Great Grandparenting - Part 6

"Always" and "Expectation" Keys to Success

In this article we'll consider two more types of presuppositions that can influence grandchildren (and any other person targeted by them) to excel. The first type we could call great expectations, because it presupposes a solid future for the hearer. Here are a few illustrations of just how influential these comments can be.

My latest novel centers on a 'thirty-something' woman who teaches second graders. In the first chapter she employs a number of presuppositions as she gets acquainted with her new pupils and works with them to arrange desks to benefit everyone. She begins the rearranging with this comment: "Before you choose, I think you should know that for some unknown reason students who sit in front always seem to get the best grades."

Now, if you were in that class, what would you think? Would you like to be one of those who ends up sitting in the front row? Would you seek to get the best grades? You bet you would, all because your teacher presupposed that it's possible, predictable even.

A few minutes later, when the class discovers there are three unused desks and a boy suggests they be put in the back of the room to be used "when someone is bad," Julie Richards replies: "Oh, that won't be necessary. No one in my classes ever misbehaves."

Would you end up being a problem student in that class? Not on a bet. Instead, you'd work hard to prove her right, first because she's already telegraphed her expectations about behavior in class and, second, because you wouldn't want to be the only student to disappoint her.

Finally, at the end of each school day, Julie greets her students outside the classroom door in two ways. She gives each of them a hug and tells every student to "have fun being smart." (Anyone still set on being dumb?)

You can write your own "great expectation" presuppositions. Just fill in the blanks in these sentences with your grandchild(ren) in mind.

"I expect you to __________________"

"I know you'll do _________________"

"Without a doubt, you'll ___________"

Now to our second presupposition type for today, one that uses the word "always." This category deserves to be used with care, not only because it is so powerful but because it can so easily turn grandiose. Put yourself in the place of a grandchild for a minute or two here. Imagine that one of your grandparents is talking to you, and says one of the following:

"You always seem to make the right choice somehow."

"I've always been proud of you."

"You always find a way to do your best."

Do you have a flush of pride as you hear that kind of comment directed at you? Is there a desire on your part never to disappoint your grandparent? ('Never' is another presuppositional word, by the way!) Do you feel a flutter of scare when words like those are uttered, followed by a rush of excitement and a desire to try even harder to live up to the picture being painted of you? Of course. Who wants to disappoint a grandparent, or not do their best after they've been told that excelling is your usual standard?

Expectations and statements that employ the word "always" are always effective in driving a child (or adult) to fulfill the expectations of the speaker, as long as those comments are linked to a gem of truth in the personality and character of the hearer! If not, then such statements sound overblown and fake. (That's true of any kind of presupposition, by the way).

Practice using "always" and statements of expectation with a grandchild (or employee or co-worker) every day this week, and see for yourself how well they work.

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