How to Encourage Your Grandkids

How to Encourage Your Grandkids

I love being a grandmother! We have six grandchildren, and I can honestly say that each child's birth has been unique and special. My husband and I strongly feel the responsibility of being grandparents and constantly seek God's wisdom about our role in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

We are learning what to do and what not to do—learning to respect our children's parenting styles and guidelines even when they differ from ours.

One of the lessons we have learned along the way is to be the biggest encouragers in their lives. Grandparents should encourage their grandchildren. My husband and I spell "encourage" a little differently. We love to "in-courage" our grandchildren, which means we want to pour encouragement into their lives.

Encourage Grandchildren with Words

I love fruit – all kinds of fruit. So, it is not a surprise that I spend a lot of time in the fruit department of our local grocery store. I have to thump, pinch, smell, and handle fruit to determine if it is worthy of the Southerland's meal plan. I weed out the fruit that is discolored or mushy. I thump and shake cantaloupe. The best strawberries have an unusually sweet smell. Tomatoes, passion fruit, and plums have a litany of tests to pass before they are added to my cart.

I recently made a trip to the grocery store because – you got it – I was out of fruit. As I scrutinized the different fruit selections, a thought occurred to me. I do not spend as much time choosing the words I speak as I spend choosing fruit.

Now that is a sad statement! Especially when it comes to our grandchildren.

A carefully chosen word can encourage and build up our grandchildren, while a thoughtless comment can tear them down. We need to speak words of life to them. We may very well be the most significant source of encouragement in the lives of our grandchildren. Here are some encouraging words my husband and I offer our grandchildren:

  • We are so proud of you!
  • We love you as much as there are stars in the sky.
  • We will always have a listening ear when it comes to you.
  • We all make mistakes. Let me tell you what I did when I was a kid!

Always begin every conversation with their name. It is amazing how much it boosts the hearts of our grandchildren to hear their Mimi and Papa speak their names. I'm not exactly sure, but it really does. I suspect it sends a subtle message of, "I see you. I value you. I hear you."

Read to them. We started early and have not stopped. The kind of books we read has certainly changed. Our grandchildren range in age from 14 down to 7, and they all still love to hear us read to them.

When they are facing a difficult or frightening situation, say, "You've got this, ____________!" Then, fill in the blank with their name. Send your grandchildren texts to let them know you are thinking about and praying for them. (For younger children, you can send the texts to their mom or dad and ask them to pass the text on.)

Encourage Grandchildren with Actions

Encouraging your grandkids with actions always involves showing up. Real love shows up, and your grandchildren know it. We must understand that our grandchildren spell love T-I-M-E. Our grandchildren feel loved when we spend time with them – doing anything.

Our oldest grandson plays baseball, and he is so good. I don't say that just because I'm his grandmother. Even the coaches from other teams know that when Jaydan is on the mound, their players will most likely strike out.

Last night, I went to Jaydan's game. Drove 40 minutes one way to get there. Is it worth the time and the gas? Absolutely. The game had just started when I got there, and one of the other pitchers was on the mound. They usually start someone else and then bring Jay in to close it out. And close it out, he did! When Jay began pitching, our team was behind 5 to 0 – us being the zero. He struck player after player out. And then he hit a homerun! Was I a screaming Mimi - yes, I was!!! The other parents and grandparents laugh at me, but I have noticed they have started being more encouraging in the last few games. I have decided that encouragement is contagious.

And here it is! When Jaydan walks out to the mound, I always yell, "Now that is a good-lookin' pitcher!" He always grins. After the first game, I asked him if I had embarrassed him. He smiled and said, "I loved it, Mimi." Jaydan always thanks me for coming to his game.

Another way to spend time with your grandchildren is to schedule one night a week (or as often as your schedule allows) to have your grandchildren spend the night with you. Our grandchildren love to spend the night at our home. Yes, we spoil them rotten, but we always side with their parents regarding significant discipline guidelines.

Grab a copy of Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages, and apply the principles Dr. Chapman explores to your grandkids. First, study your grandchildren to determine their love language, and then use that language to demonstrate your love for them.

Please don't wait for a special occasion to send them a card. Our grandchildren love to receive cards and letters from us. So when I go to the drugstore, grocery store, or Dollar General, I pick up extra cards to have on hand. That way, I can pop a card in the mail when I think one of our grandchildren needs a lift.

Encourage Grandchildren with Prayer

One of the most powerful ways to encourage our grandchildren is to pray for them and let them know we are praying for them.

At bedtime, ask them, "How can I pray for you?" You may be surprised by what they say. Yet, their prayer requests are often the key that unlocks their heart and makes you aware of a problem you did not even know existed.

Tell Them You Are Praying for Them

Share your prayer requests with them and ask them to pray for you. Doing so sends all kinds of powerful messages to them. One of those messages is that you trust them and value their prayers. Adults have problems, too. Everyone makes mistakes. You understand what it means when someone hurts you. In other words, be transparent and authentic with your grandchildren.

Encourage Grandchildren with Physical Affection

I have a large basket of blankets in our living room. I never miss the opportunity to snuggle under a blanket while watching a movie with those grandkids. I've even known to turn down the air in our home to motivate the grandkids to grab a blanket. I know. Sneaky! Most of the time, our oldest granddaughter, who is 14, will grab a blanket and say, "Let's watch a movie, Mimi." And I am all in! But, of course, all of the other grandkids soon follow.

Every time I walk by one of the grandkids, I rub their back and pat them on the shoulder - you get the idea. They seem to love it.

The little ones, or as our oldest grandkids call them, the "Littles," are slightly different. You see, they are the only ones still shorter than I am. So, when I want to say something to them, I place my hand under their chin and lift their beautiful faces to see their eyes as I talk with them. That creates a physical connection as well as an emotional and mental one.

A Final Word

2 Timothy 4:2 says that we are to encourage others with careful instruction, which means to be sympathetic to the condition of the one who needs encouragement. It took me several years of teaching and speaking to learn an important truth. Learning does not begin with the truth. Learning begins with the learner and requires loving flexibility.

In other words, we need to wrap our words of instruction with encouragement. It's a winning combination! Our oldest grandson, Jaydan, recently illustrated this critical truth to me.

Remember Jaydan? He is the stellar pitcher I told you about. Jaydan always wants to pitch – and I do mean always. I can see the excitement on his face as he runs out of the dugout to find his home on the field – the pitcher's mound. Jaydan also has an amazing and sensitive heart. He is simply a great young man! One of his coaches asked Jaydan if he would be willing to coach two of the younger players on the team. They both were pitchers who needed some help.

Now think about that for a minute. Jaydan, who always wants to pitch, was being asked to coach and help two young men who wanted to take his spot on the pitcher's mound. Jaydan did not hesitate. "Sure, Coach! I'd be glad to work with them."

Dan and I were sitting in the stands when the game began. I was ready to cheer Jaydan on when someone else trotted out to the pitcher's mound. What? Why wasn't Jaydan pitching? I wouldn't say I liked it, but there was an excellent reason. He was playing first base, a pivotal position in baseball. The team we were playing was not very good. We had already beaten this team once. I still wanted Jaydan on the mound until his dad commented, "Hey, Mom. Jeremy (the interloper now pitching) is one of those kids Jaydan told you about. He has been working with him."

As I watched the game unfold, I had to admit that Jeremy had vastly improved and is a much better pitcher than he was last season - because Jaydan was willing to teach and encourage him. I watched Jaydan on first base as he played his position with excellence while also encouraging Jeremy with, "You've got this, Jeremy. Show them what you can do. Awesome pitch! Way to go!" It was a beautiful illustration of pure encouragement.

Instruction wrapped with encouragement works. No one cares how much you know until they know just how much you care. I have heard it said that advice and instruction are like snow. The softer they fall—the deeper they stick. Sensitive instruction is encouragement. (Excerpt from Mary's book, Hope In the Midst of Depression.)

The Apostle Paul nailed this truth with his words in 1 Thessalonians. "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up." 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV).

Boom! There it is! Now let the Church say amen! Amen!

Mary Southerland Mimi Card Image

Photo credit: ©Mary Southerland

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Yakobchuk Olena

Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.