Despite the best intentions, no one can be perfect all the time. Read on to find out about five of the situations that most often trip up both new and experienced grandparents.
A grandparent's first impulse when grandchildren have tantrums is to comfort them. Don't. Experts agree that when children have meltdowns, trying to soothe or distract them - or worse, giving in to what they want - sends the message that it's OK to lose control. Instead, let kids know you understand that they are upset and that you're eager to talk to them once they calm down. Patience pays off.
Agreeing to do too much
Most grandparents are eager to help take care of their grandchildren. But sometimes you have to say no. If you're exhausted, if you already had plans of your own, or if you just need a break from babysitting, then, delicious as the children may be, let the parents know that you have to pass. You'll have more energy the next time you sit.
Admit it - you've thought that if your grandchildren make you listen to that Elmo CD one more time, you'll go out of your mind. Before you smash the stop button on the stereo, stop and think about how happy the songs make the kids - and try listening to the music with their ears instead of your own. There are few things more entertaining than watching happy children dance. Loosen up and sing along.
Falling for the hype
When choosing toys for children, parents and grandparents often select those with the highest-powered computer chips or the most convincing claims of educational benefits. But it's not about what toys can do for your grandchildren; it's about what they can do with the toys. A set of blocks, in the right little hands, is more interactive than the priciest computerized play set. Follow your instincts and let the children's imagination loose.
Breaking too many rules
Yes, it's a grandparent's prerogative to spoil grandkids and bend the rules a bit - you let them stay up late, eat junk food and get into silliness that they could never get away with at home. And those small indulgences are fine. But when you start to ignore nonnegotiable rules that parents have set either to protect their children's safety (like riding bikes without helmets) or to instill their values (like using bad language), moms and dads are bound to get angry. Know the limits.