“Yes, I am.”
It was a statement that brought a cackle from both my husband and me at the dinner table. In the course of conversation, our 3-year-old had done something that prompted me to say, “You are SO smart.” Then, in agreement… “Yes, I am.”
Of course, anything that produces a laugh from Mommy and Daddy must be repeated. So, a moment later I got the request, “Say I’m so smart again.” With my cheerful compliance came another “Yes, I am,” this time accompanied by much giggling from everyone.
One thing I’ve learned about 3-year-old speech is that it matches up very closely with the heart. Three-year-olds haven’t yet learned to choose their words carefully, to monitor their phrases to fit the circumstance, to “spin” their opinion based on the situation, or to distance the spoken word from their true thoughts and feelings. When I listen to my 3-year-old, I know that I’m getting exactly what he’s thinking, what is most important to him at a given moment.
I’ve also learned that whatever I say in my 3-year-old’s hearing — just in the course of conversation or in specific attempts to teach him — will probably eventually come right back at me. And, in true 3-year-old fashion, I know that I’m getting back an honest picture of how he’s interpreted my words.
That’s why I enjoyed hearing the “yes, I am” — twice. There was no overblown pride with the statement, no bravado. It came out as just a statement of fact. It told me that he believed he was smart. And, it reminded me just how important kind and positive praise can be for my children, how powerful it can be in giving confidence and setting right the assumptions they learn about themselves.
He had been told he was smart, and he believed it.
A precious understanding for a 3-year-old heart.
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” (proverbs 25:11)
Our world sometimes offers an overwhelmingly out-of-balance negative message — one that strips and diminishes. Even in our home, it is so easy for praise to be out-weighed by the speech of stress, worry, exhaustion, busy-ness, annoyance, or correction.
“Yes, I am.”
A powerful reminder that it costs me nothing to say it more.
You are smart.
You are precious.
You are sweet.
You are strong.
You can jump high.
You can run fast.
You are growing.
You are kind.
You can share.
You did a good job.
I’m glad I have you.
I love you.
The tiny messages God continues to include with our gifts — 2 little boys and the anticipation of 1 little girl, each with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and much to teach. “Behold children are a gift of the Lord…” (psalm 127:1)