Generational Relationships in the Balance
by Drenda Keesee
Once you reach the grandparent phase of family life, you realize what’s important and what isn’t. You also realize that so many of the issues and concerns you had with your own children were not as big of a deal as you thought, such as the age they have their first bite of something sweet or whether you use cloth or disposable diapers. I know about the arguments for both of these areas; I made them!
The point is…
“Don’t miss the big picture!”
It’s more important what you put in your child’s or grandchild’s spirit and soul than anything else. If you don’t let them have any sugar until after a year and wash hundreds of cloth diapers to protect their skin, but fail to proactively feed them a steady diet of God’s Word and power along with manners, morals, and church involvement, you will have missed the boat. Scriptures warn us that people choke on a gnat and swallow a camel. Recognize that what you feed a child’s spirit has eternal consequences. Protect them from evil messaging while providing a diet of truth from God’s Word. Of course, teach them to properly care for their body and feed it healthy, whole foods as much as possible.
You can feed a grandchild God’s Word and pray for them daily. Spending time with your grandbaby early on and making a bond as soon and often as possible is essential to your lifelong relationship. The more respect you show to the parents, the more trust they will have toward you. This includes using restraint when tempted to lecture about how you did everything.
I regularly get letters from distraught grandmas who are banned from seeing their grandchild. This is a terrible consequence for everyone involved—the child, the parent, and the grandparent. We need generational relationships, and God intended them to be a source of security and support. So how can we navigate this season of life with grace?
The earliest accounts in the Bible and history reflect the concept of generational relationships between parents, children, and grandparents. Proverbs 17:6 says, “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” Sometimes young parents view the things that their parents did wrong with such disdain and resolve to “do it different” that they can fail to see the tremendous vintage value in having family support systems, welcoming advice on taking care of an infant and lifelong support parenting a child. Not to mention that godly grandparents can be the best babysitters to trust! It is a beautiful discovery from all perspectives if we can learn to work together with love and respect.
So much in life just comes back to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If parents and grandparents honor and respect one another, this is a much easier task to accomplish. We should be just as committed to support our adult children as they raise their children “in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord” as we were ours, but our role is different. We do not have the final say or responsibility and must respect our children’s decisions. We can lovingly share our thoughts in a respectful manner, but not in front of the child. Share your concern or observation gingerly and then leave the seed in their heart to take root. Pray first, carefully sow it, leave it alone, and pray some more. That’s it.
Family division can result if grandparents disrespect the parents by making little remarks in an effort to win the grandchild’s allegiance. “Grandma will let you have it, even if daddy won’t!” This is unacceptable behavior. It’s not a competition for the child’s heart, rather a common goal of doing what is best for the child’s development. If you as a parent find yourself in this situation with a grandparent, you must prayerfully and lovingly address your parents with the utmost honor for their position and not in front of the child. The person best suited to do this is usually the adult son or daughter of the grandparent. Parents naturally have a tendency to blame the in-law and vice versa, so they will likely be much more understanding and forgiving if their own child talks about delicate issues. It also alleviates a “he said, she said” divisiveness. This may not be the situation in every in-law relationship, but be wise.
Sometimes the in-laws will corner the daughter-in-law to “work on her” when they don’t want to deal directly with their son. This triangulation quickly makes the daughter-in-law the troublemaker, stuck in the middle trying to represent herself and her husband and what was said between them while being drawn into a disagreement. If this happens to you, gently share with them it would be best to speak to their son, since you are honoring his family leadership. Then kindly remove yourself from the discussion or change the subject with respect and civility but firmness that will not allow manipulation by the grandparent.
Remember: Grandparents are learning the new arrangement, too, so give them some grace, just not the authority to take over. If you suppress frustrations instead of communicating, it could result in an unfortunate eruption that damages relationships between the families. There are families that have lost wonderful years of fulfilling exchanges because of hurt feelings and bitterness. It’s not worth it. We’ve all had to traverse through some family misunderstandings. It happens in every generation.
One of our family rules was that our children (ages 3–9 at the time) could not see any movie other than G-rated or an occasional PG if we previewed it first. Gary’s parents felt we were being too strict. We left our three children (then) with them for an evening out, reminding them about our guidelines. While we were in the middle of dinner, I suddenly had a sick feeling that something was wrong with the children. I encouraged Gary we must go back. As we walked into the house, our three-year-old came screaming through the foyer crying at the top of his lungs. They were showing the children a PG-13 movie, a scary scene had just occurred, and our son was horrified.
I did not feel comfortable leaving our children unaccompanied with them again for many years. It was sad to me, because I wanted to have that kind of trust relationship, but their choices hurt our ability to trust. However, even though I felt like it, I did not react in a manner that would destroy our future relationship. I quietly packed the kids up and Gary handled the situation. We continued to love Grandma and Grandpa and make sure we spent time together. We just didn’t leave our children in their care alone until the kids were older and better able to discern how to handle discrepancies.
The beautiful thing that happened as the years rolled by was that our family was able to demonstrate our love and keep a relationship that resulted in salvation to Gary’s father. They were always wonderful people, but we had differing standards because of our beliefs about training a child’s heart, and we had to protect our children from harm. As parents, you must navigate these tense moments with love but not compromise.
As grandparents, you must respect the choices of your adult children or you may find yourself ostracized from your adorable grandchild. I can think of few things sadder than missing out on this time. If you’ve already made mistakes here, take responsibility and sincerely apologize. Pray for an opportunity that you can once again be a part of their life. Isaiah 46:4–5 promises, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
Sometimes you must agree to disagree agreeably. As a grandparent, if you’re trying to bring a godly standard to your grandchild against the parents’ wishes, do it slowly with prayer and with careful respect of the parents. You can catch more bees with honey than vinegar, the saying goes. Babysit for them and be a source of encouragement and never defy their requests even if you feel they are unnecessary (unless illegal or unethical). Psalm 103:17 says, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.”
Prayer and serving in love can give you a platform of influence at the right time. Be patient and wait for it. The time will inevitably come when they will want your counsel or advice, but if you’re pushy, condescending, and critical of their parenting, you will have an adverse impact on this opportunity. It could result in a divisive family breakdown. Don’t risk it! It’s not worth it to make your point.
Excerpt from “The New Vintage Family” by Drenda Keesee
Drenda Keesee’s contagious zeal and humorous personal experiences help make her ministry of spiritual, emotional and relational wholeness one that will bless your life and spark a new fire in your spirit.
A wife of over 30 years and a mother of five children, Drenda has ministered at churches, seminars, and conferences, and through the mediums of television and radio, for more than 20 years.
Her books, The New Vintage Family, Better Than You Think, and She Gets It are available wherever books are sold. In these heartfelt books, Drenda shares her personal journey and the life lessons that have brought her to where she is today, as well as practical answers that all people need to live a joyful life.
Drenda and her husband Gary founded Faith Life Now, a ministry designed to spread the message of freedom in the areas of finances, faith, marriage, and family. Faith Life Now hosts conferences worldwide, and sponsors both Fixing the Money Thing, which Drenda co-hosts with her husband Gary, and Drenda.
Through their own life experiences, the Keesees have found the principles from God’s Word to be powerful and effective. At one point, Drenda was a young, suicidal feminist with no hope of ever being “good enough” for her own standards of perfection. She never wanted the “inconvenience” of a husband or children, and she was on her own path to success. But the stress of trying to achieve perfection and perform for love left her broken and used. She had success, but it was nothing compared to the pain and loneliness it had also brought.
That’s when God got a hold of her heart. It was there—at her lowest point—that she found the One who accepted and loved her, faults and all. Since that transformation, Drenda has had a passion to reach women who find themselves where she once was.
She married Gary after attending college, and there she found herself in a personal boot camp of sorts. She says, “I cried and told God, ‘I can do anything but be a wife and mother.’” She committed to learning how to do it God’s way. Through the many years of raising their children and struggling to make ends meet, Drenda learned from their mistakes. “I didn’t know how to be a wife and mother, but God saved our marriage, taught us how to parent our children for success, showed us how to have financial success, and then irony of all ironies, He called us to ministry.” It’s truly because of these life experiences that Drenda can now share so many insightful principles for people who are now going through the same struggles.