There are men, not many, who after ignoring everyone's advice to quit smoking, including their doctor's, will suddenly quit smoking cigarettes at the behest of their own child or grandchild. Admittedly, they are few, but it happens. I shared a post some months ago about a man whose granddaughter asked him to stop and he put them down the next morning. While he had been unreceptive to the urgings of his wife, doctor, and others, for years he was yet vulnerable to the plea and begging of a child who had not yet learned her multiplication tables.
What's the granddaughter's advantage?
The story and others like it goes like something like this. In elementary school the grandchild is taught with her other classmates during their health education class that smoking cigarettes is bad, and that tobacco is a poison to the body and makes people sick and they can sometimes die from it. At her next visit when she sees grandpa light up she approaches him (perhaps sitting in his lap) and with big eyes and a heavy dose of innocence shares her new information with him pleading that he not smoke that poison because she loves him and doesn't want him to die. She tells him she wants him to be (around) able to come to her dance recital and school play and many other things; that she doesn't want him to get sick or die. Next morning the dude is a registered reformed smoker.
The effect a grandchild has, in this way, on a parent or grandparent who smokes is truly interesting. The first time I heard someone share this I was initially in disbelief but then became convinced after they persisted in their sharing. Plus, there've been others to share as well.
Men, fathers and grandfathers, seem to be more affected. I can't ever recall this happening to a mother or grandmother. I'm sure it does, but I just can't recall it if it ever has.
But what is the psychology behind the success of this interesting phenomenon? Not all fathers or grandfathers I'm sure stop smoking when begged or probed by the big eyes of a doting child. And it's not only because of meanness. And I would also surmise that it doesn't really happen that often. I may be wrong.
But like many things in medicine and health, what clicks for some does not click for others. What is it that goes on in the mind of some particular men, perhaps a special man, but not others, that moves a man to break an addictive behavior from which he couldn't be coaxed to break before with the use of reason, common sense, and scientific facts? Or what is it about the special exchange between the child's plea and the grown man that brings about this good result?
Yes, I realize this is something that probably doesn't occur often, not often enough to matter in the general scheme of things. Or so it seems. But perhaps if what makes it work could be applied to other things, like adult relationships, then perhaps there's value in learning why it works. Is it not a noble pursuit to change or help others to change unhealthy behaviors?
In thinking about the psychology of what is at the root of this response one thinks of the obvious: he quit smoking because he loves his granddaughter. But this really doesn't explain it because grandpa has always known she's loved him. Rather, it seems to be in her telling him so -- and him hearing it.
Perhaps too it's because some men are vulnerable or needful in hearing it said to them that their life has meaning for the one who is telling them so; that their life is worthy, has value, and that it is their wish that it not be shortened any sooner than necessary because it has meaning for them.
To the guy reading, have you ever heard your wife or girlfriend ask you why you never tell her you love her? And you say something like yes, of course, you know I love you. And she comes back with then why don't you ever say it? And, turning to face her, you say because you know I love you; I don't have to say it, you already know it. And she says but you know, it's always nice to hear you say it.
I think this is what is clicking with the grandfather who heeds his granddaughter's pleas to stop putting poison in his body so he can come see her dance and sing in the school play. Or to come see her play soccer. Or to come see her get the award. Or to even be around to see her get married.
Perhaps for many, it may not be important or as important as many people feel it is. But to the man or woman who yearns to further a friendship, or a special friendship like marriage, this may be the one thing that if done at frequent intervals might be the salve that heals marital scrapes, or the tie that keeps couples in the same wagon. Just maybe.
Because if a 6 year old can bring about such dramatic change in a grown man who's been addicted to tobacco for 20 years, just think of how much more enriching and enduring effects it might have on not only your own relationship, but the one who is close to you -- the one who really matters.
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"I'll never feel comfortable taking a strong drink, and I'll never feel easy smoking a cigarette. I just don't think those things are right for me."