I don’t buy into the modern parental trend of rewarding children for trivial things like, say, existing or choosing not to bite me in the arm. I love my children to death and I shower them with hugs and kisses every chance I get (when they’re not pushing me away and asking me to keep it cool), and I also privately think they are the most remarkable children in all of the Upper Midwest, and quite possibly, the entire NAFTA region. But I’m quite comfortable telling my two year-old son, in a loving way, when he’s made a mistake.

Photo by willem velthoven

Photo by willem velthoven

Initially, I was nervous about pointing out his mistakes in Spanish (“mistake” = using the wrong word or seriously mispronouncing it) because I feared this would erode his self-confidence and turn him off to the language.

But you can’t underestimate the power of silliness. So instead of being like my daddy, who could turn my dropping a pencil into evidence of my lacking a brain (yes, poor me!), or taking a more moderate, middle of the road approach (“Junior, your shall not pluralize the verb “haber” as it is indeed impersonal and not attributable to the sentence’s subject,”) I just go the silly route and roll around on the floor with him, tickling him, and turning the “here is what you said and here is what you really meant” into a game. I realize that this is a touchy kind of approach that should be used with caution (I don’t want to be passive-agressive), so I’m careful to let some mistakes go, but in general, Gabriel seems to utterly enjoy the process and in my non-scientific exploration of the results, it appears he does end up learning the correct words.

Obviously, this fun game can’t be applied to everything and I don’t expect to be rolling around with him on the grass, tickling him for crashing my car into the neighbor’s fence when he’s 17, but for this immediate, specific purpose, it works wonderfully.

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