“Su-Lin, Neil sprayed the Chinese teacher with his water pistol today!” reported my mother-in-law in dire tones.

“Oh, no! Did you punish him?” my husband and I groaned, aghast at the latest prank that our unruly son had subjected the hapless Chinese tutor to.

“I made him apologise but it is up to the parents to punish him—otherwise there will be too many people disciplining him!” was my mother-in-law’s response.

As a mother, I really appreciated my mother-in-law’s non-interventionist wisdom then. As a grandmother, I have happily adopted the same non-interventionist approach with my elder grandson Joe.

During Joe’s nursery and kindergarten years, my husband and I enjoyed the delights of being grandparents—fun-filled outings, reading and playing games, without having to wake up at night or change his diapers!

If we love each other and want the best for each other, we will naturally not compete with one another for the children’s affections nor countermand a parent’s rules for the child.

However, when our second grandson Zacky (“Mr. Little But Loud”) reached the “terrible twos”, we were confounded to find that none of our grandparenting techniques worked. We had to find a way to deal with some very vocal and unruly temper tantrums.

More seriously, we had to decide on how to establish order without disrupting or undermining his parents’ authority.

In the end, we took a leaf out of the kindergarten teacher’s book—we established a “naughty chair” where a small child could have a “time-out” period until he calmed down.

Fortunately, this was extremely effective and fitted in with his parents’ firm but kind style of discipline. My husband and I were relieved to have weathered that stormy period.

Grandparenting is a continuous journey of learning. Thankfully, the Bible provides some unchanging principles that can help us navigate unchartered territory.

Lessons From Naomi The Grandmother

Most people know the story of the faithful and loving Ruth, who even after the death of her husband refused to abandon her mother-in-law Naomi.

Ruth left her own people to follow Naomi back to Naomi’s hometown Bethlehem, and cared for her as though for her own mother. Through divine appointments and Naomi’s encouragement, Ruth ended up marrying Boaz, Naomi’s kinsmen.

As a mother, I really appreciated my mother-in-law’s non-interventionist wisdom.

In Ruth 4:13–17, we are told that when Ruth gave birth to a son, the women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Naomi then “took the child in her arms and cared for him”, and the women said: “Naomi has a son!”

The story of Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and Obed—Ruth’s son—offers us some guidance on how we can work with our adult children to help raise our grandchildren:

1. Naomi And Ruth Loved And Wanted The Best For Each Other

Surely one of the keys to helping our adult children in raising our grandchildren well is to have a good and understanding relationship with our children and their spouses.

If we love each other and want the best for each other, we will naturally not compete with one another for the children’s affections nor countermand a parent’s rules for the child.

But what if we have a less-than-ideal relationship with our children and/or their spouses? We can look to 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 for guidance:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have the Word of God to guide us, and the Holy Spirit to empower us in bringing peace and harmony to troubled relationships.

Becoming a grandparent elevates a person by one generation. It is a sobering landmark in life and a tangible reminder that our time on earth is finite.

It’s a good time to let go of things that separate and divide, and work on unity and family.

2. Naomi Was Closely Involved In Her Grandson’s Upbringing

In Singapore, many grandparents care for their grandchildren in practical ways, such as babysitting while the parents are at work, ferrying the grandchildren to and from school, and supervising their homework. This is as much a result of the cultural norm of extended families as well it is a product of the short distances between home, work, and school in our city-state.

However, we can care for our grandchildren in many ways even if we are far away.

Christian author Mary Ruth Swope tells of how she cared for her grandson even though she lived in a different part of the United States.

We do not have to be a biological grandmother or grandfather to experience grandparenthood.

She kept in touch with him through regular phone calls and usually ended the calls by praying a blessing over him. She did not realise how much the blessing meant to him until one day, when she forgot to pray, he reminded her to bless him!

We, too, can pray with our grandchildren and bless them, whether in person or over the phone. We can send them cards, text messages, and surprise gifts. We can work with their parents to administer a “reward” scheme for some goal that a child wishes to achieve.

Depending on how near or far we are, we can also work on visits and treats.

Where the parents are not Christians or do not go to church regularly, we can take our grandchildren to Sunday School, read the Bible to them, and pray with them.

Most importantly, we can pray that each of them receives Jesus as his or her personal Saviour.

3. Naomi Viewed Her Grandchild As A Gift From God

“Naomi has a son!” (Ruth 4:17)

This is a poignant cry because we know that Naomi lost her husband and both her sons.

According to Jewish tradition, Naomi’s daughters-in-law should have returned to their own families.

This is what made Ruth’s decision to stay with her mother-in-law remarkable. Ruth showed unconditional love to Naomi.

We, too, can pray with our grandchildren and bless them, whether in person or over the phone.

As a result, God restored not only Ruth but also Naomi, who was blessed with a grandson who was not of her blood but of her heart.

We do not have to be a biological grandmother or grandfather to experience grandparenthood.

My friend June has “adopted” a grandson. She and her husband look after her neighbour’s son Benedict when his mother has to run an errand or has to attend a course.

Another two friends, Jane and Shirley, attend a mothers’ prayer group to pray for nieces, nephews, and children whom they care for.

In my experience, children who have had the blessing of being cared for by a grandparent figure usually grow up with an added layer of confidence and security that comes from receiving love and affirmation from extended family.

Grandparenting is God’s amazing way of allowing us to bless and to be blessed.

My grandsons Joseph and Zachary have definitely renewed my life and that of my husband. They entertain us . . .

Me (singing): “ ‘A’ you’re adorable, ‘B’ you’re so beautiful…”

Zacky (singing along): “ ‘A’ you’re adowable, ‘B’ you’re so suitable…”

I am also constantly surprised and awed by them. I learn new things from them all the time . . .

Me: “Zacky, it’s nap time!”

Zacky (starting to howl): “NOOO!!! NOOO!! Not tired!”

Joe (who is 6 years old and whom I affectionately call “my star”): “Don’t worry, Grandma. Your ‘Star’ will help you. Zacky, don’t cry. I’ll take a nap with you!”

Love underpins the lessons on grandparenting that I’ve discovered in the book of Ruth—God’s unconditional love experienced within the family, between in-laws, and between different generations.