Too Old for This

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

What’re the rules for visiting grandkids? We raised their parents very
consistently to understand the relationship between responsibility and
benefits like money and freedom. They helped around the house with
all manner of chores to earn their allowances, had limits on their
ability to go and do activities with their friends, and had to earn special
privileges with special helping above and beyond their normal tasks.
We weren’t nearly as strict as some of our counterparts (and never
used corporal punishment!). We tried very hard to teach them solid
common sense values we felt they’d need to succeed in the world.

They seem to have raised their own children with an outrageous sense
of entitlement. When they come for their summer visits (sans parent,
who take adult vacations), they don’t even carry a dirty dish from the
sun porch to the kitchen, let alone doing anything more energetic like
mowing the lawn. They seem to spend most of their time plugged into
their electronics, eat non-stop, and expect us to drive them
everywhere on whim. How can we survive and maybe teach them
something along the way?

Too Old for This

Dear Too Old:

Your house; your rules. It might take some very uncomfortable
moments when you lay down the law, but you’ll feel better for having
tried, even if the implementation is imperfect. Ideally you would have
warned all concerned before the grandkids actually arrive for their
visit. But there’s no lesson learned more effectively than one that has
no back door to slip out of.

First things first: agree with your spouse what the rules actually are.
Are they the same for all ages? Do some children get more or less
rights? What’re the incentives and rewards? What’re the actions or
events that trigger a firm No? Are there any second chances or is it a
one strike and you’re out policy? At a minimum you can impose simple
rules about responsibility for dirty dishes, helping with cleanup, and
household cleanliness in public spaces. If you control transportation
access you have a better chance of success. Be prepared for blowback
from both grandkids and bio-kids. But be clear that this is what it
takes to visit. Hopefully you live in a destination resort where the
incentive to visit is higher than their resistance to learning simple
values about community. One way or another they’ll come around.
Eventually they may even thank you for your efforts.