Babysitting with a Purpose as a Grandparent


Making the most of babysitting opportunities can empower grandparents to take the natural influence they have in their lives and turn it into something extraordinary. Attention to the details and intentionality with time not only communicates a deliberate love to grandchildren, but also an amazing grace to their parents.

These are some practical ways grandparents can do this!


Keep the Big Pictrue in Focus

As grandparents are watching over grandchildren, the bigger roles should be kept in mind. Preoccupation with babysitting or entertaining can be so easy that giving grandchildren a sense of blessing that can put their hearts at ease, leaving them a legacy they can take into eternity, and setting a standard for them to emulate can be forgotten. These informal times might look like babysitting to some people, but to grandparents they are opportunities to build into young lives the kind of love, mercy, and grace that can sustain them long after they are gone.


Discipline with Grandchildren

One of the big issues grandparents have to deal with when babysitting grandchildren is what to do when grandchildren disobey. This issue needs to be discussed and agreed upon with the parents as soon as the child starts to demonstrate he has a mind of his own. And the way you discipline him will have to be modified as he gets older. Corporal discipline is best left to the grandchild’s parents. Grandparents have a special relationship with grandchildren that needs to be protected. This may require you to be creative and consistent when a child disobeys.

Some alternative forms of discipline include time-outs (set the timer), no TV, loss of a privilege, no treat after a meal, a chore or extra responsibility, and an eye-to-eye talk with Grandma or Grandpa. Once the discipline has been carried out, it is important to put the child on your lap or your arm around an older one and reassure the child that you are disciplining him because you love him.

If there is no additional punishment needed, and this is not a recurring infraction, this correction can be put behind her and does not have to be brought up when her parents pick her up. This communicates to the child that she has a clean slate. The child is much more likely to obey next time.


Be an Ally to their Parents

Babysitting grandchildren is not an opportunity to override any quirky parenting styles you don’t agree with. If a child isn’t allowed to watch television or a certain program at his house, unless you get special permission, he should not be watching it at your house. If his parents are trying to limit his sugar intake, don’t put him into a stupor by giving him his candy fix for the week.

Also, it is not uncommon for jealousy to develop in parent’s hearts toward grandparents when it comes to caring for their children. The grandchildren might behave better for grandparents than they do for their parents. Grandparents also might have gotten to witness several “firsts” that their mother or father wished they had been there to see. They might be processing some guilt because they are both working or they went through a divorce.

The responsibility for gracious behavior starts at the top. Grandparents need to refrain from saying things like, “He never does that when I take care of him.” Time with grandchildren should enhance rather than undermine their relationship with their parents.


Set Boundaries for Yourself

When it comes to babysitting grandchildren, sometimes grandparents have to tell their children no. It might stem from a conflict in schedule, a lack of energy, or maybe parents are taking advantage of the situation.

In these situations, clear, grace-filled communication is the key. Let parents know as far in advance as possible when you have to cancel or are not going to be available. It might be necessary to have a heart-to-heart with your children, out of earshot of your grandchildren, to let them know that as much as you love helping them with their children, you must also fulfill your other commitments to your spouse, your other children, your friends, and so forth.

You may need to tell them how often and how long you are available to babysit and then let them decide how they want to schedule that time.

David Barrett