Since our 7-year-old granddaughter was about 3 or 4, she sometimes refuses to come to the dinner table and her parents just say “Ignore her…she’s having a bad day.” Also, this little one has on occasion, often without any apparent reason, screamed. Again, the parental response is to ignore her, not discipline her.
What would be the best response for us to have?
It sounds as if you and your children need to sit down and talk about appropriate limits for your grandchildren, expectations for behavior, rewards for good behavior, and consequences for poor behavior.
If they don’t think discipline is necessary, you can’t force them to change their minds, but you can allow some natural consequences to occur when she is in your home so she will hopefully learn better behavior.
If she refuses to come to your dinner table, you can ignore her yet also tell her that dinner is only served at the table at a certain time so if she is hungry later, she will not be able to eat. Assuming she has no special dietary issues that require her to eat on a regular basis, the natural consequence will be that she gets hungry and won’t be able to eat. Then the next time you call her to dinner, she will remember the guideline you set, that she got hungry and could not eat. Hopefully, eventually, she will be less likely to skip dinner. In this way, you honor her parent’s wishes but also establish some behavioral expectations in your home.
Regarding the screaming, don’t respond to her at the moment. When she is quiet and behaving well, let her know that you don’t allow screaming for any reason in your home. If she does scream, she will need to take some time out to calm herself down.
You have the opportunity to observe how things unfold for this little girl. If she attends school and behaves the same way at school, her parents will hear about it from teachers and may be motivated to take a more active role in disciplining her. If so, I encourage you to enter into conversations with them about discipline strategies.
You might also direct them to: focusonthefamily.com/parenting for many articles about discipline, loveandlogic.com, and the book Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson