Powers of Persuasion—by Jamie Levine

Last year, after her initial enthusiasm for the activity waned, Jayda dropped out of her gymnastics class. The fact that I’d paid in full for the entire semester and, consequently, was going to be out several hundreds of dollars didn’t sway Jayda—she simply refused to go back. But fortunately, after a summer of unsuccessfully trying to do cartwheels in our backyard, Jayda grudgingly agreed to try the class again in September. And after being assigned a male coach whom she completely adored, Jayda agreed to re-join for a semester (and make use of the class credit onto which I’d been holding).

A few weeks ago, after enjoying months of classes, Jayda became fixated on owning a “sparkly purple” leotard to perform in, and my mother indulged her and purchased one. Jayda was ecstatic when she received the outfit, and insisted on wearing it to her next class. Strutting around with her small, round belly protruding from the spandex, Jayda was a picture of confidence, and I asked her, “Are you going to do better cartwheels in that outfit?” With no hesitation, she replied, “Yes!” and even informed her coach of her intentions. He grinned and agreed that she would definitely perform better now that she had proper gymnastics atire. And wouldn’t you know it—that day, Jayda took more risks, worked harder than ever, and performed the best she had all semester. Her “magical” leotard gave her the confidence she needed to succeed. And because of Jayda’s actions, I decided to fulfill her most recent request, too.

Jayda accompanies me to the gym on weekends and school vacations, and watches me get ready in the locker room before I take her to the facility’s daycare center. Because I have tendonitis in my ankles, but am zealous about performing long bouts of cardio, I often wrap my ankles with ace bandages. As far as Jayda knows, these wraps help me run better, so lately, she’s been begging me for a pair of her own. This weekend, I finally relented and let her select her very own bandage during our afternoon trip to CVS. Then, despite the frigid cold and snow-covered ground, I sat outside the store with her and showed her how to use it. As soon as Jayda’s ankle was completely wrapped, she zipped up her UGG boots and showed me how fast she could run…and run…and run. The bandage worked! When I finally dragged Jayda back into our car, she told me she couldn’t wait until she’s old enough go to the gym with me and run there…

My daughter has a lot of confidence, and I’m grateful for that. But even the most confident of us need something to give us a boost every now and then—be it pep talk, or in Jayda’s case, a harmless placebo. At different points in our lives, we all need something—or someone—to make us believe we can do things we never thought possible. And if my simple efforts are going to encourage my kid to run faster or work harder, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.