I like to spoil my grandkids. Do I need to be careful about how I do this?

DARCY KIMMEL: You mean there’s a problem with grandparents spoiling their grandchildren? I thought that was one of the earned privileges! [laughs] 

TIM KIMMEL: Well, it is. It’s part of the grand conspiracy—and remember, you’re going to be a grandparent someday, and you’re going to want to spoil your grandchildren. 

But really what you’re getting at is there is a positive type of spoiling that can be fun for everybody, and then there’s a negative type, and when it gets negative, it can really do a lot of damage. 

We just want to hit on a few things that might help them through this. 

DARCY: And a lot of it has to do with discipline on our part, as the grandparents. We have to know where the limits are, and a lot of that has to do with actually talking to our kids about ways that we can help them raise our children, rather than us going in behind their back and undermining them. 

TIM: And that’s probably the first rule, that you want make sure that as a grandparent, you are never doing anything that undermines the role and the authority of those parents. Those parents have a set of rules that might be very different from yours, as far as what the kids can eat or can’t eat. How much television they can see or can’t see. That kind of stuff. And you really want to be sensitive with that, and go along with that. 

And then you don’t want to come along with your money and do a lot of wrecked havoc with that. For instance, if you want to go by a rule of thumb, less is more when it comes to spoiling grandkids from a financial point of view. 

DARCY: That’s right, because time, our attention, just spending the day with them many times is much more valuable as far as making them into a better person, then just doling out money or giving them gifts. 

TIM: Let’s say your grandchild has left his baseball glove at the park, a $50-$75 baseball glove, and his parents are disciplining him by making him earn that money back, and then granddad comes along and finds out he doesn’t have a ball glove, and just hands him $75—well, that’s negative spoiling. That’s undermining. We don’t want to do those kinds of things. 

Or we go and just bring a gift along we haven’t checked out with the parents—like, you know, a pet snake or a Rottweiler, or something like that. 

DARCY: [laughs] 

So one thing you may need to do with your parents to keep them from doing the negative spoiling is just to very graciously say, “You know what, Mom and Dad? This Christmas, we’re trying to limit all the material stuff for our kids. I know you love to give them gifts. Maybe you could limit it to just two gifts this year, instead of the normal twenty?” 

TIM: And a couple more things. There are other sets of grandparents in this family tree and in this family picture. And regardless of what the situation is, you never want to do anything that makes them look bad. 

For instance, there might be one set of grandparents who, for whatever reason, have a lot more material goods to share. They could easily make that other set of grandparents look small in the eyes of the kids. 

Well, c’mon. We’re older people now. We should have matured enough to know that that’s not the right thing to do. That would show an insecurity on our part, and you don’t want to do that, and so you might have to talk with your parents about that. 

But probably the number one thing is, when it comes to spoiling your grandchildren with gifts or whatever, just make sure that whatever it is you are giving them or doing for them, it’s always going to make them a better person, help them grow up to be a greater person. 

And if that’s the rule you’re using, usually the kids involved there—not the grandkids, but your children—they don’t mind it a bit.