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damage control

The question

I have a beautiful, angel-faced six-year-old granddaughter with whom I fear the relationship is becoming challenging. An only child, she is incredibly energetic, always moving around and most of the time, yelling. Both intelligent and manipulative, she has trouble listening and tends to become quite aggressive when I try to talk to her and calm her down. She is my son’s daughter, and her mom had her when she was already 40 and had been dreaming of a child for a long time. Consequently, she spoils her and does not set limits to what clearly is inappropriate behaviour. Although I recognize it is not my role to interfere in my granddaughter’s education, I feel helpless in my desire to preserve and build a warm relationship with her. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.

The answer

First, I’ve often said I’m saddened the role of grandparents is not more revered and respected these days, and basically their hands are tied when it comes to the education and moral guidance of the offspring of their offspring.

Which is a shame, because you all have a lot of wisdom to offer.

Now, I’m not sure that’s true across the board, but I will say when my mother (my dad died or I’d include him) or in-laws weigh in, my ears perk up. Sometimes, when it comes to my mother, it takes a while to sink in. At the time I’ll be like: “Ah, come on, Mom.” Then later: “Hmm, maybe she has a point.”

I also know she has had to bite her lip on occasion when it comes to how I and my wife, and my sister and her husband, are raising our kids. My in-laws, too, I imagine. I do know that whenever my kids have spent, say, a weekend at my in-laws, they emerge practically (or let’s say metaphorically) walking in single file, with side-parted hair and firm handshakes, calling everyone “Ma’am” or “Sir.”

What I’m trying to say is: I’m afraid my generation of parents, at least anecdotally speaking, is raising a generation of spoiled kids. And spoiled kids can be tough to take. I recall once we had a brunch-type arrangement at our house and my wife was offering cookies to various kids and extended the plate to one little spoiled rich-kid brat, saying: “Just take two.”

He looked her defiantly right in the eyes and reached out and took five. And I recall thinking: “I never want this kid to darken my doorstep again.”

But I realized: It’s not the kid’s fault he’s been spoiled.

Obviously it’s better when kids aren’t spoiled. I don’t mean to brag – well, maybe I do – but my own kids always engage adults when they materialize in our domicile, shake their hands or whatnot, look them in the eyes and say something along the lines of: “Nice to meet you/nice to see you again/how have you been?”

It gets them hell’s own drag with the adults. “Your kids are great.” And it takes my kids a grand total of maybe 30 seconds out of their lives.

But most kids these days, I’ve noticed, don’t even do that. They come out of the basement where they’ve been playing Fortnite or whatever, see you visiting their parents, think “Adult: irrelevant” and just brush on past without even greeting you.

Rude! Bratty! Spoiled! But as my wife points out, the thing about “spoiled” kids is, in the fullness of time, it comes to pass they turn out to be great human beings. “Spoiled” implies ruined for life, but it doesn’t seem to work like that. Now that I’ve spun around the sun a bunch of times, I’ve seen it happen a lot, in fact I’d say in every case I know: horrible bratty kid becomes a great adult.

I do have one more word of advice. Spoiled kids are at their worst when they’re with their parents. Why don’t you have one-on-one outings with her? You might just find your feelings changing toward her for the better.

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