Granny-Guru's Advice on Parenting Through the Generations


A grandmother shares her wisdom on how moms and grandmothers can get along, even when their child-raising ideals are different.

toddler reaching up onto table; small girl reaching for something on top of table


"Don't Touch My Dresser"

When my children were young, my mom used to come visit, and I kept catching her in my bedroom, neatly arranging, spreading out, and dusting all the perfumes and lotions on my dresser. I'm sure she thought she was doing me a favor. But I knew everything was now within reach - and as soon as my toddlers came in they would take them all down. I immediately pushed them all to the back of the dresser as soon as I saw it."

- mother of a son and a daughter, now in high school and college


Granny-Guru Says:

Apparently, this Grandmother forgot not only the 10-foot reach of toddlers, but their curiosity and inability to distinguish breakables from toys, as well.

Childproofing isn't just covering up the electrical outlets. It is looking at your house with a toddler's eyes. I once gave my son an old iron to play with, thinking he could no longer hurt it, and it might spur his curiosity about how things work. My husband, horrified, caught him as he was preparing to put loose wires in a nearby outlet.

Grandmothers might remember similar stories about their own children, but forget what it means. Histories are overlaid with the many and more recent memories of children who have learned judgment
and restraint acting with the care of adults.

So, what's a mother to do? She can't be expected to follow around after her mother as she would her own children. But, perhaps some conversations and stories would be helpful to re-orient the grandmother to the dangers facing curious toddlers-with current, real-life examples to underline the point. As in: "I don't let my children play with my perfumes because they don't know how to handle them carefully yet. That is why they are pushed out of reach, at the back of my dresser."

Granny-Guru Presents: Who Gets to Name Grandma: The Wisdom of Mothers and GrandmothersAnd, then - because Grandma is just trying to help, just trying to be useful, just trying to do something special for her daughter, recognizing the many demands on a young mother's time-some suggestions about what she can do: "You know, Mom, I've got scented drawer-liner paper that I never can get around to cutting to fit my drawers. It would be wonderful, if you felt like doing something special for me, if you could do that. I would thank you every time I opened my drawers." Or match the socks, or sew on a button...the things you wish you had time to do.


Granny-Guru's Grains of Wisdom:

Grandmas just want to help. They know they are loved, but irrelevant. And they remember being relevant in your life; it's a good feeling that is worth trying to recapture. And, can't we all use a little spoiling?



Carol L. Covin is the author of "Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers," which includes advice that moms and grandmoms would like to offer each other, but were reluctant to share for fear of sounding judgmental. Known as "Granny-Guru," Covin has a unique understanding of this shifting dynamic-and you can get more of her perspective on changes in parenting over the years in her blog,



Also see: Granny-Guru's Parenting Advice: Break Some Rules 

When Your Mom is Your Nanny

Book Review: "How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew"