When was the Last Time You Read a Story to a Little Kid…or Played a Game of Hide and Seek?

“Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged.” Prov. 17:6a

We have many beautiful trees in the Inland Northwest. I especially enjoy the cedar tree. The cedar is a wonderful model of the Christian life. It grows by dying. As it develops, stately and beautiful, putting forth new boughs and leaves, the old ones drop off to give strength to the new ones. Likewise the saints live to die and die to live, passing on a message of hope and a great legacy.

Such, as it is, or can be, with grandparents. Louise and I thoroughly enjoy our grandchildren and seek to help them develop great faith and godly character. Since our immediate family is out of the area, it has been a real pleasure to be adopted, as local grandparents, by six different families. This has given us some time and experience to build and work on our grand-parenting skills.

A number of Christian psychologists are touting the importance of the grandparent-grandchild relationships. “The bond between a child and a grandparent is the purest, least psychologically complicated form of human love,” says Dr. Arthur Kornhaber. “Grandparents can offer an emotional safety net when parents falter. They pass on traditions in the form of stories, songs, games, skills, and crafts.” And they have another magical ingredient that parents often lack—time! Kornhaber has found that children who are close to at least one grandparent are more emotionally secure than other children. They also have more positive feelings about older people and about the process of aging.

Another great thing about being a grandparent—you get do-overs! It gives every grandparent a second chance. Perhaps history’s most dramatic illustration of this truth is the story of King Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33. Manasseh has been called the wickedest man who ever lived, but in his old age he repented and turned to God. The son who succeeded him was evil, but Manasseh’s grandson, Josiah, became one of the best and most beloved kings in Jewish history.

By studying the chronology, we learn that the last six years of Manasseh’s life and the first six years of Josiah’s life overlap. Manasseh’s last six years were his years of repentance—his godly years! There’s so much hope in that! It was too late for him to influence his own son, Amon, but it wasn’t too late for Josiah. I can just imagine him spending long hours with his small grandson, telling him, “Now, one day you’re going to be king. Don’t make the mistakes I did. From the beginning, serve the Lord.”

Paul said to Timothy, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois…” 2 Tim. 1:5a. Yes, it is true that grandparents can make a real difference in shaping a child’s vision, future, character, and self-worth. They also can serve as a model of godly character and demonstrate the importance of giving grace. Most importantly a godly grandparent can help a child develop great faith.

A few years ago I was asked to deliver two messages to a group of retirees. My message on “Strategies for Being an Effective Grandparent” suggests different ways we can better connect to our grandchildren. How can grandparents use their “grand positions” to the best advantage? There are five tools I’ve found helpful in being a grandparent or adopted grandparent.

  1. Prudence: It takes a little time for grandparents to find the right balance, learning to be involved without interfering. Grandparents have a lifetime of wisdom stored up, and unfortunately most of our children feel threatened by our knowledge and desire for us to keep silent on most matters. That is difficult, given the depth of our love and commitment to helping them become successful. Developing prudence is an art. The waiting game is often difficult. Pray – Pray!
  2. Presence: Do all you can to be accessible for your grandchildren. Open your home and schedule to create opportunities to read to them, talk with them, share stories, and create adventures. There is no day wasted in the life of an effective grandparent.
  3. Provision: Grandparents can provide materially for their grandchildren. A bit here and there will help out. Providing for the vacation treats or extra special needs tell a child they are special. Oh go ahead – spoil them a little!
  4. Patience: Have patience with your children. They don’t value or realize the significance of the grandparents until later in life. When spending time with your grandchildren model a patient spirit and temper your reactions. They need to know that both quality and quantity time are part the job description of a loving grandparent.
  5. Prayer: Samuel said to the Israelites, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” 1 Sam. 12:23a. And often, grandparents have more time for prayer and Bible reading than anyone else.

If you are a grandparent, I hope you’ll take advantage of the unique opportunities you have to positively influence your grandchildren. Even if you feel you absolutely blew it as a parent, step up to the plate and embrace this entirely different role before you. And if you’re not a grandparent, there are always children who need positive role models, adults who believe in them, encourage them and are willing to spend time with them. With effort and vision, we can all be like the great cedar trees, making way for the generations to come. After all, they’re counting on us.

The Power of Truth:
“Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.” Joel 1:3

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Prov. 22:6

“Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” Psalm 34:11

Suggestion for Prayer:
If this is a tough area for you, take it to the Lord. Ask Him for healing, courage and wisdom. Let Him tell you where to begin.