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    « Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth? | Main | Of bloggers and babies »

    3 life skills grandparents can (and should) instill and encourage

    Grandparents matter. As a site coordinator for the local Children's Literacy Center and in my own personal experience, I continually see ways grandparents make a difference—for harried parents, for folks who interact with the grandchildren now and in the future, and, most importantly, for the grandchildren themselves.

    Specifically, I consider grandparents prime influencers who can and should take advantage of the endless opportunities to instill and encourage, among other things, these three very important life skills:

    READING: As coordinator of a program that requires participating students to spend 15 minutes a day reading to or with an adult, of course I'm going to say that grandparents can help their grandchildren read. But I'm not talking just about kids with reading challenges. And I'm not talking just about sharing a book together now and then. I mean that always and in all ways, grandparents should stress the importance—and the enjoyment—of reading. It's possibly THE most important life skill a child can and should master. Every chance you get, read to him or her, or have the child read to you. Read books, comics, websites, the newspaper, magazines, recipes, road signs, maps and more. Long-distance grandparents can share books on Skype and through online services such as Readeo, Story Time For Me and others. Give books, magazines, graphic novels, how-to guides as gifts, and request the same when asked what you want for Mother's Day, Christmas, birthdays. Have reading materials on hand, as well as in hand.

    Lessons are always reinforced by modeling, so model the life of a reader. Grandchildren will remember such things as seeing Grandma reading craft instructions and the daily news—online or in print—and Grandpa poring over maps, manuals, cookbooks. Model, model, model! It's the simplest, most subtle way of effectively instilling a desired behavior.

    MANNERS: Politeness goes beyond "please" and "thank you" and table manners, although those are indeed biggies. But manners include things like punctuality, thank you notes, and RSVPing—one way or the other—when requested. How best to encourage such behavior? Again, by modeling such behavior. Be on time, send thank you notes, and RSVP when invited to a grandchild's function, even if an RSVP wasn't specifically requested. Point out the importance—and benefits—of being on time, whenever you have been, whenever possible. Send thank you notes to grandchildren when they give you ANYthing. Every.Single.Time. Those cards will be cherished as much as the lesson. And never fail to RSVP, even if it feels silly. Calling a grandchild to say "Hey, I just wanted to RSVP to your program (or party or recital or game)" makes it clear how easy, appreciated, and downright awesome the whole RSVP thing can be.

    SPEAKING: Everyone likely agrees that kids should read and be polite. But I also think kids should be capable participants in discussions...or at least capable of speaking for themselves when spoken to. One of my pet peeves is kids who cannot (or will not) respond when adults say "hello" to them or offer little beyond a perfunctory glance and a reluctantly mumbled "hi." Toddlers are toddlers; I understand. But they should know from an early age that when an adult friend or family member speaks to them, the polite thing (see above) is to respond. By the time a kid is a teen, there's absolutely no excuse for not responding.

    When my girls were teens, a few of their friends thought nothing of never acknowledging parents in the room—even when I spoke directly to them with something as simple as "Hey, how are you?" Gah! I currently have students who when asked what they've been reading or what their favorite part of a story was, Mom or Dad (and sometimes even Grandma) will tell me that little Junior loved this or that. No, I want to hear Junior tell me. Just let kids talk. The more they do it, the better at it they'll be come. Even the shy kids. Honest.

    Grandparents can encourage grandchildren to comfortably and appropriately speak up by allowing them to place their own orders with restaurant servers or speak to librarians and cashiers themselves, and by not allowing grandchildren to slip in and out of a room without politely saying "hello" or otherwise acknowledging adults who are present, be they friends or family. Most importantly, grandparents can and should have discussions with their grandchildren about nearly anything of interest to the child, teaching grandkids what enjoyable conversing looks like, feels like.

    Fortunately grandparents—in most cases—are not responsible for the day-to-day tasks and challenges of raising their grandchildren. But with myriad opportunities to instill and encourage important life skills, grandparents can certainly have an impact on some of those challenges and be the difference that helps their grandchildren succeed.

    Today's question:

    Which of the three life skills above do you recall being encouraged by one or both of your grandparents?

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    Reader Comments (11)

    I never had this kind of close relationship with my grandparents. I loved them dearly and I remember spending lots of time at their home but mostly that time was spent with the cousins. I don't really remember spending any one on one time with my grandparents. I don't remember EVER having an actual conversation with my Granpda -- he had raised 4 boys and really didn't want much to do with any of us kids.

    I'm really glad the relationship with my own granddaughter is much different! We do read together every time she is here. Manners are something we constantly remind her of. The speaking part you mentioned is one of the things I have been working with her on. She is really good for the most part BUT whenever I go to her house -- she doesn't say Hi Grandma -- she just starts telling me or showing me what ever happens to be on her mind. I have been calling her on it lately -- making her stop and back up and say Hi first!

    Her parents do a great job -- we try to do our part to help, too!~

    August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma Kc

    My grandparents were aloof like Grandma KC's and I saw them infrequently. But, I'd add a couple of things to your list. There are a few missing ingredients in today's society that we older folks need to remind kids of. One is trust. Earning trust and trust in themselves. They can learn this from us by our actions, because with trust comes love. I think too many people get their lives and hearts broken because they profess "unconditional" love without earning trust and when the trust is broken, the love turns to confusion and anger.

    Oops.. I gotta get a kid to the doctors--- bye!

    August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Lunn

    Unfortunately, when I was growing up, I did not have a close relationship with either of my two living grandparents, so my parents were my role models. That said, I think they missed instilling a few details of your aforementioned skills. I do feel fortunate that my role as granny-nanny has afforded me more than just a slight opportunity to influence my grandson's life skills, and I'm printing out this blogpost so I don't forget anything! Thanks!

    August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGranny Nanny

    Southern Grandmas are BIG on manners and my Granny was a Southern Irish lady; she was always teaching "Good Manners".
    I didn't like my Papa (Granny's husband) and stayed as far away from him as I could get, politely. My dad's parents were both dead before I was born but Granny was enough love and teaching to make up for all the others. I adore her memory and she's gone now forty-four years.

    August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

    One Hundred Percent Concur that those skills you mentioned should be instilled and encouraged! Excellent post!

    Unfortunately, I wasn't ever around my paternal grandmother and my maternal grandmother died before I was born. Both grandfathers were also deceased. I was fortunate enough to spend many summers in the Tennessee mountains with my oldest Auntie. She was an amazing woman for being non-educated and unworldly. Her stories came from her heart and mind and she would tell them gleefully. I still think of some of those stories, and her, and smile. She was the closest I had to a grandparent, and she played the role exceptionally.

    August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerri

    You are right on with today's post! I was very fortunate to have both sets of grandparents around for my childhood and they encouraged all three of the life skills noted in your post. I continue that encouragement with my do her parents.

    August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie E.

    I only knew my paternal grandparents. I do not recall ever having one of them read to me. My Grandmother was all about manners--on being children are to be seen and not heard. My Grandfather was a gentle, loving soul who engaged me in quiet conversations and taught me by example to be kind to others.

    August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOlga

    Sort of manners- but like the really proper kind of manners. My great-aunt (pseudo-grandma) is like the etiquette queen. Like she could sit and eat with the queen kind of proper. I'd like to think I've learned something....although I still have a tendency to burp at the table if I'm not in public.

    August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSuzRocks

    My grandmother taught me good manners and all about being polite. She never read to me which is sad.

    As you know Lisa, I am raising my granddaughter and installing her the love of books, her reading age is that of an 8 1/2, she loves books. I am teaching her to be polite, be kind to others, to have good manners, to speak when spoken to and to look the person in the eye, generally installing in her the values that I was taught but now seemed to have been lost with most of the young people today.

    I hope that she grows up to be a beautiful woman who can proudly say to others "my grandma taught me this and I am forever thankful to her."

    August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSally Kabak

    Hear, hear! Great post, and I hope to be a grandma just like you when I grow up (and thanks to the age of our kids, that could be 9 months from any day now, whoa).

    August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPamela

    This is a wonderful list, Lisa, and I am eager to follow the links to the online book sharing sites.

    My Dad's parents were deceased early in my life, and so was my maternal grandfather. My maternal grandmother did not speak English and could not read or write--she was an immigrant from Europe. WE only saw her fro one week out of the year as she lived a few states away but I loved her very much and I think the thing she taught me was perseverance and good humor. She worked very hard and long days but she was always ready to laugh and have a good time. She was also a gardener and a great cook. Most of her grandchildren love to do both!

    August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPat
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