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10 Tips for Biblical Grandparenting

  • Lori Hatcher Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2023 17 Sep
10 Tips for Biblical Grandparenting

I remember holding my first child and feeling an overwhelming weight of responsibility. In an instant, I understood that what I did and didn’t do as a parent would seriously influence the course of my child’s life. It was a frightening and holy moment, one that caused me to fling myself on God’s mercy. Realizing how clueless I was, I claimed James 1:5 as my parenting life verse: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

When I held my first grandchild, that weight didn’t settle quite as heavily upon my shoulders. I realized that instead of being one of the main influences in my grandchild’s life, I was to play a supporting role. Yet like the actor who seeks to win the Best Supporting Actor award, I wanted to do everything I could to help my children raise healthy, happy, godly adults. To that end, I’ve developed 10 tips for biblical grandparenting.

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  • senior man teaching young boy how to play guitar in retirement

    1. Be alert for natural teaching opportunities.

    The most-effective learning opportunities happen organically, as we move through our days. Rather than sharing formally-awkward, scripted lessons, watch for teachable moments to impart values and life skills. You can share a lot of wisdom simply by doing life together.

    My grandmother taught me to pray whenever I heard an ambulance. “Whenever you hear a siren,” she’d say, “that means someone needs help. Always stop and pray for that person, even if you don’t know who it is.” I don’t remember praying often as a child, but whenever I’d hear a siren, whether I was playing on the playground, doing homework, or lying in bed at night, I’d say a prayer. I still do this today.

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  • grandchild hugging grandfather from behind, prayer for grandparent's heart during quarantine

    2. Model the Christian life and be ready for their questions.

    Children are naturally curious, and they try to make sense of the world around them. As they watch you pray before meals, read your Bible, and be kind to others, they may ask why. Be ready with good, biblical answers. If they don’t ask, introduce the topic with a question. “Do you know why Gigi reads her Bible every morning? Because that’s how God talks to me. And he tells me all kinds of cool stuff.” 

    Through our actions and activities, we model how to put others first, show compassion to the sick and needy, see God in His creation, live peacefully, be courageous, generous, and content, and love unconditionally. As we do, we connect the dots between the faith we embrace and the way we live.

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  • grown son with senior dad laughing on couch with ipad Fathers Day

    3. Don't take yourself too seriously.

    Grandparenting gives us permission to be silly. Even the most dignified grandparent casts off restraint in the presence of his grandchildren. We’re finally old enough to be comfortable in our own skins. The cool factor is long gone, so it doesn’t matter what someone else is thinking. All we care about is making our grandchildren smile. We instigate silly songs, horsey rides, and bedtime stories, complete with different voices for each character.

    We make snowmen pancakes, devise elaborate games of pretend, and host fancy tea parties. The more they laugh, the happier we are. “A merry heart does good, like a medicine,” Proverbs 17:22 says, and grandparents and grandchildren alike benefit from free-spirited, spontaneous laughter.

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  • 4. Tell lots of stories.

    4. Tell lots of stories.

    People of all ages enjoy stories, but children love them most. In many cultures, storytelling remains the primary way of communicating history, morality, and entertainment. Research has shown that humans aren’t hard-wired to understand logic and remember facts for very long, but we understand and remember stories.

    Grandparents can use storytelling to share moral lessons (aka Aesop’s Fables), family history (stories about your ancestors, your upbringing, or their parents’ childhood), and spiritual truth (Bible stories). Whether we’re telling or reading stories, choosing them deliberately allows us to leverage a powerful and enjoyable tool for sharing what’s most important.

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  • 5. Expect messes.

    5. Expect messes.

    This has been one of the hardest aspects of grandparenting for me. I like my house neat and clean. When the grandkids arrive, however, I relax my standards, because kids, by nature, are messy. While they learn to self-feed, food’s going to fall on the floor. Until they’re old enough to pick up after themselves, they’re going to leave a debris field in their wake. Although we can (and should) teach them to clean up, we’ll be doing most of it until they grow old enough to help.

    When I feel overwhelmed and frustrated by messes, it helps me to remember that people are more important than things. I want to be a good steward of my possessions, but I don’t want to elevate them above my family. I can mop a floor, but I can’t regain a lost opportunity to build a memory or grow a relationship. 

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  • senior couple looking at laptop planning finances

    6. Give generously and invest wisely.

    By the time our children have children, we often have more discretionary income. We can direct the funds in a zillion different places – retirement, travel, or hobbies, for example. One of the best places to invest is in our grandchildren. We can help fund activities that promote spiritual growth, like Christian summer camp, mission trips, or Christian dance lessons. We can sponsor homeschool curriculum, extra-curricular activities, and inter-generational family trips. Opening or contributing to a college education fund or helping a teenager buy their first car can help them begin their young adult lives debt free.

    When our children were young, my mother-in-law sponsored several annual trips to the beach for us and my husband’s siblings and their families. Without her generosity, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy those special times of fun and relaxation. Our family grew closer to each other, shared laughter, and made lifetime memories.

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  • senior woman on couch eyes closed in thoughtful prayer

    7. Pray daily.

    Not only do we carry the holy burden of praying for our adult children, now we extend it to our grandchildren. We pray for their safety, health, and protection. We pray for success in school, good friends, and obedient dispositions. We pray for their development, growth, and salvation. More than anything else, we pray they will love Jesus, for to do otherwise would break our hearts. We know the pull of the world is stronger than ever, so we do battle for them daily on our knees.

    Because grandparents are one step removed from the front lines, we often feel frightened and helpless to protect and influence our grands. Those who live far away often feel disconnected. One friend of mine who is a long-distance grandmother helps combat this by praying specifically and by name for each of her grandchildren every week. 

    When the first grand was born, she began a journal with his name on it. In it she wrote specific prayer requests, Bible verses, and promises to claim on his behalf. Whenever he or his parents shared a need or concern, she wrote down the request so she’d remember to pray about it. When God answers one of her prayers, she records the date and the answer.

    Now that her grandchildren are older, they talk weekly via Face Time, and she updates her journal. In between talks, they call or text requests they’d like her to pray about. “Without my prayer journal commitment,” she said, “I don’t think we’d be as close as we are. I hope it continues into their teens and adult lives.”

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  • FaceTiming family

    8. As much as possible, support your kids' wishes, requests, and parenting decisions.

    I reared my children in the early 90s, when breastfeeding was just starting to make a comeback. My mother-in-law came from the baby formula generation, so breastfeeding seemed very old-fashioned to her. She didn’t know anyone who had nursed their babies, and she worried that her granddaughter wouldn’t get enough milk. 

    Although she shared her concerns with me, she also listened respectfully (albeit skeptically) to my reasoning. She didn’t harangue or criticize me. Later, when she saw her granddaughter thriving on breast milk alone, she became a believer. 

    Of course, if we see our kids making decisions that could harm or endanger our grandkids, we have a responsibility to speak up. But before we do, we should pray, seek the wisdom of God’s Word and godly counsel, and then share our concerns respectfully. 

    Most points of disagreement usually relate to style, preference, and philosophy. Ultimately, the responsibility for these choices rests on the parents’ (not the grandparents’) shoulders. Even if you don’t agree, respect their right to make these choices and don’t undermine them in front of the grands. Who knows? In time, like my mother-in-law discovered, current research might just prove them right. 

    Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Drazen Zigic

  • grandpa comforting their grandchild

    9. Don't be afraid to enforce your own rules on your own turf, but choose them wisely.

    One friend of mine has white carpet in her living room. To protect it, she has the rule, “No eating or drinking in the living room.” Another friend doesn’t allow her grands to watch certain television shows. “Sorry,” she says matter of factly, “Mimi doesn’t care for that type of show.” Yet another prefers no television at all. “Go pick out three books,” she’ll say when they ask to watch a show, “or choose a game from the game closet.” At our house, our grandchildren know we pray before we eat, everyone carries their plate to the sink after a meal, and we always read a Bible story before bedtime.

    As we train our grandchildren to respect our rules, it’s important to share the whys behind them. “Grandma and Grandpa saved our money for two years to buy that new carpet, and we want to keep it nice.” Or “Television is fun to watch, but reading and playing games are better ways to make your brain smart.”

    As you enforce the house rules, however, be careful not to have too many. Constantly correcting them and enforcing standards can grow wearisome and can harm, rather than help, relationships. Don’t be a Gestapo Granny or Grandpa. If your grandchildren spend a lot of time at your house, setting basic, age-appropriate house rules will make visits more enjoyable. If they visit infrequently, you’ll want to mention only the ones that are most important to you. 

    Keep in mind that it’s not our primary responsibility to train our grandchildren. It is, however, our privilege to support their parents as they train them. On the flip side, if our son, daughter, or their spouse instructs the child in certain behavior, we shouldn’t undermine their attempt by saying, “Oh, it’s okay. He doesn’t have to do that at Grandma’s house.” Back them up, even if the matter in question isn’t important to you.

    Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Maryna Andriichenko

  • grandparents and adult children and grandkids walking

    10. Speak specific words of encouragement and affirmation (to grands and their parents).

    Every child needs unconditional love and support, and this is what grandparents do best. We cheer from the stands; whisper “You can do it,” before their piano recitals; and tell them how much we love and admire them. Although they know their grandparents are supposed to think they’re smart/funny/creative/talented, they still tend to believe us. The most powerful words we can speak – the ones they’re most likely to treasure – are specific, honest, and visionary.

    I’m 54 years old, but I still remember what my grandmother said to me as a child. Granny was a Portuguese immigrant with a fourth-grade education. She admired my ability to read and write and often told me, “You’re very smart. I don’t know how to spell big words like you used in this paper. You’re going to write a book someday.”  Decades later, the words and dreams she planted in my heart continue to impact my life.

    Our grandchildren, however, aren’t the only ones who need to need to hear words of affirmation and approval. Their parents do, too. But like their children, they’re quick to spot empty praise. To be meaningful, our words should always be based on substantive truth. My mom wouldn’t say it often, but every now and then she’d say, “You’re doing a good job raising your family. I’m really proud of you.” 

    A weary, insecure parent desperately trying to do the right thing can exist for months on a compliment like that. Don’t be stingy with your praise.

    Lori Hatcher is a blogger, inspirational speaker, and author of the Christian Small Publisher’s 2016 Book of the Year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. She’s also Gigi to three tiny humans. A Toastmasters International contest-winning speaker, Lori’s goal is to help busy women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. She especially loves small children, soft animals, and chocolate. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter(@lorihatcher2) or Pinterest (Hungry for God).

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