Every piece of advice you've read tells you the same thing: Don't interfere with your grown children's parenting of their children. And we don't. But oh how close we can come to making the fatal error. It's tough to sit and watch discipline in action. This is especially true for those of us who live far from our grown children, as we do: Visits tend to be extended and you see too much--but don't know enough about what's been going on to put it in context.
This Thanksgiving, we hung around Uber son's house for four days, and on one of those days we were witness to a major meltdown: One of our grands lost a checker game to a sibling. There were tears and much unhappiness. The parents were adamant about imparting lessons about good sportsmanship and how important it is in life to know how to "take a punch" gracefully. This only seemed to produce more tears and wailing, followed by more chastising and lecturing. To us, the witnesses sitting idly by, it seemed like over-reaction on the parents part. It was uncomfortable and painful to sit there. And Paterfamilias is a lucky man. As he was about to open his mouth and intervene in defense of his Grand--a major no-no--I was able to clap a hand over his mouth--figuratively speaking. Even though I wanted to help put an end to it, too.
Of course, 10 minutes after the meltdown, all was well. The Grand was back in the room, laughing and talking and kidding around with us. And that's what we have to remember when we're tempted to "say something." We don't have the context of previous behavior or the knowledge about the consistency of discipline to balance out what we're hearing and seeing in the moment. Besides, our grown children may not know better about parenting than we do [look how successful we were!], but then again, maybe they do. Besides, it's their ball and their court.