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Great Grandparenting - Part 5

Updated on October 23, 2012

Here are two more types of presuppositional statements that define our grandchildren (or children or co-workers or spouse), additional ways to tell them who they are. Like the "you are" kind of statement we covered in article #4, these two nail down traits that will last a lifetime - and they do it in opposite ways.

First, let's deal with "that is" statements. Use these whenever you spot the child (or adult) doing something good. Let's say he/she just shared a toy with a playmate or hugged a sibling. So you say, "That's just like you, being willing to share," or "That's just the kind of person you are, always loving."

Linking "that is" with the word "just" is actually a double presupposition. The word "always" adds a third type. Combining these kinds of words is dynamic. The person you're addressing can't help but think, 'I guess I am whatever is said about me.' [After all, who doesn't want to be told they're naturally . . . kind or loving or smart or generous or talented? Substitute your own adjectives and the list becomes endless.

But what if something the grandchild does isn't a good thing? What then, you ask. Well, there's a correction for that too, a presuppositional stance that works to correct an error or fault. We simply treat that behavior as an anomaly, something foreign to the individual.

So, second, there are "beneath you" statements. We see our grandchild being selfish or combative for no good reason, and we say to him/her: "That kind of behavior is beneath you." And if the child is young, too young to deal with words like 'behavior,' then we say it more directly, "What in the world just happened? That just isn't like you."

By the way, there are also more complex ways of achieving the same aim, some of which especially work magic on teenagers. Let's suppose you have a teen grandchild (or child in your house) who acts ouchy or grumpy most of the time, a 'land mine' ready to go off at every little provocation. Even here, you have good choices.

For instance, you can treat that behavior as a phase or passing fad the individual is going through. You can actually say to them, "That won't last long," or "I guess this is just something you'll be outgrowing." And if you link your comment to their age, it becomes even more powerful. We know parents whose 13 year-old daughter would get angry at the 'drop of a hat,' burst into tears, run off to her room and slam the door.

One day the girl snapped at her mother about something and the mother said to her, "Sally (not her real name), how old are you?" She grumped, "Thirteen," and the mother said, "Oh, now I understand." The girl snarled, "What?" The mother asked, "When's your birthday again?" Now totally confused and angry, the girl growled, "You know. It's March 23rd. Why?"

The mother just smiled. "Of course, how stupid of me. Now I understand. Thirteen-year-old girls are usually grumpy and out of sorts, but that's just a phase. By the time they turn fourteen all that changes and it's only two months until you turn fourteen." The mother smiled again. "And knowing how smart you are, that change might happen even sooner."

The daughter stormed off to her room, true to form. Two days later the parents were at breakfast and heard their daughter in the bathroom. A while later the girl came out, dressed for school, make-up perfectly in place, sat down at the table and said, "Good morning, everybody" and started to eat. The parents looked at each other with the same impish happy thought: "Who is this person, anyway?"

Using "that is" statements as well as "beneath" and "isn't like you" comments offer you several more good options to influence your grandchildren (and others) for the better.

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