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What's Your Grandparent Role and Grandparenting Style?

Crunchy, Grumpy and Four Other Types

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What's Your Grandparent Role and Grandparenting Style?
© Andi Berger | Dreamstime.com

The academics have a lot to say about grandparenting styles, but an unscientific look at grandparent roles is more fun. What follows is another way of classifying grandparents, based on some research and a lot of observation. But before you read about grandparenting styles, you might want to take this quiz.

Grandparent Role #1: The Pollyanna Grandparent

This is the grandparent who is always ready to babysit, who in fact begs to babysit. An evening with her grandchildren is a gift from above rather than an event which is likely to leave her home decimated and her blood pressure spiking. Chances are that her blood pressure doesn’t spike, because her love for her grandchildren is genuine and her tolerance is unbounded. This is the grandparent who is a great gift-giver, who sends the grandkids letters, who remembers their dance recitals without being reminded.

The Up Side

She’s always there when she is needed. If she lives nearby, she’s a great back-up when the grandkids get sick. If she doesn’t live nearby, she’ll hop on a plane if she’s really needed. Also, the kids get a big helping of unconditional love from her, and they probably adore her.

The Down Side

A Pollyanna Grandparent can make the rest of us seem bitter and dark. If your grandchildren have another grandparent who is a Pollyanna Grandparent, you may feel that you can’t compete. It’s probably best not to try.

Grandparent Role #2: The Grumpy Grandparent

This is the grandparent who grumbles a lot about the grandchildren. They lose his glasses and make stains on the carpet. He will take them for a walk or play board games with them, but only with a show of reluctance. The Grumpy Grandparent will never let anyone know that he is a big softie where his grandchildren are concerned, although he gives himself away when he buys ice cream for everyone. And if anyone ever threatens the grandchildren in any way? Well, you wouldn’t want to be that person.

The Up Side

A Grumpy Grandparent is really good for grandchildren, because he appears not to believe that the world revolves around said grandchildren. The grandkids aren’t going to always have their way with him, which is a good lesson in how the world operates.

The Down Side

Sometimes the Grumpy Grandparent can be downright ungracious, and sometimes he puts too much emphasis on things that don’t really matter. If a Grumpy Grandparent is married to a Pollyanna Grandparent? Well, opposites do attract, but they also clash.

Grandparent Role #3: The Take Charge Grandparent

This is the grandparent who seems to be convinced that her grandchildren's welfare depends on her. She buys necessities for the grandchildren, even if the parents are financially able to do so. She wants to be in on doctor visits and teacher conferences. She’s a great giver of advice, usually sound, but also unsolicited.

The Up Side

Lots of the grandparents raising grandchildren are Take Charge Grandparents who stepped in when their grandchildren needed them. Take Charge Grandparents are especially in evidence when the parents aren’t particularly competent. Perhaps if the grandparents weren’t around, the parents would achieve a higher level of competence, but who wants to take the chance when there are grandchildren involved!

The Down Side

Take Charge Grandparents are by definition interfering parents. Although such interference is acceptable in extreme cases, Take Charge Grandparents will definitely try to take over even from competent parents.

Grandparent Role #4: The Migratory Grandparent

The Migratory Grandparent loves his grandkids, but has so many other things in his life. If he is still working, his job is his primary focus. If he is retired, well, he retired so that he could travel and enjoy life. Whether he lives nearby or far away, he will swoop in to visit and then not appear again for months.

The Up Side

The Migratory Grandparent is a demonstration that life doesn’t end at fifty, or sixty, or seventy. When he is around, he’s likely to quickly build a rapport with the grandchildren. That makes it even harder when he’s not around.

The Down Side

Often the Migratory Grandparent is on a second marriage or is otherwise a part of a blended family. Holidays and celebrations present special challenges, so the Migratory Grandparent’s solution is to be on a beach somewhere. Occasionally the Migratory Grandparent comes across as a tiny bit selfish. At the very least, he’s a master at avoiding conflict by staying just one step away.

Grandparent Role #5: The Crunchy Grandparent

Need a recipe for homemade bread or directions for creating a compost pile? Call the Crunchy Grandparent. She has preserved some of the skills of our forefathers, but with a new edgy vibe. She will feed the grandchildren healthy foods and teach them how to take care of the planet. She will read to them and take them to museums. She may or may not take them to the mall.

The Up Side

Most grandchildren are all for green living, and a grandparent who shares their passion is cool. And let’s face it. Our planet needs all the help it can get, and sugar shouldn’t be the major food group for the grandkids.

The Down Side

People are more important than carbon footprints. Crunchy Grandparents occasionally need to be reminded of that fact. And they may make the rest of us feel guilty when we don't have the energy to be eco-friendly.

Grandparent Role #6: The Cool Grandparent

The Cool Grandparent is up on whatever the grandkids are interested in, plus he has some groovy ideas of his own. He’s a tech monster who has computers, gaming systems and all the other technological bells and whistles at his disposal. He still goes to the movies. He may even be up on the grandkids' music, but that’s less likely.

The Up Side

Like the Migratory Grandparent, the Cool Grandparent breaks stereotypes. He teaches the grandchildren that old doesn’t mean dull. He understands the grandkids and can relate to them, and most children can do with one more of those.

The Down Side

Those traditional grandparenting skills like gardening and baking are definitely going begging. Whereas most grandparents are treasured as links to the past, the Cool Grandparent only has ties to the future. That’s not terrible. It’s just . . . different.

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