When I was a boy…

“When I was a boy…”

Let’s be honest, when grandpa said this to me, it usually was the introductory line of a critique of something I didn’t understand and I didn’t care about. The laws of physics must have been different then. He had to walk uphill both to and from school and it was so cold that ice didn’t melt until it reached 45 degrees.

But now you have become a grandpa and are tempted to say, “When I was a boy, you didn’t sass your mother, watch anything without permission, or play before you did your chores and homework.”

A grandfather who thinks like a youth-worker knows how useless, or even counter-productive, such critiques can be.  But does he know how to build into his grandson what is right, good, and necessary?

Let’s start with the end in mind. What are you hoping your grandson will be like in his mid to late teenage years? If you were involved in the boy scouts you might remember their law was to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. That is a great list of virtues and there were merit badges connected to each.


(The following proposal, like many we make to grandparents, assumes any necessary discussion with the parents already has been conducted. See https://grandly.org/2018/05/two-for-the-price-of-one/)

You can do something similar by giving badges and rewards to your grandson. Have a discussion with him and sell him on the idea that he will earn an award, or badge, or plaque, (plus an appropriate gift), if he achieves a specific moral excellence goal by a certain date: his next birthday, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Independence Day, or whatever date you set.

You can guide your grandson to maturity by identifying the next virtue for him to master: courage, self-confidence, patience, self-control, justice, manliness, faithfulness, service, etc.


Make a list of the virtues you most want to see in your grandson. What would be the best one to work on next? It might be the easiest, the most current, or most important.


Set up with your grandson how he can achieve his first award. Define a goal and how to measure success in achieving it.  Talk about the rewards (both the physical award and the intrinsic value the mastery of that virtue will give him).

Mike Shaughnessy is the Founder of Grandly: The Strategic Grandparents Club

Copyright © 2018 Grandly: The Strategic Grandparents Club.

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