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Entertaining flies for lunch: The consequences of our words

Updated: Nov 9, 2019

Bzzz, bzzz, bzzz. The fly flitted around the dining room chairs, looking for a place to land. Bzzz, bzzz. It finally settled on the wall next to a window overlooking the backyard.

“Can I catch it, Mommy?” my four-year-old daughter asked.

Several things buzzed through my head in a split second:

  • the odds against a capable adult being able to catch a fly, given its propensity to flee at the slightest movement

  • the even greater odds against a toddler successfully catching the insect, given her slower reaction time

  • the power of my words.

“Of course you can,” I answered. And she did. In the blink of an eye, that fly was trapped in her cupped little hands. What a surprise!

After that, Autumn considered flies her personal friends. Whenever one landed on the table during lunch, she’d talk to it, invite it to come closer, and push crumbs toward it so her “friend” could enjoy the meal, too. I told my husband we were the only ones in the neighborhood who entertained flies as house guests rather than treating them as house pests.

This lasted for months, until Autumn heard the song, “Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me.” She took the words to heart and commenced waving her hands at any fly she saw, saying, “Shoo fly! Don’t bother me. Go away.”

I’ve thought back on how things would have turned out if I had shot down her hope of catching that first fly. What would have happened if I had spouted some logical reason as to why she couldn’t do it? We wouldn’t have entertained flies, for one. Autumn would have taken my negative words to heart and not completed her amazing feat. And she wouldn’t have befriended the tiny things.

Catching a fly is a small delight in the scope of life. Yet the principle I learned from the incident applies to many aspects of our lives.

Our job as parents is to build up, encourage, and support our kids at every stage. Homeschoolers have an even greater opportunity for this, since the parents and children spend much more time together. Our youngsters will encounter plenty of outside influences telling them they’re not good enough and they can’t do such-and-such. Conversely, we need to be their number one cheerleaders.

Don’t let doubt be the first words out of your mouth. Sometimes we need to set our own opinions aside and be careful not to inject ourselves into the situation. Be wary of translating your own thoughts of I don’t think I could do that or That sounds really difficult to “You can’t” or “It’s too big of a challenge, so don’t even try.” We need to encourage our kids to Go for it! even in the little things. Small successes have a way of stacking on top of each other and creating a foundation of confidence.

Maybe your child has voiced a future goal that seems impossibly out of reach. Your job isn’t to cut her down before she even gets there. Your job is to support her ideas, however ambitious they may be. When the time comes, your child may change her mind about pursuing that goal. Or she might hold it in her heart as a wonderful possibility, pursue it relentlessly, and surprise you by succeeding. Who knows—you may just have a budding Olympian or Nobel Peace Prize winner under your wing.

So think twice about the words you choose. They could prove to be the confidence builder your child needs to explore—and succeed—at something new.


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