How to be your grandkid's FAVOURITE grandparent.
Times have changed since you were a parent. Gramps Jeffrey shares tips on connecting with your grandkids in fun and meaningful ways.
Marc Joseph's website
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[00:04] Debra Jones: Welcome to OWN THE GREY, a podcast to dispel the notion that aging is undesirable and setting new positive attitudes. I'm Debra Jones, and I believe you can be vibrant and healthy throughout the best years of your life.
[00:22] Debra Jones: Gramps Jeffrey, also known as Marc Joseph, is the cofounder and spokesman for Babyboomer.org. He's written over 100 articles about business, education, the homeless, and even written a children's book called I don't Want to Turn three. And today I asked him on to OWN THE GREY to talk about the role of being a grandparent in today's society. Welcome to OWN THE GREY, Marc.
[00:51] Gramps: Oh, thanks for inviting me. I appreciate being here.
[00:53] Debra Jones: I'd really like you to talk about the children's book because that was written with reference to being a grandparent, wasn't it?
[01:01] Gramps: Yes. Why did I even write this book? I’ve got to tell you, living this past year because of the pandemic caused by COVID-19 in isolation, except for being able to be with my family, kind of gave me special time to watch and interact with these grandkids. I’ve got to tell you what a trip this was, because all six of these kids have completely different personalities. But the one thing they do have in common is their sense of curiosity and how excited they get when they do accomplish something new. Watching them grow year to year, and how they interact with each other is really the basis for this book.
What goes on in a toddler's mind? The parents are so desperate to understand. When does a toddler really understand the difference between me and us? This book kind of explores how a family finds that out together. But as a baby boomer, myself, trying to understand how the world has evolved since I was three years old is also part of this story. My parents, they didn't have cell phones. They didn't have the internet. They didn't have cable TV. They didn't have remotes. I was my dad's remote. “Here son, go change the channel.” I was the remote at the time. My parents’ definition of discipline is quite different than parents today. Has today's world made for a better place for children to grow up? I'll let your listeners kind of weigh in on that and decide if it really is so. That's why I wrote this book. And it's really a book that is written for parents and grandparents to share with their kids, to kind of explore all those kinds of ideas.
[02:35] Debra Jones: It sounds like what you've been writing about are some ideas on how to interact with our grandkids. Would that be right?
[02:45] Gramps: Yes. It's very important. Now you think about this. These grandkids, this newest generation, the kids that are one to ten years old, they are going to become the greatest generation that North America has ever produced. I mean, when you think about it, as soon as they come out of the womb, they're on the Internet, they’ve got their cell phones and they're in the electronic world and all that. I didn't get on the Internet until I was 40 years old. So this whole new generation has this unique advantage with all this information coming at them. It's up to us as parents and grandparents to balance that with all the real life experiences. So it does become the greatest generation ever.
[03:27] Debra Jones: And that isn't a very easy task because I've seen how attached these young children are to their devices, and you suggest, let's go out and play, and you get looked at really strange. So, I mean, do you have any advice of how to connect with their grandkids in a way that is actually going to be acceptable to them? That's one aspect of looking at it, and I know there are others, but.
[03:57] Gramps: Yeah, I think the one thing that we as adults need to do, because again, these kids, as you mentioned, they're on the Internet, they're electronic. We need to pull them back and get them involved in books. Books are the greatest way to connect to kids when you think about it. Just take me as an example. When I want to connect with my two or three or four year old, I grab a book with them. Now, what does that do? Well, first of all, it gives you 20 minutes just to spend with them looking at a book. Just picture little kids sitting on your knee, or on my knee, and it creates bonding. It's just a nice way to spend some time together. It's only 20 minutes, but it gives you that chance to pull them away from the normal environment to do that. Another reason we as grandparents and parents should be encouraging reading and become a part of the routine of reading books to kids is it supports listening skills. Listening to a book, it requires them to listen.
Now, you and I both know that as we grow older, listening skills are the best skills that we have developed. I mean, you as a podcaster, you have to listen to everything going around so you can ask intelligent questions. I have to listen for sales and marketing and what's going on to help build my businesses. So listening skills are the best skills we can teach these kids. And you grab a book, it's sitting on your lap, and all of a sudden they are listening. The best skills that they will take and grow throughout their lives. Another reason we should all be reading books to these kids is it helps with the cognitive and the language development. When you're two, three, four years old, there's plenty of these books. The word that these kids don't understand gives you, as an adult, chance to explain them, to have that interaction. There's plenty of words in these books I don't understand, I’ve got to look up. But it's just something that helps us communicate with these children. So we want to make sure that we're reading books for the cognitive and language development. Another reason is the attention span. Little kids, they bounce off the wall all day long. It gives you a chance to sit in your lap, concentration, self-discipline, and help with the interests. And so if there's anything else that your listeners are thinking about, how can they interact with their kids, get them into books, because you read to them when they're young, they'll read to you when they're older.
[06:26] Debra Jones: Yeah, not only that, there's that tactile experience of your grandkids sitting on your lap with that warmth and that love that they can't get out of that device. Right. There's no warmth and love coming out of the device, and so just giving them an opportunity to experience the tactile experience of you reading them a story. So, yeah, you've made some really good points of how it helps with their growth and their evolution as a human being. But in this day and age, when there is so much that is on the computer, books, it can keep their attention almost the same, if not more so, because the tone in your voice and how you can make an exciting story and change voices and things like that. My background is actually early childhood education, so I know a lot about this. And so when I would read to the children, it was almost like what we would consider meditation time these days for us, a time to step away from the things that you've been go go doing, and it's just a time to be. So I'm really with you on that. I think that's an excellent way to bond with the grandkids.
So you have done some studies about grandparents and the amount of grandparents that actually do not have much connection with their grandkids. Do you want to share what you've learned?
[08:04] Gramps: Again, my focus is on the baby boomer generation. How are we leaving our legacy? How are we involved? And it happens that my generation is a very selfish generation. Our attitude is that, “Hey, we raised great kids. Let them go ahead and raise those kids. I’ve got to go play some pickleball, or I got to do some traveling.” What has happened is 30% of grandparents today are classified as remote. Remote meaning that they're just not involved in bringing up their kids. Think about that. That's one out of every three of us, one out of every three baby boomers and older adults just don't want to get involved in raising their kids. They may show up for birthdays or they may come to Christmas, but they really don't want to get involved in raising their kids. There's all kinds of reasons that cause that, but a lot of the reasons are caused by us. By us as the grandparents. For instance, we may not have liked the spouse our kid married. All of a sudden, there's tension between you and the family. So you distance yourself or they distance themselves from us. We may be giving unsolicited advice to our children, and our children say, “Hey, I'm the parent now. I'll make those decisions.” But we continue to give them unsolicited advice that pulls us away, that makes the children say, “Hey, we don't really need you around here.” We may just drop into their house unexpected. We’ve got to do this, respect those borders.
So other examples that we as grandparents are pushing ourselves away from our grandkids, is that undermining the parents’ authority by challenging what a parent is teaching their kids, if we do that in front of the kid, that is a real issue. Grandparents question the parents’ values and family structure. We can't lose sight. We're the parents that gave these kids their structure and their family. So we're involved in that. We’ve got to let them do their own thing. We have a tendency to play favorites and manipulate siblings. We all have our favorite, hey, I’ve got six grandkids. I’ve got a favorite grandkid. But I'm not going to tell you. I'm not going to tell anybody. I got to keep that inside because once it goes out, you’ve got a problem. You’ve got a problem with the whole family. We try to transactionally control these kids with giving them money, take them gifts, take them on vacations. Parents don't really like that. Many times we as older adults may have a lack of empathy. This is the ability to understand and share feelings with another. Kids need that. Kids need so much empathy. So this may be a reason that grandparents are just not involved. And then grandparents who demanded a grandchild comply and respect them, that pulls us apart.
So the scary number is one out of every three of us just not involved. And in today's world, we have got to get involved. Again, these kids are the greatest generation ever produced, and they are learning everything they know from the internet. We have got to offset that. We have got to be the ones that take them outside to play kickball or soccer. We're the ones that have to take them and read them a book. We're the ones that need to take them to museums and they learn things. So that's what we've got to get involved in and how we have to get involved, because, again, one out of three of us don't really care.
[11:30] Debra Jones: Yeah. Yeah. Well, what do you think is the main difference, listening to what you're saying about how we jump in and try to bring the grandkids up the way we brought our kids up? What do you think is the main differences between parenting as a parent and grandparenting?
[11:53] Gramps: I think we have to kind of take a look through history. I grew up in the … my parents were the generation that went through the depression. They're the ones that went to world War II and saved the world for democracy. A very disciplined group of people. They came back to the US and Canada, and they established who we are today, but they were very disciplined. When I was growing up, it was very black and white. My brother Larry and I, if we got in trouble during the day, my mom said, Wait till your dad gets home? My dad would come home, and he'd whip off his belt and chase us around the kitchen table. And that was discipline back then. That's how we learned right from wrong. I mean, he had this fraternity paddle in his closet he also used on us. And one night, my brother and I decided when they were… we're going to take that fraternity paddle. And I grew up in Ohio, and it was late fall, and there was lots of leaves on the ground, and we took that fraternity paddle, and we buried it in the middle of the leaves. It snowed the next day, and we went back out that spring, and the fraternity paddle was gone. It was a miracle to us. It was like, wow. So I think my generation learned that you can't go around chasing your kids around the table with a belt. You’ve got to come… start to negotiate with them, give them consequence. You've got to talk to them. And then I think that generation learns even better. I see how my grandkids are disciplined. They get in trouble. They go to time out. They’ve got to go against the wall, away from their friends. They’ve got to realize why they did that. It's a whole different world. It's an evolution of one generation to another.
In fact, I was at my granddaughter Grace's third birthday party a couple of months ago, and she and her brother who was four and a half years old. They were fighting over these trucks she got for her birthday, and she looks at him and she says, you know, I need my space. And she gets up, and she walks over to one side of the sofa and sits down. He looks at her and says, I need my space, too. And he goes over and sits on the other side. Now, they didn't learn that on the Internet. I'm sure that one day their mother got so frustrated with both of them, looked at them and said, “I need my space,” and walks away. But, you know, that's the way life is today, and it's probably a lot better than when I was growing up.
[14:10] Debra Jones: Yeah, I find that even going to school for early childhood education, and we had to learn ways other than the ways we were parented, as you said, with the slap, or the belt or something like that. And really there's a little bit more work involved in figuring out a situation that needs guidance for your grandchildren. It's very easy to pick up a belt and say, that's it. I've had enough. It doesn't really involve any skill in that way. And so if we were brought up in that way in the manner of do as I say. And of course, these kids these days, that isn't the way that anybody is allowed to respond to children. I mean, even in teachers in school, I mean, I had a teacher that would throw the ruler at you when you were talking too much. So, I mean, that's really not done anymore. What could you say to grandparents that maybe aren't aware of some of these new ways of getting the result that you're looking for without being overbearing?
[15:27] Gramps: The role of us as grandparents and parents. Think about it. A lot of families are only single parents, okay? So that means it's more important for grandparents to get involved. In fact, in today's world, it really does take a village to raise a child. It takes the grandparents, it takes aunts and uncles, it takes cousins, it takes friends, it takes a village to raise a child in today's world. And it needs to because again, we need to offset and give them experiences beyond what they're learning on the Internet. So the best thing, I think that all parents and grandparents should keep in mind that it's necessary for us to teach children how to think, not what to think. They're going to learn how to think. And how do you do that? How as grandparents can you teach your children how to think? Well, obviously, you need to ask them questions. That's how they learn how to think. And going back to our talking about why it's so important to read books to kids, is that's another reason why we should be reading books to kids? Because it teaches them how to think? Before you pick up the book, you just want to ask the child, what do you think is going to happen in this book? Let them start to think again. Thinking is what our role is to round out what they're doing. And then when they're reading the book together, who are the characters in this book? What is the setting of this book? Getting them to think. Does anything in this book sound familiar to you? And then when you're done reading the book, just like you should be doing every night at dinner time, when you ask them how their day was, what was your favorite part of the book? Why was it your favorite part? So always keeping in the back of your mind as parents and grandparents is we need to teach children how to think. They're going to learn what to think in real life but teach them how to think. Because if we can teach them how to think, they will be the greatest generation ever.
[17:28] Debra Jones: Beautiful. And so, not having read your book, but I've been reading some of the reviews from your book, it sounds like you guide the grandparent on how to do that as well. Can you share a little bit about what is in your book as far as that perspective?
[17:48] Gramps: Sure. And the book is a true story that happened while I was watching my six grandkids for six weeks interact with each other. And the book is about Jordan, who is two, turning three tomorrow, and how he interacts with his cousins. And so with each one of his cousins, he steals the toys. He just takes it from them. He takes the sea creatures, he takes the dinosaurs, he takes the dancing shoes, he takes the dolls, but they don't realize he's doing that. And then they all come to his birthday party. And Olivia, who was eight years old at the time, and she is a big dancer, she's the one that dances. She goes into his room and sees that he's got all these toys piled up, and it's all his cousins toys. And so the father, who really is the hero of the book, calls all these kids together, and says, We’ve got to talk about this. What are we going to do?” And then Olivia comes up with the idea, and again, this is a true story. She says we should give these kids these toys and these gifts that Jordan just got today to the homeless kids downtown, and that was something they were doing in their school and talking about the school. So that's just how important education is. And she convinces all her cousins to do that. And so that's pretty much what the book is about. At what age do we begin to take responsibility for our actions? Is it three years old? Is it 13 years old? Is it 23 years old? You know, I’ve got plenty of baby boomers who are 63 years old that still don't take responsibility for your actions, and that's pretty much what the book is all about.
[19:29] Debra Jones: So, in a way, you're sharing a message through storytelling, which is really the best way to deliver a message, I think, because we can then think for ourselves, can't we? Just as you were giving us the example, when we read those words, we can think to ourselves, how does that apply in my life? Is there something that I can learn from it? So it sounds like it's an all around teacher, not just for the kids, but for the parents and the grandparents, too. So my question then is, after you wrote the book, what surprised you the most as far as any reactions you got to it?
[20:08] Gramps: What surprised me the most was my grandkids and how they embraced it. In fact, two weeks ago, Olivia was over here with two of the boys, and she grabbed a book, and she was always watching them, and she took the boys, and they went underneath my desk, and she started reading the book to the boys. Okay? And Levi says, that's me in the bathtub, and Jackson says, that's me with my dinosaurs. And so they were really involved in it. But what was really interesting is Levi came to me a couple weeks ago, and he's seven years old. He says you know, you wrote your book. You wrote a book about Jordan. Let's write a book about me. And Olivia came to me two days ago, and she says, Gramps, I’ve got a great idea for our next book. And I said, what is it? She says, the book should be I don't want to turn ten. She just turned nine. I said, you don't want to turn ten? Why don't you want to turn ten? And she says, well, you know, I’ve got to start thinking about driving. I said, that's seven years away. Why are you worried about that now? And then she says, I've got to start thinking about picking out a college. I said, that's nine years away. Why are you even thinking about that now? She says, you know, and these fifth graders, she's in fourth grade. These fifth graders, they have a lot more homework than we do. I’ve got to start worrying about doing that. She says, but let's write a book. We'll write a book. I don't want to turn ten. And so when you think about it, at every age, we're looking back and we're looking forward. I don't want to turn 21. I don't want to turn 70. I don't want to turn 39. It really is a lesson for all of us in life. What have we accomplished, and what do we think about the unknown?
[21:52] Debra Jones: Beautiful. So if you were to share one bit of advice to grandparents on something that you've discovered about the benefit of being an involved grandparent, what would you say?
[22:09] Gramps: In today's world, growing up is so much different than when I was growing up. When I was growing up, my uncle lived up the street. My grandmother lived two blocks away, and, you know, that was our village. We were all together, but in today's world, we're scattered. I mean, in my case, I've got two grandkids here in Arizona. I’ve got two in Texas, I’ve got two in Florida. That's very scattered. So we had to figure out a way to stay in touch with them, because little kids aren't going to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, Gramps, what's going on?” You know, that's just not how it works. They're in the winter garden, and outside, they're in their own world. So we found out I found out early on with these six kids that all of them love dinosaurs. Dinosaurs is like the language of little kids. Two, three, four year olds. I mean, these little kids, they can say these names of dinosaurs that are just … all I know about dinosaurs is they’re small, medium, and large. They can tell me who their friends are, the dinosaurs, who they eat. They know all this dinosaur language. In fact, when I take them to a park and they see other kids, they all talk dinosaurs. So dinosaurs a language of little kids that they all get involved in. So we decided since they're all into dinosaurs, that once they left our house, we’ve got to come up with a way to keep in touch with them. So we have six dinosaurs that they were playing with at our house, and we decided that we were going to put these dinosaurs someplace different every night so they would have an interaction with. Like, for instance, one night they were in the refrigerator eating blueberries. Another night, they were by the sink with Grandma, washing dishes with soap on their noses. Another night, they were playing the piano. Another night, they were walking up steps. So we had 50 different nights of when they were in the house or out of the house, because, again, the kids were familiar with our house so that they could relate.
So our goal was to become part of the kids routine. And so what happened was when the kids in Texas and Florida went home, they took their bath. Their mom and dad read my book, and then they would say to their parents, what are the dinosaurs doing tonight? And so they would call on my wife's iPhone, and we would get FaceTime and say, Where's Gramps? Where's Gramps? What are the dinosaurs doing tonight? And so that was our way of keeping in contact with them when they're out of town and out of sight. I'm sure your listeners can come up with other ways that they can keep in contact, but just so important for you to be that kind of a grandparent in their lives.
[24:32] Debra Jones: It's beautiful. We have elf on the shelf at Christmas time here in Canada anyway. And it's the same ideas - each night, the elf is in a different position doing something else. So it sounds like it's something that the kids have really embraced. And I think that's a wonderful idea. I think that's a really fun activity that makes the connection between grandkid and grandparent so much stronger, because they can then relate on something that interests them both. I think that is really awesome. Well, I've loved our conversation. I'm curious now as to what your book is all about, so we can go to your website, can't we? To find your book. It's at www.grampsjeffrey.com.
[25:17] Gramps: Sure, you can go to the website or buy it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, about 100 other sites out there. But, yeah, Grampsjeffrey.com, just come in. If anybody wants to continue the conversation, just have them email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love talking about this stuff.
[25:33] Debra Jones: You can now find my podcast, my book, and soon, my classes on babyboomer.org. The ultimate most trusted source for news, information, and community. They've curated all the resources on the things that interest you. Check it out today at www.babyboomer.org.