are the ones who are the glue to keeping it all together.”

Two keys to raising teenagers, she found, is keeping them busy and knowing their friends.

As much as Balagna wanted to be their friend, “I remained a parent, which meant making tough decisions and standing behind them.”

She cautions parents to slow down.

“Make family the center of your life,” Balagna said, “and fight diligently for it when things get tough.”