Grandparents Are Influential, Second Only to Parents

Excerpt from the book Grandparenting, which releases in December 2018.

Who are the most influential people in a young person’s life? A Barna study wanted to know the answer to a similar question and asked 602 teenagers, “Who, besides your parents, do you admire most as a role model?” According to Barna, the top five influences in the life of young people are (1) parents, (2) other family members, typically grandparents, (3) teachers and coaches, (4) friends, and (5) pastors or religious leaders.

After parents, grandparents are the greatest potential influence in the life of a child—not a peer, not a pastor, and not a teacher. When teenagers were asked why they named a particular person as influential, teens provided the following reasons: The person was worthy of imitation; they wanted to follow in the footsteps of the chosen person; they were there for the teenager; and they were interested in the teenager’s future. For better or worse, young people are imitating the people they know best and who care for them.

It may sound simplistic but the greatest influencers of young people are typically those who invest the greatest amount of time into their lives. The key for grandparents to understand is that the more time you invest into a grandchild’s life the greater the potential influence will be. When I look at Barna’s top five influences it follows that logic: The five greatest influencers are the people who spend the most time with young people over the course of their life.

The five greatest influencers are the people who spend the most time with young people over the course of their life. Click To Tweet

If you want to influence your grandchildren to love Jesus then it makes sense that you must have an active presence in their lives. If you do not, then other influences such as peers or media fill the void. Take a moment and reflect on two areas of your life:

First, add up the numbers of hours you invest monthly in your grandchildren.

  • How much of that time is direct face-to-face interaction (in person or through technology)?
  • How many hours per month do you invest indirectly in your grandchildren’s parents, praying for grandchildren, preparing for gatherings, activities, or other family-related things?
  • What is your total number of hours?

Many grandparents are surprised to see how few or how many hours they actually spend on their grandchildren.

Second, take a moment and think about your own grandparents.

  • What impact did your grandparents have on your life?
  • Were your grandparents active in your life and did they regularly invest in you?
  • Did your grandparents shape your personality, preferences, or faith in any way, or were your grandparents emotionally distant, primarily living an autonomous life?

Whether the impact was significant or lacking, it reminds us that grandparents matter, and rarely do they have no influence on us. If you ask your grandchildren how you influence their life, what do you think they would say? The goal is not simply to be a positive influence with a strong relationship, but to use our influence to point grandchildren to Christ.

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