Unfamiliar – Everyone has a handbook you’d better follow

Everyone has a handbook and if you break the rules of the handbook in dealing with that person, your relationship with that person will run smoothly. Even if your way of doing things is still very logical from your point of view. It is better to familiarize yourself with the booklet and act on it, then living with this person will be much easier.

With nine grandchildren, you see all those differences in personalities very clearly. But knowing what’s in the handbook and how to best handle it can be a difficult task.

I come one evening every two weeks for two of my granddaughters. The eldest—now seven years old—has a certain quality that I also recognize in myself: lofty heights and deep valleys. She is a very enthusiastic and daring lady who takes everything and everyone in her place and puts everything in order, as small as she is. But she can also shoot in the minor key and then the drama is immeasurable. Then the entire residential area is roaring together.

Now kids never like it when they have to sleep and try all kinds of tricks to buy time. But in this case, a pattern developed that went from bad to worse. She once jumped out of bed and ran downstairs in her pajamas, across the house, across the backyard to cling to her mother, who was standing, bicycle in hand, ready to leave.

It happened recently that, while brushing her teeth, she hung on her mother’s leg, shrieking and shrieking like a koala bear, who warned her: But you know I leave heh. This negative mood also spread to the younger of the two, such that we were left with two howler monkeys. The only way out of this situation was for my mother to disappear. I had to hold and comfort the eldest long enough to make sure my mother was away from home. Then I left her. She ran away and returned after a while, embarrassed to find that Ma was already gone. She looked at me a little apologetically.

I calmed the little girl down and put her to bed. I said: will you lie down too, girl, then I will come to you in a little while. And that was fine.

As long as the mother was in the picture, there was drama. Once she left, it was over. I just had to have a good conversation.

I said: I fell into a pattern that no one likes. Not you, not she, not the youngest, not me. There is no standard solution for such a thing, because I haven’t tried this before. But you just have to experiment by responding to it in a completely different way to see if you can avoid this outcome.

If I have any ideas how. I suggested that perhaps we could let her decide for herself when Mom would leave. We’ve also been through huge plays at the dentist where she said beforehand she’d be great, but went completely crazy when push came to shove. Then she had to go to a private institute where they prepared her for actual treatment in constructive sessions. Again, a tooth almost fell out due to a replacement, and no one with the best will in the world was ever allowed to get there. When her mother said: Then you have to do it yourself, she took it out without a sound!

So the next time at the dinner table I suggested to the mother: Shall we rehearse today?

How about some practice, the lady in question asked with great curiosity. With a look of understanding I got, I thought, OK, let’s do this.

I calmly explained to her how the drama went last time and that it wasn’t really flattering for anyone. And that the younger one will turn over. That mom would really like to say goodbye without attitudes. And we understand that she finds it upsetting to leave. And at seven she’s actually old enough to be able to do that. So maybe we can practice mom leaving and do it in a way like mom and dad saying goodbye.

Oh yeah, that was good. Mama said goodbye, she left. Nothing wrong.

A few days later when I was there again, I started with: Elder, I’m so proud of you.

She said I know what you mean!!

Today mummy is leaving again, i continued, you did well last time, maybe we can do it again today?

Well no problem and the amazing thing is that it hasn’t been an issue since then.

Wow, that was a lot easier than I thought. Showing her that telling her ahead of time and giving her choice and therefore responsibility for her behavior is key.

But the biggest change happened with her mother. Instead of breaking the rules of her daughter’s handbook and making things worse, she now follows the handbook. This makes life much easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

So, I had to take that out.

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This (unsalted) opinion is from Peter Scheele. He studied electrical engineering at TUE and theology at the Bible School in Heverley. He presented TV shows for EO in the 1990s, and has published books on evangelism, evolution, and more recently on Revelation, Hosea, and Zechariah. He has been married for 23 years, divorced for 16, has three married children, and is now the proud grandfather of nine grandchildren.

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