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Great Grandparenting - Part 3

Updated on October 20, 2012

The Importance of Presuppositioning

Good 'grandparenting' (and good parenting for that matter) depends first on what we do (positive modeling), but it also depends on what we say. This article deals with the words we use with children in the broadest sense. It's called 'Presuppositioning.'

We all know parents who criticize their children, threaten them with punishment, and issue lots of do's and don'ts. Spend any time in a grocery store and watch how a parent deals with a demanding child perched in the seat of a cart. The child reaches for something and grabs it, or pleads for a 'goodie' and then cries or whines if the request is denied. What do you usually hear? Angry comments like these: "How many times have I told you . . . " or "I said 'no' and 'no' means 'no!' " or worse yet, "If you do that one more time, I'm going to whack you." Then the child does it again and either gets walloped or, more often than not, the entire scenario is repeated ad infinitum.

That's negative presuppositioning, and it achieves nothing for either the adult or the child. Instead, if positive comments are used, a whole different universe opens up to the child by saying something like, "That looks good, doesn't it? But we're here today just to shop for supper." Or, "I know, you'd love to have that right now, and I wish we could buy it for you, but it's not on our list." The child will calm down usually, especially if such things are said in a quiet, calm voice - repeated once, if needed. And, as a last resort, if the child won't stop whining or crying, instead of a paddling or slap, it's time to say firmly but quietly, "This store is not a place acting out. We'll just go home instead." And you leave the store.

Future articles will detail specific presuppostions that are powerful when used with children (and adults too, by the way - including spouses, bosses, teachers, and a host of other persons). But for now, I think it's enough to illustrate what we mean by presuppositional speech. Here are several examples.

Knute Rockne visited one of his football players who was dying, and told this to his team later before they played the second half of a crucial game that Notre Dame was losing: "I went to him as he lay on his death bed and he told me, 'Rock, I have this last request. Some day, when things are going bad and all the breaks are going against the boys, ask them to go out - and win one for the Gipper.' Gentlemen, . . . this is that day. And you are that team."[I've underlined the two most powerful presuppositions.]

A second example contains these words from Chief Seattle, still the most forceful of all statements on the environment, and it's chock-full of presuppositions: "This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself . . . . We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children and love it, as God loves us all."[Again, I've underlined a few of the many presuppositions he used.]

Do you sense the positiveness of all the above statements? Do you feel their power? No doubt, and you can have that kind of impact on your grandchildren (and everyone else you relate to), once you practice a few simply sentence constructions. Read articles #4 and following for specific forms of presuppositioning.

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