Diana Boggia: Grandchildren must learn what behaviors are expected
While baby-sitting our 4-year-old grandson he started spitting, kicking and throwing things. I explained to him he wouldn’t be allowed to stay with "grampa" and me if his behavior continued.
This 4-year-old has been playing these two parents to the point that they fight at least once a day. We have tried to tell them how damaging this will be on the baby and the whole family.
On Friday, we took him home, and after returning to our home, my husband noticed his coasters were missing, as were other things in the house. I called my son-in-law and asked if he could find out what he did with this stuff. He started to ask. Our daughter then intervened and threatened to take the TV out of our grandson’s room because he would not tell her. I hung up telling our son-in-law to just let us know if they found out anything.
About one hour later our daughter shows up (it’s now after 9 at night) with the 4-year-old in tow. She is holding his arm demanding he tell her where all this stuff is. He then finds the stuff, smiling the whole time.
She then tells me that I should have never told him he is not allowed back to our home. And that she will never have me baby-sit again.
Now with the holidays here, what should we do about family gatherings? She hasn’t spoke to any of the family.
You have provided a lot of information regarding your family dynamics. It appears that emotions run high, and your grandson is impacted by the disconnect.
I understand that your grandson loves to spend time with both of you. You can only control his behavior when he is with you. If you are consistent, he will learn your rules, even if the rules are different elsewhere.
You mentioned several things that concern me. I will address three of them.
You referred to your grandson as “the baby.” At 4, he is not a baby. To refer to him as a baby sends a message that he is not capable, or not responsible for his actions. A 4-year-old is an extremely capable child, and needs to be recognized for all that he can do.
It concerns me that he has a TV in his room. TV is not a babysitter. It does not replace a parent’s role.
You mentioned that he is stealing items. When items are located, he must return them to the owner, apologize, and take responsibility by doing an act of kindness for that person.
Your grandson will continue to display misbehaviors until you set firm, consistent boundaries, with continuous consequences. He also will continue to display misbehaviors until he is recognized for the positive things he does on a regular basis. He needs to learn what that feels like, so he will attempt more positive behaviors to receive more praise.
The adults in your family need to get on the same page. Communication is difficult when no one will break the silence. You might consider calling or sending a note, expressing your love and concern, without any blame. Tell your daughter you would like to celebrate the holidays together. If she is unwilling to join family gatherings, then request some special time with your grandson. When he does visit your house, let him know what behaviors you expect. Ask him to repeat back to you his understanding of those expectations. Then, give him a big hug.
Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator in Stark County, Ohio, whose column appears in The Repository. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton OH 44702.