I am sure you’ve never been out in public with young children and been embarrassed by their behavior. Never, not you. Not your kids. But just…
I often write to moms, but today I write to moms who have graduated to grandmas. This, of course, is not a normal topic for me — partly because I have absolutely no experience being a grandmother (just to state the obvious). However, I do know a lot of wonderful grandmas, and I know a lot of moms who’ve been blessed by these older women; therefore, I have access to a wealth of information about what makes up an awesome grandparent!
So I decided to tap into this wealth!
I asked a couple dozen women to tell me how the grandmas in their life (either their own grandma or their kid’s grandma) have been a blessing and made an impact. For full disclosure, I also asked them to be honest about some of the challenges too. And what came from their responses was a well-rounded, realistic picture of the difference-making, example-setting, godly grandma that we’d all want to be (and I imagine this all applies to grandpas too!).
So whether you will one day be a grandparent, whether you’re a newbie, or even if you’re seasoned, I hope these insights that summarize my findings will encourage and spur you on! (Or maybe just make you appreciate the godly grandmas in your life!)
1. It means the world when you care about your grandchild’s soul.
Ultimately every Christian parents’ deepest desire is to have their kids know and live for Jesus. Therefore, anything that a grandparent does for this purpose is ultimately most meaningful.
This is a foundational thought that encompasses all the others, but it’s worth noting: parents want grandparents to partner with them in pointing their kids to Christ. Different grandparents will show this differently, but know that your passion to see your grandkids live for Jesus does not go unnoticed. In fact, it spurs us on, it reminds us we are not alone in this endeavor, and it reminds us to keep investing in our kids with an eternal mindset.
2. Be a praying grandma.
In all likelihood, most grandparents want to spend time with their grandkids and make an impact on their lives. But few remember that it’s the hidden moments no one sees that make the biggest difference. In fact, prayer is probably the most important thing a grandparent can do. Even when a grandma is the best, most wise, most fun lady there ever was, prayer is what calls upon the God of the universe to work in her grandkids’ lives.
While we don’t always know how much a godly grandma prays, some moms have learned about it along the way, and it is such an encouragement. One mom I talked to said she knows her kid’s grandma prays for her grandkids every morning, and even prays for their teachers! She went on to describe what a massive blessing it is to know they are daily covered in that kind of intentional prayer.
Another mom reflected on her own grandma. She said, “My grandmother was a praying grandma. She would keep lists of all her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids and was constantly updating our prayer requests. She would call me every week to ask about the specific requests and add any new requests.”
And bringing the first and second thought together perfectly, another mom said, “I really appreciate that my mom genuinely cares about the salvation of my kids. She prays for them regularly.”
Prayer might be the most selfless thing a grandparent does, but it is worth it, because it’s the most powerful.
3. Be a godly grandma.
As one mom said, “It’s taught and caught in how they [grandparents] live, what they talk about, and the example of who they are, rather than specifically what they do.” Needless to say, grandparents can have a huge influence just by being godly.
There’s something about a kind, gracious, patient, Bible-loving grandparent that’s unforgettable. The fun activities they do may be remembered to a certain degree — but it’s who a grandparent is/was that leaves an impression.
All that to say, grandmas, be the woman you want your kids and grandkids to become. Be godly. Care about godly stuff. Fight your sin. Don’t become spiritually stagnant. Lead the way and get ready for the next generations to follow you.
4. Talk about important things.
Very much connected to the last point— godly women will end up talking about godly things. In all likelihood, this is why the apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:5,
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”
Grandma Lois was a Christian, and she passed it on to her daughter Eunice, who passed it on to Timothy, who became a key pastor during the days of the early church. The point is: pass on your faith. Talk about how good God is, talk about how he’s been faithful to you and your family. Even if you don’t think your grandkids are listening, there is great value in being a grandma who can’t help but talk about God. In fact one mom said, “I love it when my mom shares any wisdom from her time that day in the Bible. I love that she does this in front of my kids, even if she’s talking to me.”
Another grandma was said to have her Bible and commentaries stacked up and open in her kitchen, and was ready to share it with anyone who came in.
And of course, some moms wished they had a grandma like this in their kids’ lives. They reflected on the richness that must come from having the older generation point to God’s faithfulness over the years. It’s the kind of grandparent every family needs, and it’s the one you can be.
5. Know your listening ear speaks volumes.
While it’s meaningful to have grandmas who talk about important things, it’s also so helpful to have grandparents who are good at listening. One mom reminisced about her non-christian grandma— though this grandma didn’t point her to Christ, she did lovingly listen, and that itself made a lasting impact.
One mom said that she’s seen how her mom is good at asking her kids questions, and then really listening and probing in order to understand them. It shows she cares.
And I guess this point comes with a warning because it was also noted that grandkids notice when grandma doesn’t really listen. Those were painful words to read, but it’s a good reminder to us all: do we really stop and listen to the people in our lives?
6. Throw in intentional activities when you can.
Grandparents are known to be relaxed and fun, but know that many moms spoke up about appreciating the intentional activities their kids did with grandma. One mom said how wonderful it is that grandma always reads to the kids (sometimes for hours!), she purposefully limits screen time, and she gets the kids outside to exercise. I don’t know any mom that wouldn’t appreciate that!
Other moms mentioned how cooking with grandparents is a highlight, or building projects together has been memorable. And as one mom reflected, “It allows for great conversations, time to share memories of old, and is something my kids still remember as they get older. They can grow in the skills of whatever project it is, while it’s also a great way to get to know a grandparent more. It creates a sweet bond in working together.”
7. Impart your skills (please!).
As you might remember from motherhood, us moms feel taxed and spent and busy, and we wish we had time to focus on teaching our kids more life skills. So anytime you have time to impart some of your skills, we love it! Not to mention, you probably know how to do things that we simply don’t!
One mom gave a whole host of ideas that I thought was helpful: “Grandparents may have unique life skills they can instill that perhaps grandkids’ normal routines don’t allow much time for. It’s so neat when grandparents include grandkids in their various projects or cooking endeavors. For example, If you’re working on a sewing project, involve them in measuring and teach them how to iron out fabric. Maybe it’s a gardening project you have planned, ask them to join you in picking out seeds, plants and prepping the soil. It could be trying a new recipe or delivering a meal to someone who would be blessed by it. This shows them by example how to serve others in tangible ways as well as learning how to cook. There are so many ways to instill life skills and have sweet conversations with your grandkids in the everyday life things.”
8. Disagree with us privately.
The reality is grandparents and parents aren’t always going to do things the same way. And that’s okay. I’m sure you grandparents remember your own parents doing things differently. But amidst this common issue, many moms mentioned that they appreciated when their parents would pull them aside separately if they had a concern, rather than confronting parenting issues in front of the kids.
Obviously it’s sticky to put kids in the middle of any disagreement, so that itself is reason enough to keep the kids out of these situations. But it also undermines the honor and obedience kids should give their parents (Ephesians 6:1-2), especially when grandma has an idea that is more appealing to the children (which she’s bound to have at times!).
All that to say, most parents greatly value their own parents’ opinion and wisdom, but it’s so helpful when those conversations can occur in private.
9. Team up with us.
You may think us parents are tightly wound at times. And we may be (and you can gently privately remind us what’s important when we overdo it). But a lot of times, the rules parents establish, and the discipline they administer, is their honest attempt at doing what’s best for their kids. So with that, the more you can team up with mom and dad, the better.
Here’s a few quotes from moms that show how they picture this playing out:
“It is helpful and encouraging when grandparents come alongside and reinforce parenting efforts/discipline when they are spending time with their grandkids. That may look like gently reminding the kids to be selfless towards their siblings if they encounter squabbles, or using manners and eye contact when speaking to one another, as well as a host of other character-building qualities.”
“I love that my mom pays attention to their heart issues and is very intentional with them when she is with them. She coaches them when they need redirection and encourages and openly praises them when she sees them having self-control, or being selfless with their siblings (or whatever specific issue she knows that particular child has been struggling with.) She doesn’t make excuses for their sin, instead I really feel like she is teamed up with us in helping them work through their struggles.”
“While I understand grandma and grandpa want to spoil the kids (and to a certain extent that’s okay), we don’t want our kids to view grandma and grandpa’s house as a refuge from any kind of discipline. Even if grandma and grandpa aren’t going to be the source of discipline when they care for our kids, we would appreciate if they kept track of disciplinary issues. Many times we see our kids come back from a couple of days at the grandparent’s house with lax attitudes toward bad behavior and we feel like the bad guys for having to re-instill certain values.”
“I love when grandparents say out loud, ‘I support your mom and dad and whatever they decided.’ or things like that. My kids have tried to get the grandparents on their side about something, but I have heard them declare that we will make good decisions and that they support us.”
10. Know that we value you.
Every mom who answered these questions clearly valued the grandmas in her life. You remember how it was as a mom — those who’ve gone before you had the ability to greatly impact your life.
Sure, some relationships aren’t perfect, and there’s various dynamics that come into play in different families, but you are appreciated. And probably more so than has been communicated. Most moms feel far too low on time to show proper appreciation — but they do value you. And with that, know that we are still learning from you. Perhaps without us even knowing it, we are taking mental notes. Because we are that next generation of grandmas and we want to do it well too.
So as you seek to be that difference-making, example-setting, godly grandma, know that first and foremost, you are pleasing God as you invest. But secondarily know that you are impacting us, not just our kids.
We are thankful for the godly grandmas in our life.