Best parenting advice from grandmothers

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Rachel Campos-Duffy

I have always sought the advice of mothers I admire, especially grandmothers. For parents like me who are in the thick of it, the wisdom of women who can see and reflect on the big picture is an invaluable asset. With five children under the age of nine, I am very busy and thus guilty of "short-term" parenting. You know, sweating the small things, not savoring fleeting moments, and other things that happen when we fail to look at the long picture. There's nothing like a conversation with a smart grandmother to put my parenting in perspective.

Just as important as the advice on what to do have been the cautionary tales on what not to do. One grandmother I know wished that she taught her sons to clean up. Their messy habits made them lousy roommates in college and in marriage. Another grandmother friend of mine regrets getting lax about hiding presents at Christmas time. She advised me to go to extraordinary lengths to keep Santa going, because "Christmas was never the same until I had grandkids."

For this column, I talked to my favorite grandmothers, including my own mother, and asked them to give their best advice for mothers. Here's what they had to say:

Elfreida (mother of 3, grandmother of 4):

Unconditional Love
"My kids sometimes put me through hell, but I always loved them. I remember sitting up late waiting for them to come home or crying my eyes out over something they did, but I still loved them deeply and they always knew that. I think that is why they turned out great and why we all love each other so much."

Pilar (mother of 4, grandmother of 13):
High Expectations

"Set the bar high knowing in your heart that at times, your kids will not meet the bar. If they know the bar is there, eventually, they will reach it, though not always in the exact time or way you imagined."

June (mother of 4, grandmother of 6)
Don't be Overdrawn

"Your relationship with your child is like a bank account. Love and bonding moments are "deposits"; restrictions and reprimands are 'withdrawals.' You cannot withdraw funds you do not have. In other words, if you have a strong relationship with your child, you will be in a better position to guide them and even restrict their behavior without the risk of losing their love or admiration for you."

Sharon (mother of 3, grandmother of 1)
Know Yourself

"It's important to figure out your own life before involving someone else. If you don't know yourself, you will be constantly searching and it will be harder to be the selfless person you need to be as a parent."

Peggy (mother of 2 grown children, not yet a grandmother but wise beyond her years!)
Your Child is His/Her Own Person

"Don't personalize it when they pull away. That's what they are supposed to do. And remember that respect is a two way street in the parent/child relationship."

I'm interested in hearing stories and advice from the grandmothers in your life!

To learn more about Rachel, go to

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.