Before I venture to answer that important question, and lest it sound like I have all the answers, I would first point to the invaluable resources, upon which I have drawn, in my nine years of being a granny to two boys and two girls ranging from 3 – 9 years old, as I attempt to broach this vast subject!
The Grace of God has enabled me to mine the wisdom and insight I have needed, from The Word of God, hearing Spirit inspired Truth from my Pastor of 26 years and, more recently, over the past three years, being part of a Women’s Bible Study from ‘The Institutes of Biblical Law’ by Rev. R.J Rushdoony.
Here follow just some of my observations and lessons learned regarding this important question!
My friend, Karen, a teacher, has a prayer request box for her pupils and the overwhelming response from them is the request to “have more time with my Dad.”
I have seen what an important place their Dad holds in the hearts of my grand-children. My youngest grand-daughter, Stephi (3yrs), when she has hurt herself, will immediately wail: “I want my Daaaddy!” On another occasion, I pointed out to Christina (she was 3 yrs old then) that the Agapanthus flower was what I had had in my bouquet for my wedding, as we walked along admiring flowers. Out of the blue, Christina said (with exasperation in her voice!): “Where am I going to find a Prince – I don’t know where I will find him – my Daddy is already married to my Mom so I can’t have him!!!” It is so important to seize every opportunity to encourage honor for their parents in these little hearts!
I have realized how important it is to win the hearts of my grand-children in order to be able to influence them, so as to train them in “the way they should go”. Being firm, consistent, true to your word, reliable, and showing respect are what builds trust and then you are able to guide and inspire them!
I have remembered the wise words I once heard, regarding “quality time“, and for which I am so thankful! ‘You can’t “MAKE” quality time …. quality time happens when you are there to enjoy, with your children and grand-children, the wonder of a butterfly fluttering through the flowers, to ‘kiss it better’ when they have hurt themselves and to listen, really LISTEN – not just with your ears, but with your heart!
I try to ‘spoil’ my grand-children by giving them something to look forward to – a ‘surprise’, such as taking along a King Protea flower to show and share with them, having and learning all about silk worms, discovering that the ‘rain-flowers’ are blooming (Dutch Irises). Showing great enthusiasm for the wonder in the World around us in nature as well as talking to the children about ‘current affairs’ is important. An example of this was when the bridge we travel under on our way home from school was under construction and the builders were on strike, I told Christina (3 years of age then) that the builders were demanding more money to buy food for their children and that is why they were not working on the bridge that day. This story got carried home to Dad and Mom and low and behold I was able to show her the story in the local ‘rag’ (newspaper) the following day!
Both my grand-daughters will soon after I have collected them from school, ask: “What are we going to make today, Granny?” I thought they had been instructed and entertained enough at school and it meant we could just ‘hang’ together with them and chill and relax! Not so! I have realized that they enjoy this opportunity and see it as a time of “focused attention” that they so enjoy! I have to trawl the internet for ideas and we have had so much fun putting together some of our ideas! Here, I have found it so important, to allow them to use their own creativity and skills (however amateurish the final product looks) and for them to not just be an audience, watching their Granny put something together!
This week, we were doing a project with them and Grandpa told Christina he could see she was going to be a good artist – I was amazed at how much this meant to her – she immediately came to tell me and then she repeated it to me again, a little later – it really did something for her! This shows how important it is to nurture their gifting!
In dealing with our grand-children, there are three valuable pointers I got from Dr Ross Campbell in his book “How to really love your Child” – advice which I have gone back to over the years are: 1. Eye contact (it is a fact that when we are at odds with someone, we avoid eye contact, but it is so necessary in our interaction with each other!), 2. Physical contact (tousle their hair, some rough and tumble with their Grandpa, holding their hand, hugs and kisses – closeness – a time of reading books to them is an ideal opportunity to be close. I read books to my sons up until they were 16 years old and they LOVED it) and 3. Focused attention! (a set time of doing something just THEY, individually, want to do – not what you feel like, or think is a good idea). Although children are to be dealt with for disobedience, it is important to look for the possible causes for their poor behavior, ie – are they hungry? tired? a wet diaper? are they unwell? – none of these should ever be an excuse for them to ‘get away with’ bad behavior but it is also important to take such situations into consideration and ensure they are fed, have their nap, get their diaper changed, etc. – and so, ensure that their ‘need’ is met.
Another ‘gem’ I learned was the importance of having a routine – this is a great source of stability and security for children – so that they are not living in suspense about what is going to happen next, which is stressful for them! This is why it is important to communicate to children what you are doing, where you are going, what to expect, explaining and not assuming they know what is going on.
A final gem would be the importance of ensuring that you are on same ‘page’ as their parents (regarding their routines, what they eat, etc.), so that the children are not getting confused by mixed messages!
Our example – as we follow Jesus’ example - of kindness and firmness teaches them kindness and temperance. The guidelines we have in the Ten Commandments are the ultimate and absolute “yardstick” that guides us in the training and influencing of our grand-children. It is also an excellent opportunity to teach them the vital truth regarding consequences for our actions and the importance of taking responsibility, being accountable and submission to authority.
Ultimately, a question to ask is not so much “what do children want”, but “what does Jesus want?” What blesses Jesus above everything we think, say or do, is our obedience to His Commands, so, I would think, that there is nothing more important to pass onto your children and your grand-children than deferring to Him and His Word! As they see our genuine walk of faith in the gift, the wonder of, obedience to and honor of Jesus, this will, in turn, instill the same honor for Him in their hearts. If we would stop and ask the question “what would Jesus want?” every time we face a challenge or an obstacle, then, surely, the situation could be handled with the greatest wisdom, insight and blessing?
I have also realized that to be faithful to our charge, as we are blessed to have such a privileged opportunity to influence our grand-children for the Kingdom of God, we need to take this charge very seriously! I am challenged by the example of Lois, the grand-mother of Timothy, when I see the trans-generational impact she had on her daughter, Eunice and then, in turn, on Paul’s “beloved son”, Timothy! It is my hope, my prayer and my longing that I, too, may leave such a legacy!
Undergirding all of this, is the utmost importance of praying for our children and our grand-children, bringing them before the great Father of all of life, our Creator-God and the great Intercessor, Jesus, who unceasingly prays for us – what a comfort, what a joy and what a blessing!
I was born in Windhoek, Namibia and currently reside in Johannesburg, South Africa, with my beloved husband of 41 years, Anthony. We are enjoying our “retirement” years together and love that we have the time to be able to interact with our grand-children, during the week. One of my great ‘loves’ is doing arts and crafts and the Lord has opened up such a wonderful avenue for me, with my grand-children, to be able to do just that! My greatest desire and hope is that I should serve the Lord faithfully in the destiny and purpose that He has for my life.