Q: We're doing our best to raise our children to be content with what they have. But that goes out the window whenever they visit my parents. Grandma and Grandpa give in to our kids' every whim, fill them with candy and soda, and buy them whatever they ask for. What can we do?
Jim: "Spoiling" grandkids is something of a time-honored tradition for grandparents, of course. But sometimes even the most well-meaning grandparents can take things too far.
Our staff counselors suggest that you take your parents out for dinner -- and a talk. After a good meal, let them know how much you love and appreciate them. Then ease into the "heavier" business of the evening. Let your folks know how grateful you are for their kindness and generosity toward your kids. But also remind them that too much of a good thing often makes it hard for your kids to keep their desires for "more" in check.
It will probably take some courage to have that conversation. But if you handle it with love and respect, I think most parents will respond with understanding. There's a good chance they don't even realize what a handful your kids can become when they're given too much. So be honest, but respectful, and you and your parents will likely wind up on the same page.
You might even take it a step further by strategizing with Grandma and Grandpa about how they can be proactively involved in helping to reinforce the lessons you're trying to convey to your children. For example, if one of the kids is trying to save money to buy something special, it's better for all concerned if the child earns some money from Grandpa by doing an age-appropriate job, instead of just receiving a handout.
For more tips to help your family thrive, see FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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Q: Our kids (age 6 and 8) seem to get overstressed really easily, and I'm concerned. How can I help them to deal better with stress and become more resilient?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Research shows there are four universal growth needs that must be met for children to successfully cultivate resilience: attachment, achievement, autonomy and altruism.
How do these help a child become resilient? When kids are properly attached, they enjoy the security that comes from knowing there are people they can rely on when times are difficult. A child who has a sense of achievement will learn self-confidence and realize they can rise to the challenges of life. Children with a proper sense of autonomy won't feel they are helpless to do anything about their circumstances in tough times. Kids who cultivate altruism will be able to express empathy. Life won't just be about them and their problems.
You have the awesome privilege of helping them develop the skills to manage stress effectively -- with a positive mindset that sees challenges as opportunities rather than problems. You are their primary connection, and you can foster a sense of belonging by giving them time and attention, by laughing and playing with them, and providing loving, safe touch. You can engender a sense of achievement by helping them discover what they are good at. Autonomy can be encouraged as you help them learn that changing their behaviors can change their outcomes. And you can develop altruism by actively teaching them to think about others and to exercise gratitude, kindness, service and love.
By the way, how do you deal with stress and adversity? Do you meet challenges head-on? Do you view the world fearfully, or as a place of hope and promise? The way you decide to handle these things in your own life communicates volumes to your children.