“Mom, do you think I can put both of my feet on this bar and hang upside down?” asked Luke this morning while we were at the park.
Now, this is a trick question. My instinct is to say, “Of course you can, honey! You can do anything you put your mind to. I believe in you!!” I’ve fallen into this trap before and that is the wrong answer. Luke wants to hear something like,
“No way. That is way too hard a trick for a 4 year old. It’s impossible. Don’t even try it.”
Then he grins, his eyes twinkle, and he gives me a “Watch this!!” Sure enough, he can scramble his way up the bar and hang upside down with ease and deftness. That’s when I feign absolute shock and amazement.
“Whoa! You did it!? I can hardly believe it! You’re only 4 years old and you can hang upside down?! Oh, I can’t wait to tell Dad. That was unbelievable!! I thought there was no way, but I was wrong!” (It’s this last admission he loves to swim in.) He smiled and giggled and did the trick again and again only to goad on my over-the-top response.
This happens daily, and not just with Luke. Kate likes to join in the fun too. For example,
“Mom, do you think this is a new straw out of the package, or a used one?’ she asked me today with a sly smile. (We used straws in our breakfast smoothies this morning.) Of course the correct answer is an old one that she has managed to wash until it sparkled like new, but that’s not the game she’s playing.
“A new one from the package, for sure. It’s sooooo clean. It just has to be new.” I answered resolutely.
“No! It’s a used one!!” she squealed very pleased with herself.
“Whoa! You’ve got to be kidding me!” I replied with wide eyes.
The examples are endless. Whether it’s a trick on the trampoline or a sounding out a difficult word, when my children call their own abilities into question, I know it’s counterintuitive, but the proper, self-esteem building response is a resounding,
“No way Jose!”