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What Not to Say, Baby and Toddler Edition

Food and Hair Top the List of Taboo Topics

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Grandparents must learn what not to say and how to keep quiet.

Learning what not to say is important for grandparents.

Photo © Andrew Bassett | Dreamstime.com

If you have a happily harmonious family, you might be able to get by with some of these. If you are more normal and have some family conflicts, here's a list of what not to say if you are a grandparent of a baby or toddler.

  • Do you think he might be hungry? This is bound to get a parent's hackles up, especially when the baby has been fed recently and when what the baby is doing is normal fussy grumbling.
  • Are you feeding her again? Yes, you can get in trouble for suggesting that a baby should be fed and for suggesting that a baby should not be fed. I never said this stuff was easy.
  • Don't you think it's time for a haircut? The parents have good eyesight and the ability to decide when to cut their children's hair.
  • Why don't you put him in that outfit that I bought for him? There's no nice way to say this. If your children don't dress your grandchildren in the clothes you buy, you're doing something wrong. Carefully observe the clothes that your grandchild wears, and mend your ways.
  • If you would put a headband or bow on her, people would know that she's a little girl. When it comes to headbands and hair bows for babies, some people love them, and some hate them. Also, for most modern parents, gender identification is not a huge deal.
  • I don't like her name, so I'm going to call her ___. Having pet names or nicknames for grandchildren is sacred grandparenting territory, but never base those names on a dislike for the name that your children picked out, probably after much thought and some negotiation.
  • How can you stand to leave that precious baby to go back to work? It could be that the new parent is conflicted about returning to work. If so, your comments won't help. On the other hand, some parents are ready to return to their jobs, and stirring up parental guilt about it isn't constructive.
  • He was a perfect angel until you walked in. Maybe your grandchild does start crying as soon as his parents return. Sometimes that's because he didn't realize they were gone until they returned. It's not necessarily because he is happiest with his grandparents, although it's okay secretly to think so.
  • Isn't about time she was weaned? This is a decision to be made by the parents, with advice from a pediatrician. There are no documented cases of unweaned teenagers.
  • Isn't it time for potty training? The parents are the ones buying diapers and changing poopy diapers. You can bet that they are more eager to have the child potty trained than you are.
  • Does he have to have that plug in his mouth all the time? If your grandchild uses a pacifier, get used to it. It may not be the most attractive accessory, but it can buy the parents--and you--some peaceful moments.
  • Back in my day, we did it this way. Oh, there's a compelling argument! The only thing worse is when you add that your children never spit up, threw tantrums or refused to eat. Chances are that you're regarding your parenting days through rose-colored glasses. If not, no one wants to hear it.

Comments such as these may feel like simple conversation. To young and possibly insecure parents, they can feel like accusations. When you're tempted to commit one of these gaffes, take a deep breath and instead compliment the parents on what a good job they are doing. That's much better.

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