When my son asked me to come to this country to be close to family, he didn’t tell me that my granddaughter believes she is “Boss of the house.” I can hardly believe that a seven-year-old can say such things. She does not listen to anything I say, and openly challenges her grandmother, father, and mother. When I was younger, I would have responded, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” but at this age, I just want to enjoy the few years I have left. So although my son asks me to be strict the way I was with him and his sisters, I no longer have the heart to be a disciplinarian, and neither does my wife. As a result, I generally avoid conflict with my granddaughter. Our interactions are limited to my occasionally feeding her and reading to her. Of course, there is also our daily hug and my accepting smile.
“The greatest lessons in life, if we would but stoop and humble ourselves, we should learn not from the grown-up learned men, but from the so-called ignorant children. (M. K. Gandhi)
As your children once did, grandchildren require attention that transcends a loving hug or a tasty snack.
Unlike my own grandparents’ India, which was quite a hierarchical world where elders’ word was final, my children’s America is much flatter and more democratic. Sometimes this goes too far, with no one listening to anyone else. You say that your granddaughter “does not listen.” Respectfully, my question to you is, “Do you take the time to listen—really listen—to her?” She may have much to teach you about this new world of yours, which happens to be her world. Imagine asking her to teach you how to download all your favorite bhajans or Bollywood hits onto the family MP3 player. By occasionally reversing the Guru-Cheli relationship, you might allow your granddaughter to be the “Boss of the moment,” and develop a friendship that both of you will treasure. In the process, a trust will be developed, enabling you to discipline your granddaughter so that she understands that there are consequences to her willful ways. This may enrich your relationship, improve some of the tension around the house, and perhaps help your granddaughter negotiate her way in a world that isn’t as understanding as loving grandparents.
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