Grandfamilies: Never Negotiate



Sawyer and Carly Celebrating Papa Rich’s Birthday. April 2011.

When it comes to working out holiday visits or overnights or any other aspect of your relationship with your grands that depends on cooperation, never negotiate. That advice may sound silly or selfish or just plain cruddy, but hear me out.

Negotiation is all about finding a mutually acceptable outcome when the parties want different things. It’s inherently adversarial, no matter how big the smiles tossed around during the discussions. Let’s think about a familiar negotiation: buying a new car.

On one level, you and the car saleshuman want the same outcome: You want to buy the car, and the salesguru wants to sell it to you. Beyond that, your goals head in opposite directions. Your want to spend as little as possible while the salesshark wants to extract the highest possible price. These conditions pit you against each other.

And that’s no way to nurture a family.

So what do you do instead? I suggest you find your common ground and find a solution that honors your shared goals. 

Let us suppose that your stepson and his wife are hesitant to commit to a long weekend at your home, and you and your husband don’t know why his son would resist bringing the family for a visit. What to do?

You’re too smart to launch an inquisition or go for guilt: Are you too busy for us? Or is it my cooking? You’re breaking your father’s heart. 

Have you ever considered telling your stepson why you would like them to visit? I’ll bet not because we think it’s obvious, don’t we? Everyone wants the kids to come home to visit, right?

Maybe you have never explored with your spouse the reasons you want your kids and grands to stay for a weekend. So start there. Sit down together and figure out what you want. You can even make a list if you’re a listmaking sort:

I want to teach my grandchildren how to crochet/build a sofa fort/play Yahtzee/walk on their hands.

I want the experience of my son and his family wandering down for breakfast on Saturday morning. 

I want to show them off in church on Sunday morning.

I want to go deeper with them in our relationship.

I want help painting the basement/decorating for Christmas/finishing the Sunday crossword puzzle.

I want to tell my friends that my kids came to visit.

I want to see them and touch them and hear their voices and smell their hair. 

Once you uncover why you want them to come, your next step is to determine which of your wants match up to your stepson’s wants.

We’ll talk about matching up those wants next week.

rabbit conga
3  yes, if you call out for insight
    and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:3-5 (ESV)

rabbit conga

On Tuesdays, we’re talking about families and the joys and challenges that arise when we stretch across three (or more?) generations (child, parent, grandparent). Everyone is welcome, and I hope to hear each generation’s perspective.  Being family is by turns effortless, impossible, blessed, challenging, hurtful, joyous . . . . Let’s talk about it.
Please join us.

Grandfamilies: Roll With It


Ayden and Cadence: Cousins on a Roll. May 2009. Today is a great day to shorten our list of things that make us fretful. Halloween is behind us, which means New Year’s is about three weeks away–or at least it feels that way. And I won’t even speak of the monumental decisions being made in our […]

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Grandfamilies: Telling Better Stories


Sawyer’s Gray Fox. What kind of lesson is that to teach a child? Don’t you want him to learn to strive? My friend shook her head, even as she smiled. I had shown her the gray fox I had painted for my grandson to celebrate his sixth birthday. She asked me, Why is there a grape […]

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Grandfamilies: How to Ditch Works-Based Love

Armful of Carly

Telegraphing Love by the Armful. Rich and Grandlittle Carly. August 2008. When your family members know you love them for who they are instead of what they do, you give them an enduring gift that will serve them well in tough times. And if your current phase of family life entails disciplining a family member, this all-in love […]

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Grandfamilies: Want Warmer Relationships? Stop Doing These Six Things

at odds

Don’t Go Off Mad. When you are nurturing relationships with adult children (yours, steps, in-laws, or exes), grandchildren, and all the other characters who play a role on your family’s stage, it’s a good idea to think about your habits. A thoughtful review may reveal a few statements better left unsaid, actions better left undone. […]

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