Make time with you fun

There is a lot of competition for the time of your older grandchild. They have school and homework, sports games and practices, friends, extra-curricular activities, and of course, video games. As a result, if you want them to fit you into their busy schedule, you have to make the time with you fun.

I have been casually interviewing my older grandkids to find out what has encouraged them to hang out with me. This is what they told me . . .

Be interested in what they are interested in

The first suggestion was to be interested in what they are interest in. My grandkids are interested in video games. I’m terrible at Mario Cart. I frequently drive off the edge of the road into some pit or another. I am often last on the leader board. Whoever has me on their team is handicapped from the start. But we are having fun together.

I’m pretty good at Dr. Mario. I’m better at lining up my viruses and being strategic about using my doubles. I wanted my grandkids to have fun with me. In my case, that meant being willing to try my hand at video games. I’m expanding my skill set. They games are getting a lot more complicated. I’m getting ready to tackle Minecraft this Spring, as one family of grandkids has really taken off with the game. Of course, my grandkids know I will need their help. But we will all have fun together as they teach me how to play.

Try something new

My grandkids often ask me if I want to try something–hitting the baseball at batting practice, for example. I am learning to try what your grandkids want to try. My grandkids give me lots of encouragement when I am willing to try something. For example, I won a lot of points with three of my grandkids when we visited a cold water spring in Northern Florida during a Softball Tournament Scheduled for the next day. After the initial shock about how cold the water was, my grandkids continue jumping off the platform over the next 40 minutes. They threw balls at each other and we took pictures of crazy jumps. It looked like they were having a blast.

They asked me if I wanted to try. Heck no! I was worried about alligators and hidden rocks, and oh, did I tell you, the water was cold! As I was snapping pictures of my grandkids, my son and my husband had both joined the fun. I realized that I was going to regret not giving this a try. I almost waited too long. Finally, they were doing their last jumps and starting to look for their towels, when I decided that it was now or never. Even though I was pretty nervous (it was a high platform, and the water was cold, and maybe there would be rocks or alligators . . . ) I knew I would have the bigger regret of not giving it a try.

Girl jumping into a lake
A young girl jumping off the dock into a lake.
Jumping was the best grandparent decision i made last spring

So I jumped. It was cold. I swam fast to the side (the pool of water was dark and you never know what might be lurking). I gained so much credibility for that last minute decision to try what my grandkids were doing. I’m still reaping the benefit from that jump months later.

As an unintended benefit, jumping into the water last Spring motivated me to ride every single roller coaster ride that my granddaughter, Sydney, wanted to ride this Fall. Now I have solidified my reputation with her as being fun to hang out with.

Don’t lecture

My middle granddaughter very seriously told me that “grandparents shouldn’t lecture” their grandkids. My mom would do that with my kids. “Take your hat off in the house.” “You need a hair cut.” “Don’t put your feet up on the furniture.” Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for teaching manners and for introducing the rules for your home that you want your grandkids to follow.

But the majority of your interactions with your grandkids should not be reminders and criticisms and lectures and admonishments. If you want them to hang out with you, they need to know that you like them and enjoy being with them.

I’m going to encourage you not to lecture your grandchild. I want to recommend a better way to provide helpful instruction–lead by example. For example, show them the behavior and manners you want them to practice. Better yet, tell them the story about where you learned to take your hat off when you went indoors.

Tell your stories and lead by example

Tell them your stories and let them pick up the lessons sideways. A straight frontal “Because I told you so,” seldom works. When you want your grandchild to rinse the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher, model it. Be sure you are not interrupting them if you want your grandchild to not interrupt. If you want your grandchild to watch less TV, they should see you reading, playing games, or working on your hobbies and projects. More is caught by following examples than taught.

Even your mistakes can be a helpful way for your grandchild to learn lessons about life. Telling grandkids your stories creates an emotional response that allows them to remember the point. Storytelling doesn’t feel like a lecture. It is a sideways approach that provides information and guidance without running into issues head on. Storytelling also allows for questions, feedback and additional clarification. Read more here about helping your grandkids avoid mistakes through storytelling.

Hang out

Plan time with your grandchild to just hang out. For example, don’t monopolize the conversation. Use the time to both ask questions and listen. Did your grandchild ask you a question you don’t know the answer to? Look it up and find the answer together. I was getting ready to go for a walk and invited my oldest granddaughter to join me. No special destination. No time limit. Just a walk together. I didn’t really have any conversation starters at hand and there were a few moments of companionable silence. After a few moments, she started to share some disappointments she was experiencing. I was able to listen and give her a little perspective and cheer her up. I will always consider the trust she showed in me by sharing as one of my sweetest moments with her.

Be funny

Strive to be fun and funny. You never want time with you to be boring. Learn to tell jokes and stories. Find some riddles that would challenge your grandchild’s problem solving abilities. It is okay to make it challenging, but be sure that you are making it fun. So keep your time together simple. You don’t need elaborate schedules of things to do. Leave room for the time together to follow the needs of your grandchild and the opportunities of the moment.

Actively playing with your grandkids provides high value
Grandparents Playing Baseball With Grandchildren In Park

Applaud their success, but also participate

Grandparents make great spectators. We show up at recitals, and concerts, and plays and games. We cheer our grandkids on and applaud their success. But sometimes, we should also be participants. My husband is an amazing grandpa because he is always up for throwing the football around, or catching for batting practice. He goes into the water and horses around. Truthfully, it was easier to do when he was in his 50’s and 60’s. He pays attention to staying fit so that he can continue to take an active role doing ambitious things with his grandsons. Cheer leading is great. And that is often enough. When you want to take things to the next level–participate.

Say “Yes!”

Say “Yes!” whenever you can. One of the coolest things about being a grandparent is that you are NOT the parent. You don’t have to worry (too much!) about bedtime and healthy snacks, and homework, and chores. You can be the one who often says, “I have time to take him,” or “I’m available to hang out while you two go to the Air Force Ball. We will pick them up, feed them, hang out, and bring them back later.” So say yes to your grandchild. Say yes to their parents. Always be aware that all of our days are numbered, and that you don’t want to have any regrets. The truth is you will regret what you didn’t do more than you will regret what you did do.

Finally, your grandchild will choose you when the benefit of doing so is high. Because time is short, make it count. Make your grandkids’ time with you fun.

To Recap:

  • Be interested in what they are interested in.
  • Try what your grandchild wants to try.
  • Don’t lecture your grandchild.
  • Lead by example.
  • Plan time to hang out and listen.
  • Never be boring.
  • Strive to be fun.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Don’t just be a spectator.
  • Be a participant.
  • Say “Yes!” whenever you can.

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  1. Thank you so much for these reminders. I was hugely involved with my grands from birth. I did all the fun stuff and was very creative. which is probably why that now that they are 14 and 12, they have just about no time for me. I go to every game; I look for times to take to lunch, to take them out, but I think I got put at the bottom of the activity list. It’s sad.

    1. Hi, Jacqueline,
      I find that now that I have grandkids that are middle schoolers and high schoolers, I needed to up my game a bit. I developed a program with my grandkids called “Grandkid Salary Package” (GSP) last year as their Christmas gift. Every month my grands get a salary for working on habits and goals. Money has been a motivating factor to keep them engaged with us. We have a monthly Zoom meeting to report on progress, and we pay bonuses for accomplishing quarterly goals. For my older grands, this has been just the push they needed to continue to connect with my husband and me. Let me know if you are interested in hearing more about how we run our GSP!

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