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Grand Grandparents

June 15, 2012

Nineteen grandkids are sometimes exhausting—wonderfully exhausting. I go to work and do physical labor to get some rest. God gave kids to young adults because they can stand up to the rigors of raising a family. But we grandparents have our own special place. We may tire and have to take a nap or send them home early, but for a time we are able to devote 100% of our attention and energy toward the little ones.

I will admit, when the grandkids are present I am useless for anything else. They make me run here and there and laugh until I am worn to a frazzle. I play music while they dance. I rig fishing poles, bait hooks, take fish off the line, and then clean them. We go for rides in the woods in my little buggy, read books, eat, go swimming, and I fall down exhausted while they turn to Mama Pearl for more excitement. She takes them to the garden or gets them involved doing house chores or taking care of the chickens—things like shelling and grinding corn or changing the water.

Another benefit of being a grandparent is that we don’t have to see the kids at their worst—bored, hungry, tired. Nor do we bear the primary responsibility of training. They are pretty well-trained by the time they are big enough to hang out with us. But we do have a great responsibility that falls to us entirely. We should guard against spoiling what the parents are trying to instill in their children. Grandparents can be a great blessing or a curse to their grandchildren. So I am going to give you the three laws of grandparenting.

1.)  Always communicate great respect for the child’s parents and deference toward their rules and manner of raising the kids. There is a tendency in grandparents to compete for the affections of the kids by denigrating their parents. It is a subtle thing that those who are doing it would deny. Satan denigrated God by asking Eve, “Yea, hath God said?” “Did your parents say that? Why would they say that?” The implication is that I, the grandparent, would never deny you something that would make you happy. Any attempt to embrace the children by loosing the embrace of the parents is an evil of great magnitude. It does not hurt the parents nearly as much as it does the children, for parents are God’s surrogate potentates, representatives of all law and justice. To diminish respect for parents is to diminish respect for authority. It makes rebels of the children while giving the grandparents a false and temporary sense of being special.

2.)  Never say, “Now, don’t tell your parents.” It seems like an innocent bit of intrigue to develop a club-like atmosphere of “us and them”; it makes us appear to be a special group that maintains secrets from the rest of the world, especially overly-rigid parents who would deny pleasure to their children. But it is not innocent or harmless. It may be fun to the grandparents to form a secret club of junk-food eaters, TV watchers, or whatever with the children, but the expense to their character is too great. Secrets from authorities are lies, and rebellion breeds a worldview that says “live in pleasure regardless of what the authorities say, for they cannot be trusted to seek your best interest. And when the rules don’t suit you, just do as you please and keep it a secret from those in oversight.” As a child relates to his parents, so he relates to all authority, including God. If you loose a child from the moors of authority in order to tie them alongside your boat, the day will come when he will cut loose from all in the safe harbor and sail into a storm from which he will not return.

3.)  Never second-guess the parents’ rules regarding food, dress, entertainment, etc. God gave the parents the responsibility of raising those kids. He gave you a rocking chair and lots of idle time. Don’t let your idle time become the devil’s workshop.

Never allow the children to violate the rules parents have set down. If they say no TV, that is final. If they say no playing with the neighbor kids, stand by it. If they say no climbing in trees or no bicycle riding on the sidewalk, then it is the law of the Medes and Persians. When we allow a dispensation of lax law, we communicate the concept that law is arbitrary and capricious. We grandparents must be surrogate parents in the image of their own parents.

I remember as we raised our children, we tried to deny or severely limit their intake of junk food like candy bars and Cokes. But they loved to go to Grandma’s house because she kept the junk just for them. For a while we constantly griped about it, but we soon learned that it was a hopeless battle, so we resigned ourselves to allowing them to indulge while there. That was less harmful than their being aware of our contention with the “sweet” grandparents.

Now that I have assumed the role of grandparent, I understand what drove them. As soon as the smiling kids walk in the door, I want to delight them with a treat. It does purchase a lot of immediate good feelings. But our house never contains sweet pop or candy bars. If it did, I don’t see how I could resist lighting up their faces with a dose of toxins. Yes, we are better-informed than earlier generations, but the principle remains the same. Grandparents want to purchase praise and love. But the purchase must be within the rules the parents have set down.

We grandparents are only grand when we act grandly. We can be a great blessing to our children—allowing them a little time off, a night alone, a short honeymoon once a year, a break during the day, or a place for the kids to stay while Mama is screaming, “It hurts too much; this is the last baby I am going to have.” So let’s perform our roles to the glory of God and the encouragement of the parents who alone bear the full responsibility for these children.

Personal note: Most of my grandkids are better trained than were my children. It is a deep pleasure to see them all faring so well. It is like reaping the sweet fruit of many years of labor.

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16 comments on “Grand Grandparents”

  1. Good article. Will help me get the words on how to deal with my "did mother really say" in-laws. I hate seeing my oldest in forms of rebellion because of in-laws who try to lower my standards of no-tv, no-chips etc. They indulge their "christian" lives in front of TBN AND soaps like they love the TV more than Human life itself. We live at the grandparents now, but hope to move out SOON and get husband on his OWN two feet.

    1. Dear frustrated stressed out lady,
      You are sacrificing peace, happiness and family unity on the altar of personal standards and food preferences. There are many wonderful helpful articles on this site to help you out. They will not tell you to throw your Godly standards to the wind but teach to discern personal preferences from God's commands. Here is one to get you started out.
      By holding so tightly to the belief that your in-laws choices are of the devil, your husband a weakling and that food makes or breaks you, you are dancing to the tune of the family destroyer. I grieve for you and where you are headed, it isn't pretty. Your children will not got to hell because of TBN. Be thankful they are not watching images and hearing words that could defile your children's innocence. Your husband is most likely already on his own two feet, just not financially yet (unless you are in a very unusual situation) but can't get anywhere because you despise him. It's all over the way you wrote. Food is food is food. It is not salvation or sanctification. Unless you have medical issues ask yourself would Jesus cause dissension, anger and hatred over chips?

      1. it is for reasons like these that I DO turn to the "professionals" PARENT EFFECTIVENESS TRAINING and just plain acceptance of people at best written by Thomas Gordon found at It basically instills the truth that children themselves are responsible for resolving problems in their lives and parents are just counselors in the process. Any other means....seems to be a means to the hypocrisy of religion or psychological political maneuvering and a lack of truly accepting the being created by God in need of basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing and a listening ear.

        Over all.....despite the fact that we "have" to live with my in-laws at the moment I ALLOW my children the choice to choose when they would like to "help" grandma make cinnamon rolls or help mama fold laundry. Grandma isn't perfect and is in fact VERY controlling or UN-welcomming at best as she has practiced that behavior towards children for years, but the fact that I allow the child to decide how to handle the social situations really helps ease the tension in our home. I tell my children "chips aren't good" but I allow them to decide to not eat them on their own terms and conditions. Basically the child decides, because I can't keep the chips out of the home as we have NO child safety devices and locks living here.

        it has been difficult, at best, and I have had to learn to bridle my own tongue for lack of a better word. I wouldn't suggest living with in-laws if the case is possible to live without, that is better unless a specifically arranged schedule is in place.

        If the in-laws are verbally accusational or manipulative towards me I have to ask that they "leave me alone" so I can just be by my self until I regroup. With no finances on husband's part, my protection by husband is limited.

      2. That has to be the worst advice ever. It's the parents who are in charge of raising kids how they see fit, no the grandparents who we use as a measuring rod to lower out standards too. some kids are sensitive to MSG, some food coloring.. not all food is the same.

        but the point is, grandparents should raise their standards to meet the parent. Would i cause dissension over a disagreement on how I choose to raise my kids? absolutely!

        Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
        (Luke 12:51-53)

  2. I absolutely agree with all three points, and am glad that they are simple to remember. However, I struggle with one thing: One of our sons has abandoned his faith, considers himself agnostic, and does not want us talking to his two daughters, now ages 3 and 7 mos., about the Lord.

    Interestingly, and thankfully, I have given them the Pearls books on child training, and they believe in them so much that they buy it and give them out to their friends. I received the sweetest thank you not from my dil for helping them so much with their child training - and they ARE doing a marvelous job. For someone whose own mother abandoned her at 4 years of age, she is a wonderful mother in her own right.

    So far, I have regarded their request about the Lord, which is easier to do since they live in a different state, and the girls are so young. I so want them to live closer to me, but I couldn't bear to keep my mouth shut about our loving Father and our Savior Jesus Christ on a constant basis.

    Please pray for us to know where to draw the line, and for their return to the Lord.

    1. You son is in spiritual pain. Not because he abandoned the faith but because of the lies or hyprocrisy that he saw somewhere. He could not make what he saw match with what he knew deep down about God. He blames God for not clearing things up for him. In his eyes that means God either doesn't care or the mixed up mess is the truth and that is unbearable. You son believes in truth and honesty. Somewhere Satan worked in lies and hyprocrisy clothed in Christianity to destroy your son. He hasn't won because your son isn't calling himself an atheist.
      I have been there on that brink but I knew that God was real and that there was truth out there I just needed to find it. I couldn't even read my bible for a while because of the mixed up messed up version of Christianity that I had been sold as God's own truth. It wasn't until Mr Pearl's sermon set called 'Am I Saved?'( it is still free I think) that the truth started to come clear. It wasn't an instant fix and God used other teachers and other materials to get me clear from the mess I was in. I never stopped seeking and I do not know if your son is still looking but I hold high hope that he is still open. The best thing you can do for your son is to ask God to show what error is binding your son's heart and then pray against it. If he is in talking mood ask him if he would describe exactly what turned him off God in the first place. When I am talking with my kids about touchy subjects I tell them "There are no wrong answers. I just want to know what is going on inside you". You might not like the answer but accept it without judgement. You might be able to see the source of his pain clearer and therefore find the solution or at least know what to focus your prayers on.
      I was a parent when I went through my journey. While I never asked anyone to not speak to my children about the things of God I could not bring myself to do so some of the time. I deeply wanted to spare them being trapped by lies and going through what I had. He is just trying to protect his girls. I would personally not go out of my way to preach at my grandchildren but I would ask permission to not have to answer or speak untruthfully in discussions with them. Just remember he is hurting deep inside and this is his way of protecting himself and his family.

  3. We have been striving to live biblical parenting and reading that Michael Pearl's grand kids are better trained than his own children is so encouraging. Love does cover a multitude! I feel I spend more time learning to submit myself to Christ, and learning about being a wife and mother, than practical application. I feel I'm moving at a snail's pace and should just be able to get it and have it all right! Thank you, Pearls, for not compromising, and for sharing your testimony!

  4. Love the article. Just like with children, some grandparents are more demanding than others. I made up my mind when my first child was born, that my children wouldn't be subject to my family's penchant for drama. With almost no exception, the kids haven't been. I love my folks. That doesn't mean that I subject my kids to the same things that I was raised with. Peace and safety beats wild wild west fights. We'll get our thrills on the ball field, playground,etc. Also, we love your teaching. Thank you so much.

  5. Really enjoyed this article! But what do you do when one of the grandparents is not saved? They don't live by these rules. My father is not saved "yet" so explaining these things to him is senseless. As I was reading this article it seems as I was reading about the relationship my father tries to have with my children. I feel blessed that we live in different counties but at the same time feel terrible that I am glad that he is so far. I almost dread when he wants to visit and it's almost an extra hire because I have to be so vigilant because I know he tries to steer my children contrary to what we are teaching. I know is because he doesn't know Jesus so in turn he can't see the truth but where do I draw the line? My children are the only grandchildren he has as I am his only child so I never say he can't visit but I do share with him my concerns every so often. Which help for a few days but then quickly all goes back to its old ways. I do love my father and respect him, he IS fun an jolly but does not have a clue about the damage he can cause in his position of authority as a grandparent. It saddens me.

  6. (Quote: "We grandparents are only grand when we act grandly. We can be a great blessing to our children—allowing them a little time off, a night alone, a short honeymoon once a year, a break during the day, or a place for the kids to stay while Mama is screaming, “It hurts too much; this is the last baby I am going to have.” So let’s perform our roles to the glory of God and the encouragement of the parents who alone bear the full responsibility for these children.")

    I wish I could act 'grandly' as a grandmother and be a blessing to my daughters, but the ugly 'arm' of divorce has reached down to the 4th generation in our family. In spite of all our family members being Christians (or so I thought), my husband's mother left his dad over two decades ago, married another, left him and married a third man, who in turn left his wife and family for her. We have avoided contact with his mom for many years, and none of our 5 kids really new their grandmother while they were growing up. However, our now-married daughters (one with 2 little girls, 3 and 1)) have recently decided to make up for lost time and have started a relationship with grandma and her 3rd husband. My husband, who is loyal to his live-alone father and God's teaching on divorce, is so appalled by our girls decision that he will not let them back into our home or go to theirs, unless they 'repent' from condoning the adulterous relationship by their visits. He says they can see grandma without her husband and let her know they don't approve of her relationship, but our girls have refused that request. I realize they have their own families now, but my husband says they have 'betrayed' our family and God. He expects me to stand strong with him in this situation, and I try my best to do so, but my heart aches for my girls and the little ones. At the same time, I am angry because grandma's husband is more important to them than their own parents, their children's grandparents, and the unity of our family. I have tried to be a peace-maker between my husband and my girls, but to no avail. My oldest son (also married with 2 little girls) has tried as well with no result, and my 2 unmarried sons try to stay clear of this family issue. I do believe it is important for me to be one with my husband in this situation and to not let it drive a wedge between us. Unless our girls change their attitude, they will 'forfeit' both parents and any future family gatherings with us (they already missed two of them). I pray that one day soon, hearts will be changed and this will all be resolved, and when that day comes, my husband and I will both be here, together, for all of our children and grandchildren.

  7. I LOVE this article. My children have been blessed with 5 grandparents and 2 active great-grandparents. However, the majority of them are not on the same page as this article. For the past 5 years, I have been struggling with what to allow and what to fight (though, in my heart I'm disagreeing with all). It's been a battle when I'm charged with, "It's a grandparent's right to spoil their grandchildren." And I cringe inside every time my father-in-law makes "jokes" about "Mom not being any fun" and so on. Most of them do not agree (and make it known... as well as allow it when I'm not around) with mine and my husband's stands on such things as junk food, buying ridiculous amounts of gifts, bedtimes, TV/movies, fighting, etc. More recently, I've been more relaxed in allowing such grandparent-behavior, just because "it's a special time with a grandparent" (all the grandparents live 1000's of miles from us) and maybe because I'm tired of always being the mean guy. Anyways, I was glad to see this article because it built that fight back up in me to still stand for what is best for my children (and I see the Godly principles behind it, rather than just knowing I'm uncomfortable with it). I'm mostly in question with you on how I could present this view to the grandparents. I would rather them not be offended or feel picked on, but I would love to show/explain to them these consequences for their actions and the examples of other ways to show good grandparent love.

  8. Thank you so much for this article. It was very timely as well as a tremendous blessing.

    Your grandchildren have wealth untold for these experiences with you and Mrs. Pearl. How I long for this for my own children.

    We do not have this on either side, but I will simply pray that God will open my children's lives up to others outside of my husband and me who can offer an extension of themselves through unique talents and skills that will bless my children in a way that my husband and I cannot. What a beautiful inspiration you and your wife are for us.

  9. This is one of our favorites. Mr. Pearls perspective (from both a parent & a grandparent) is encouraging & a gentle reminder of our inner motivations. Thank you.

  10. Dear dear Mr&Mrs Pearl,

    I can't even imagine how wonderful it is for my own soul to read this message........ I am a single Grandparent and i just adore my grandchildren they are a joy and Yes.... my daughter and her husband are raising them in the ways of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ and Yes" i have failed in giving in to what they want without thier parents knowing, but my granddaughter who is only six years old say's to me "but grandma even when mummy is not watching God is watching us all the time" and along the years i have learned a lot from my own grandchildren.
    I really love the inspiration.
    God bless you all.

  11. This is do beautifully written,
    with wisdom and grace.
    I will be a new grandmother come December and want to be a de'light' to both the soon to be parents and my grandchild.

  12. My grandparents were some of the most influential people in my formative years. One set was Christian and did their best to live a God-honoring lifestyle, the other set were likely unsaved, lived as they pleased, and disagreed with my parents methods of child training. Both, however, upheld my parent's rules and preferences when with us. They pointed us to our parents when we were unsure or questioning, rather than deciding what was best for us, even when we were temporarily in their care. This reinforced respect for our parents authority and wisdom. I believe this is the reason all three generations still have good relationships with each other! My grandparents are a great blessing in my life. (Oddly enough, the side that originally disagreed with my parents' beliefs, has come to applaud their methods.)
    My own children have two sets of Christian grandparents. One set completely upholds and promotes our authority to our children. Every visit with them is refreshing. The other side, causes sweet confusion by comforting and sliding the children around their father's commands, let alone desires. These visits are always followed by a stressful day or two of retraining and reminding.
    So, grandparents, you CAN be a help, or a hindrance, and I believe the long term relationship with your children and grandchildren will definitely be affected by which you choose.