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10 Things You Should Never Say To Your Grandkids

SPECIAL FROM Grandparents.com

Everyone has the occasional "Oops!", but for the sake of your relationship, keep these comments to yourself.

  • 1. "Your sister is better than you at [fill in the blank]."
    Maybe you’re trying to motivate one grandchild to try harder, but pointing out her sibling’s Serena Williams-style tennis ser
    Dejan Ristovski via Getty Images
    Maybe you’re trying to motivate one grandchild to try harder, but pointing out her sibling’s Serena Williams-style tennis serve isn’t going to push her to ace her own next serve, says Jodi R. R. Smith, author of "The Etiquette Book: The Complete Guide to Modern Manners." Children want their grandparents to be judgment-free cheerleaders.

    Better to say: If your grandchild asks if you think her sibling is better at something, you can say, “Yes, she’s good, so let her play tennis while you wow us on with your swimming,” or whatever her forte is. If she doesn’t ask, keep mum unless you’re saying how proud you are of, well, whatever she does.
  • 2. "You’re my favorite grandchild."
    Huge oops. You may think you never say such a thing, but you might—in not so many words. Be careful of saying this or somethi
    Beth Wade Photography via Getty Images
    Huge oops. You may think you never say such a thing, but you might—in not so many words. Be careful of saying this or something like it even if you meant it as a playful joke, or in confidence. Kids talk to each other—and you want your grandchildren to trust you when you say you love them.

    Better to say: Do I have to tell you? “You’re all number one with me!”
  • 3. "Let me tell you about the time your dad “borrowed” Grandpa’s car…"
    You may think sharing funny or stories of your children’s youthful mishaps is a great way to bond with your grandkids, says S
    JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images
    You may think sharing funny or stories of your children’s youthful mishaps is a great way to bond with your grandkids, says Smith, or a means of imparting a lesson, but it can have the unfortunate effect of undermining your children’s authority with their kids.

    Better to say: Nothing at all about your children’s foibles, unless, notes Smith, the parent is present so that they’re aware the story is being shared and can add perspective; or if it’s one of those stories you know your grandkids already heard before. “Better yet,” says Smith, “tell a story about your childhood if your aim is to teach a lesson.”
  • 4. "If you get a tattoo, it’ll kill me!"
    Hmmm…did that kind of blackmail work when you were raising your kids? Probably not, so best not to try it now. Do you really
    Andy Dean via Getty Images
    Hmmm…did that kind of blackmail work when you were raising your kids? Probably not, so best not to try it now. Do you really want your grandchild feeling guilty if, heaven forbid, something does happen to you?

    Better to say: Whether it’s the tattoo or some other decision you believe your grandchild will regret or that you don’t agree with, try to talk to him about it. When it comes to permanent ink, you’re certainly in a good position to explain what “for the rest of your life” means!
  • 5. "Is that nice boy you were talking to your boyfriend?"
    Ah, the awkwardness of adolescent dating, combined with sweet, but embarrassing questions from grownups—just what an already
    Radius Images via Getty Images
    Ah, the awkwardness of adolescent dating, combined with sweet, but embarrassing questions from grownups—just what an already self-conscious kid needs. Curiosity on your part is natural, but try not to butt in unless asked.

    Better to say: Nothing to your grandchild. If you have a question about someone she’s dating, ask your son or daughter privately instead. And if you’re just interested in a budding love life? “Ask open ended questions, such as ‘Has anyone caught your fancy lately?’” says Smith.
  • 6. "I think a little baby fat is cute!"
    Unless your grandchild has specifically asked for a critique on his or her physical appearance, do not initiate this conversa
    KidStock via Getty Images
    Unless your grandchild has specifically asked for a critique on his or her physical appearance, do not initiate this conversation! What you think sounds cute and complimentary (after all, your grandchild is beautiful to you no matter what) can come across as a painful insult.

    Better to say: What you truly believe: that she’s beautiful. “A grandparent’s role is to bolster confidence,” says Smith. And if you do think your grandchild is overweight? Without making a fuss about it, offer healthy snacks rather than junk at your house, and suggest a walk in the park rather than watching a movie together.
  • 7. "How come you don’t wear what I bought you?"
    If your grandchild has been as well-schooled by your children as you hope, she knows to open gifts with enthusiasm and to tha
    shironosov via Getty Images
    If your grandchild has been as well-schooled by your children as you hope, she knows to open gifts with enthusiasm and to thank you politely. Much as you want to see her in that nice coat you bought (and not the scruffy jacket you still see her wearing), it won’t do your relationship any good to ask about it.

    Better to say: Nothing. Next time ask her parents what might be a better gift choice or give a gift card and let her pick out what she wants.
  • 8. "What do your parents say about me?"
    Digging for info? Whether you are dealing with a divorce situation (and want to know if your ex-son- or daughter-in-law is ta
    Martin Novak via Getty Images
    Digging for info? Whether you are dealing with a divorce situation (and want to know if your ex-son- or daughter-in-law is talking badly about you), or if you just want to know what they think, swallow that impulse, says Rosalind Sedacca, author of "How to Tell the Kids About the Divorce." What you’re doing is using the child as a go-between, which is an uncomfortable spot for a child.

    Better to say: Nothing that can be construed as negative. Even if you are not getting along with your children/in-laws, or especially if a divorce is in the picture, keep all comments neutral and let your grandchild take the lead with sharing information.
  • 9. "Did you get good grades this year?"
    What you don’t want to do is potentially—albeit inadvertently—put even more pressure on your grandchild, who may be getting t
    Jupiterimages via Getty Images
    What you don’t want to do is potentially—albeit inadvertently—put even more pressure on your grandchild, who may be getting the good-grade push from parents and teachers, too, says Julia Simens, parent educator and author of "Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child." “It also might set up your grandchild to lie to you, because he doesn’t want you to see him in a negative light.”

    Better to say: Ask him about his classes, his favorite subjects, which teacher is the coolest. Showing an interest can help him open up and tell you how he'd feeling about school.
  • 10. "Don't worry – you’ll grow out of this stage!"
    Whether it’s a messy middle school situation, or acne, or a heartbreak, your well-intentioned (and, incidentally true!) words
    Monashee Frantz via Getty Images
    Whether it’s a messy middle school situation, or acne, or a heartbreak, your well-intentioned (and, incidentally true!) words are destined to fall flat, or even hurt. It may sound as though you’re making light of a situation that, to him, is as big as Texas.

    Better to say: "Want to talk about it? Say, over an ice cream sundae?"
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BEFORE YOU GO

  • Whale Rider (2002)
    <strong>The plot:</strong> Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is a young Whangara girl who wishes to replace her grandfather, Koro (R
    Lions Gate
    The plot: Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is a young Whangara girl who wishes to replace her grandfather, Koro (Rawiri Paratene), as head of her tribe. The only problem? Leadership is customarily meant for first-born males, a tradition Koro is desperate to uphold despite Pai’s obvious qualifications. Needless to say, he comes around.

    Why it’s special: Simply, it’s a charming and thought-provoking film about family, community, and identity, with a granddaughter and grandfather at its center. The performances are lovely all around, but Castle-Hughes is especially luminous; she was just 11 when filming began, and was Oscar nominated for her work.
  • Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
    <strong>The plot: </strong>The eccentric Hoover family hits the road to watch young Olive (Abigail Breslin) compete in the Li
    Fox Searchlight Pictures
    The plot: The eccentric Hoover family hits the road to watch young Olive (Abigail Breslin) compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Along for the ride are exhausted mom Sheryl (Toni Colette), type-A dad Richard (Greg Kinnear), silent teen Dwayne (Paul Dano), suicidal scholar Frank (Steve Carell), and heroin-addicted Grandpa Edwin (Alan Arkin), who is also Olive’s pageant coach. And you thought your relatives were complicated.

    Why it’s special: Edwin is a maniac. Olive is the human embodiment of innocence. Somehow, their bond makes sense. She smooths his rough edges, and he gives her confidence. Breslin (just 9 at the time of filming) and Arkin were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances; Arkin won.
  • The Education Of Little Tree (1997)
    <strong>The plot:</strong> When Little Tree (Joseph Ashton) is orphaned, he is taken by his devoted Scottish grandfather (Jam
    Paramount
    The plot: When Little Tree (Joseph Ashton) is orphaned, he is taken by his devoted Scottish grandfather (James Cromwell) and warm, wise Cherokee grandmother (Tantoo Cardinal) to live in the Smoky Mountains, where he learns about nature, survival, and pride. Things get dicey, though, when he’s forced into a reform school bent on erasing all traces of his Native American heritage.

    Why it’s special: In a country where almost 5 million children are raised by their grandparents, it’s refreshing to see the relationship portrayed with such tenderness and obvious love. Between that, the rugged natural scenery and gentle tone, The Education of Little Tree feels like classic Disney live-action films of old.
  • In Her Shoes (2005)
    <strong>The plot: </strong>Rose (Toni Collette) is buttoned-up professional searching for contentment. Maggie (Cameron Diaz)
    20th Century Fox
    The plot: Rose (Toni Collette) is buttoned-up professional searching for contentment. Maggie (Cameron Diaz) is Rose’s party-girl sister, who sleeps with her boyfriend at the first opportunity. Ella (Shirley MacLaine) is the grandmother who lets Maggie move into her Florida retirement community, turning her into a respectable human being in the process.

    Why it’s special: In the wrong hands, In Her Shoes could have been a throwaway played for vapid laughs. Instead, a trio of nuanced performances and Curtis Hanson’s sensitive direction lend the film resonance and depth. Especially meaningful is Maggie’s relationship with Ella; it gives the younger woman a sense of self-worth, and the older one, a more vital connection to her formerly estranged family.
  • Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
    <strong>The plot: </strong>Penniless youngster Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) wins one of five golden tickets to visit eccentr
    Warner Home Video
    The plot: Penniless youngster Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) wins one of five golden tickets to visit eccentric candy magnate Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) at his factory. Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) chaperones. Trials, temptations, and an everlasting gobstopper of fun happen along the way.

    Why it’s special: On one hand, it’s a colorful, whimsical, children’s musical set in a candy wonderland staffed entirely by little orange people. On the other hand, it’s a buddy picture. Charlie and Grandpa Joe are intergenerational co-conspirators, and the factory, their exuberant funhouse. More importantly, they bring out each other’s best selves; Grandpa helps Charlie stay grounded, and Charlie shows Grandpa the importance of honesty.
  • Ulee's Gold (1997)
    <strong>The plot: </strong>For a subtle, thoughtful movie, Ulee’s Gold has a pretty involved story: Ulee (Peter Fonda) is a b
    MGM
    The plot: For a subtle, thoughtful movie, Ulee’s Gold has a pretty involved story: Ulee (Peter Fonda) is a bee-keeping widower raising his granddaughters, Penny (Vanessa Zima) and Casey (Jessica Biel), after his son, Jimmy (Tom Wood) is shipped off to prison. Problems arise when Ulee must rescue his drug-addicted daughter-in-law from Jimmy’s partners, who threaten to hurt the grandkids if he doesn’t find the $100,000 they believe Jimmy stashed away.

    Why it’s special: By nature a solitary man, Ulee isn’t thrilled with the state of his family. Still, the reticent beekeeper steps up to protect and unite them, providing Penny and Casey with the role model they so desperately need. Fonda, in a Golden Globe-winning role, is the quiet storm at the center.
  • Cocoon (1985)
    <strong>The plot: </strong>You know this one: Retirees find the fountain of youth in a Florida swimming pool. The aliens who
    20th Century Fox
    The plot: You know this one: Retirees find the fountain of youth in a Florida swimming pool. The aliens who put it there offer them a shot at eternal life, but only if they journey to outer space, leaving their loved ones behind. For Ben’s (Wilford Brimley) beloved grandson, David (Barret Oliver), this is really upsetting.

    Why it’s special: Is there anything sadder than the prospect of never seeing your grandchild again? And is there anything more gut-wrenching than seeing that same little boy set you free? If you’ve seen Cocoon, you know what we’re talking about. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? (Note: Bring tissues.)
  • Diary Of A Mad Black Woman (2005)
    <strong>The plot:</strong> After long-suffering wife Helen (Kimberly Elise) is given the heave-ho by her rich, philandering h
    Lions Gate
    The plot: After long-suffering wife Helen (Kimberly Elise) is given the heave-ho by her rich, philandering husband, Charles (Steve Harris), she moves in with Grandma Madea (Tyler Perry). There, Helen cleans up her life and falls in love with stone fox Orlando (Shemar Moore).

    Why it’s special: On film, most grandmas are sweet little old ladies who comfort loved ones with tea and aphorisms. But a select few (okay, one) are 6-foot-5, gun-toting lunatics who take them in, whip them into shape (not literally), and set them back into the world 10 times stronger than they were before. Such is Madea. And whether or not you go for Perry’s signature combination of melodrama and camp, Madea is a grandma to be reckoned with. And this is her best film.
  • Hope & Glory (1987)
    <strong>The plot: </strong>World War II comes to London, leaving Grace (Sarah Miles) to raise three kids after husband Clive
    MGM
    The plot: World War II comes to London, leaving Grace (Sarah Miles) to raise three kids after husband Clive enlists. When their house burns down, Grace hauls the whole family to her parents’ house in the countryside, where 10-year-old Billy (Sebastian Rice-Edwards) bonds with his crusty, slightly insane grandfather, George (Ian Bannen).

    Why it’s special: Simply, it’s a brilliant, frequently funny film about a terrible situation. And while Billy spends much of Hope & Glory alternately terrified and in awe of George, the old man proves a solid guiding force in the absence of the boy’s father. Their last scene together—the last scene of the movie, as well—is just perfect.
  • Parenthood (1989)
    <strong>The plot: </strong>It’s a few months in the life of the extended Buckman clan, during which divorced mom Helen (Diann
    Universal
    The plot: It’s a few months in the life of the extended Buckman clan, during which divorced mom Helen (Dianne Wiest) learns she’s going to have a grandchild, grandparents Marilyn and Frank (Eileen Ryan and Jason Robards) become parents again, and Great Grandma (Irene Shaw) hovers quietly, smilingly over all.

    Why it’s special: Hilarious and poignant, Parenthood is summed up neatly by Great Grandma's monologue: “You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”
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