don't like granny
It is worrying and upsetting for all concerned,
when a usually well loved and familiar grandparent is rejected by a small grandchild. When the child manages to transform him or herself into
a thoroughly unpleasant and unlovable little monster, things look grim. This was the
situation a friend of mine found herself in. My friend enjoys being involved with her daughters
and their children and was excited at the imminent arrival of another grandchild. To
ease the strain on the expectant mum, she would often babysit the four year old, have him
at her house or take him out for a few hours. As the pregnancy drew into the final stage
the grandson`s behaviour began to change towards her, and by the time his baby brother was
born he would no longer go to his grandma willingly. Needless to say she was upset by
this, but more worrying for her was the feeling that
she no longer liked him!
This feeling is such a surprise. Our expectation is
that we will love our grandchildren as they arrive. We have the nicer part of being
with them on the whole, and often have the added bonus of more time to spend with them,
more patience than their harassed parents can manage and less worry that we are
doing the right thing at the right time'.
But what my friend described to me was quite the
opposite. As the little boy got older he became more rejecting, sullen and naughty in her
company. She began to dread being asked to babysit for him, worse still, care for him
for a day! A battle of wills would ensue as the little boy seemingly deliberately found
the wrong things to do, refused to eat any meal she prepared, or be interested in anything
she offered him.
The saving grace in this sorry tale was that staple of
good relationships, communication. My friend talked things over with his mother to
fathom how this happened. They discussed it often, feeding back any attempts to talk with
the child about his behaviour and why he didn't like Granny anymore. He was saying
nothing, wouldn't be drawn, just refused to go to her. By this time she wasn't
sorry but relieved. He caused her nothing but worry and upset when he visited or she went
to her daughter's house. Being a Granny wasn't
supposed to be like this.
The two women talked often about his development
and the possibility of the child being upset by the arrival of his brother. His mother
had done all she could to make him feel loved and still important to her and daddy. What
they began to wonder was if granny's frequent visits to take him out had somehow been
linked for him with an extra tired or distracted mummy. The more they thought about it the
more they felt this may have been the trigger for his bad behaviour. He might have
associated Granny with feeling rejected, and with being angry at the grownups.
They came up with a plan for him to experience some
special time unique to him, an opportunity to give him time to reassess Granny! My
friend was a little apprehensive, he was such a trial whenever she tried to have fun with
him, but nonetheless went ahead with preparations to have him to stay over night. The
decks were cleared, the breakables put away and the gin lined up for a hasty pick-me-up
once he had gone to bed.
The day arrived and the reluctant, grumpy little
boy shuffled into Granny's house, causing her heart to sink and her determination to
waver just a touch. For some time after mummy left he maintained hostilities. Granny
resolved to brave it out, helped by her master plan. She had thought up a way to regain
intimacy. She did this by pretending to lose a small box and then started to search for it.
She did not invite him to join in immediately, but when she had caught his
curiosity, she said she had a secret to share with him, telling him that no-one else must
know about it. This proved irresistible and soon he was helping her with the search. She
said that as they couldn't find her box at the time, they
must continue the secret search next day and she needed him to help her. Caught up in the intrigue, the child went happily to
The following day, after a fraught breakfast-time
and a calming chat with mummy on the phone he remembered the secret that he
shared with is grandmother. He helped Granny find' a box containing something
very precious - an old heirloom brooch that had been her grandmother's. As he looked
at it she asked him not to tell anyone, it was his secret treasure, to look at whenever he
visited. Fascinated, he listened rapt as they baked animal cookies and Granny told him all
about the brooch.
A small child is
unable to keep up the grumpy behaviour when curiosity gets the better of him and sharing a
secret is something that says he is trusted and very special.
For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes
about a particular person but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients,
family and friends over the years. We hope you find the column useful and interesting
and if you have any comments or
suggestions, Maggi would like to hear from you. email her on firstname.lastname@example.org .
Please don't send any confidential information to laterlife.com
To view previous articles†in this series - see the Relationship Counselling Index page