The relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is a delicate dynamic. For most grandchildren, grandparents are synonymous to frequent visitors who nurture and care for them without the authoritarianism their parents might elicit. It’s not uncommon for grandchildren to associate their grandparents to warm hugs and baked cookies. Sometimes however, grandparents defy this role by assuming legal guardianship of the grandchildren often due to a parent’s untimely death or an inability to properly care for the children. Upon this power shift, several misconceptions have been instilled regarding grandparents’ ability to raise their grandchildren. Among these misconceptions is the belief that grandparents are unable to properly care for their grandchildren after a shift in guardianship due to their inability to maintain authority after being in a role that demanded less responsibility. This unfair generalization has developed by causes such as stereotypes of the roles grandparents’ play, unfair age discrimination and age gap, and misbeliefs that elderly people lack authoritarianism.
The stereotype of the grandparent as described above is typically connoted with spoiling the grandchild. When a child’s grandparent suddenly becomes their legal guardians, the grandparent’s role has to be viewed by the child in a different light. Popular movies and media often paint the grandparents as sweet, adorable characters who drop by on occasion to favor the children amidst the parent’s overt discipline. With this stereotype imbedded into the mines of many (including children) it becomes difficult for grandparents to gain respect in their new role. However, this misconception does not necessarily make it infeasible. Not unlike any new role, people have to view and respect it to successfully carry it out.
Another cause for the misconception lies in the presence of age discrimination. It is not uncommon for people to discriminate on the basis of age as seen by several accounts of ageism in the workforce. Similarly, both age gap and inequitable views on the role of age contribute to the misconception that grandparents are unfit to raise grandchildren. While the significant age gap between grandchildren and their grandparents might make a child feel their guardian is unable to understand their viewpoint, the concept mostly lies in beliefs that they are out of touch. Unfortunately, this stigma is largely brought on by a portrayal of grandparents being unaware of the modern society. As a result, children and society might unfairly deem they lack the authority and ability to raise a child.
Finally, the false idea that grandparents lack the capacity to enforce authority persists in the mainstream. While the warm, loving archetype remains true in many grandparents, their past clearly demonstrates experience in parenting children. Nevertheless, they are often marked as too soft to enforce discipline upon the grandchildren. While this is often true upon the shift into guardianship, it should not be detrimental in determining whether or not they are capable. Due to the presence of the overly soft stereotype, people often interpret this as an inability to be authoritative when the time comes.
In conclusion, all these ideas contribute to the idea that grandparents cannot raise their grandchildren amidst the shift in power dynamic. The misconception has several origins that often pertain to ideas and generalizations that unfairly permeate and discriminate against grandparents. Beliefs geared toward stereotypes of the elderly, age discrimination and gaps, along with grandparents’ ability to enforce authority all contribute to the misconceptions manifestation throughout society.