40 Wise Parenting Lessons From a Grandma of 16

My grandma Anna isn't just a regular grandmother — she has the ultimate grandmother résumé. With five children and 16 grandchildren, she knows a thing or two about life. She has beaten breast cancer and rocked many careers, all while being there for her children and grandkids alike. She may feel like she has it all, but she's never forgotten what is most important to her: family.

I recently sat down with her and asked her to impart some of her parenting wisdom to the rest of the world. This advice is for all of the moms out there who could use a few tips and reminders from someone who has been there . . . many times.

  1. Always tell your kids the truth.
  2. Answer their questions, as best as you can.
  3. Show them how to respect others by respecting them.
  4. Get them to cook from a young age. Cooking is an important skill!
  5. Teach them how to eat. Make healthy eating a lifelong habit.
  6. Try very hard to never have favorites.
  7. Never compare your child to others.
  8. Never say anything you can't take back.
  9. Give your kids chores. They are a part of the family and need to hold up their end.
  10. Never tolerate them making fun of other children. It is unacceptable!
  11. As they grow older, make sure they do their own laundry.
  12. Teach them not to horde material things. They won't appreciate what they have if they have too much of everything.
  13. Treat all of your children the same, but recognize they won't like the same things. Encourage their individual interests.
  14. Don't force them to play sports. If they want to play, great, but don't demand they do it.
  15. Try to control your spending on your child. They don't need everything, and you might be setting them up for a lifetime of frivolous spending. Help them learn there are limits.
  16. Teach them tidiness. They need to keep their rooms reasonably clean and learn other basic cleaning skills.
  17. Try to be together for dinner as much as possible. Family dinners are important.
  18. Don't force them to eat more if they're full.
  19. Teach them about old age. Make them understand that some day, they'll be old as well.
  20. Realize you are not perfect — nobody is.
  21. Try not to fight with your spouse in front of your children. They shouldn't hear criticism of their father or mother.
  22. Cuddle and love on them whenever you get the chance.
  23. When they become teenagers, put them up for adoption — just kidding. Treat your teenagers with respect and kindness. Always let them know you love them, but let them be independent. If they are in trouble, then take charge.
  24. We learn from our mistakes. Mistakes make us stronger, better, smarter. Let your children make them. When things run amok, gently let them know you didn't think it was a good idea, rather than say "See what you did wrong!"
  25. Remind your children they will always be siblings, no matter what. Encourage closeness.
  26. Teach them to be giving. If they aren't using something, pass it on. Someone else would be delighted to have it.
  27. Tell them you love them. Tell them every day, every morning, and every night. It is imperative.
  28. Ask for help when you need it.
  29. If they have a teacher they don't like, remind them they'll have a new one next year.
  30. Spoil them with love, not with things.
  31. Do not accept sass from your children. If they start it at a young age, they'll be impossible as teenagers. Remind them who is in charge, but nicely.
  32. Keep a journal. Encourage your children to keep one, too. Memories are important.
  33. When your children fight, separate them, and remind them how important they are to each other. Tell them, "I know you didn't mean it, so I'm giving you the opportunity to cool off."
  34. Teach them to save. Encourage them to save a percentage of their birthday money in the bank.
  35. Realize that you are their role model, so be a good one.
  36. Do your best, but don't compete with anyone else's best.
  37. Let them be independent. Don't be a hover-er.
  38. Teach them to appreciate their extended family.
  39. Remember that your grandmother gets forgetful with age. Always give her a hug when you walk through the door.
  40. It all goes by too fast. You wake up one morning, and they're in college. Enjoy them while you've got them.