I’ve Been Tricked By My Four Year Old

For a reason I’ll never understand, Cordy likes to make people think she’s incapable of doing anything. Ask her to lift something? She’ll strain and grunt and exclaim, “It’s soooooo heavy!” when five minutes before I watched her lift something three times as heavy without any effort. Ask her to count to 10? “I don’t know how” she’ll say even though she was counting to 30 earlier in the day. Ask her to kick a ball and she’ll make a large effort and miss the ball, falling to the ground in defeat, even though she’s an expert at kicking our soccer ball into the net.

Anytime she’s asked to perform on cue, it seems that she suddenly forgets how to do whatever it is you ask her to. This can be a real pain, especially when it comes to cleaning up her toys.

Every Wednesday I volunteer in Cordy’s preschool classroom. I like to help out her teacher, and it gives me a chance to see what Cordy’s doing at school, too. Recently they’ve had a student teacher helping out, and a few weeks ago she asked if she could do a full evaluation on Cordy to gain the practice she needs at this task. I agreed, but warned her that Cordy often likes to underperform.

As expected, Cordy tried to underperform on the first part of the evaluation. When asked if she knew her own name, she sighed “I don’t know” and continued the chain of “I don’t know’s” through the first several questions. Her preschool teacher, a woman Cordy respects, overheard this and sharply told her, “Cordy, you know your name! Answer the questions, you turkey.” At that point Cordy began to answer properly.

This week, the student teacher needed to do the other half of the evaluation, and this time she brought in candy as a reward. For each section Cordy completed, she was given a piece of candy. I watched her evaluation out of the corner of my eye while I helped the other kids with their art projects, wondering if the reward would convince Cordy to cooperate. From what I could tell she was answering most of the questions and doing what she was asked to do.

After I cleaned up, I wandered over to the corner of the room and stood out of Cordy’s sight to watch the remainder of the evaluation. At this point the student was showing Cordy a page words – all of them the names of colors, but all of them in black lettering, so there was no clue to the color name written. She asked Cordy to read each color’s name, and I immediately thought, Wow, she’s doing stuff way over Cordy’s head now…

Imagine my surprise when Cordy looked at the words and started naming them: “Red. Blue. Green. W…w..white. Bl…black. Pink. Yellow.” After naming nearly every color without any help, the page was turned and another page of words greeted her – each was a number spelled out, and they weren’t in order. Cordy got one without any problem, but then stumbled on the next one, because she expected two. She was getting tired and losing focus at this point, but she did manage to name about a third of the numbers with a little help.

Afterwards, I walked over to Cordy’s teacher and said, “I had no idea Cordy could read the names of colors! When did you teach her that?”

Her teacher also looked surprised and said, “We’ve never taught that yet, so she didn’t learn it from me.” We both laughed. “You know,” she added, “I think Cordy can read all of the days of the week, too. I’ve seen her looking at them and pointing to each one as she says the word. She knows a lot more than she lets on.”

The teacher’s aide overheard us, and said, “Just yesterday she read a word on another kid’s shirt. She pointed to his shirt and said ‘trouble’, which was the word written on his shirt.”

Apparently my daughter is starting to read and hasn’t bothered to tell anyone yet. We read books together every day, and I always point to words and ask her what they are, but she never knows. Why she would choose to be so secretive about this skill is a mystery to me, but she proved today that she can read several words, and she is pretty good at sounding out words she doesn’t know, also. The student teacher said she did great on all of the exercises – she’s a smart kid.

Now I wonder what else she knows that she’s holding back from telling us?

And I thought she was just looking at the pictures…
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  1. That’s so funny. Kids are often smarter than we give them credit for. I didn’t realize how well my daughter was reading too until she started reading my emails out loud as I typed, while peeking from behind my shoulders.

    Doen’t it get you when they wont perform on demand. I get frustrated with Tatum but I guess I shouldn’t I would want to be the monkey either – haha

  3. 3carnations says:

    My 4 year old knows lots of words now, too. We’ve even started “sounding out” words. When you read to her, stop at some words and ask her if she knows them. If she doesn’t, help her sound them out. Hop on Pop is a great book for that, because most of the words in it are based on a few basic sounds.

  4. Thomas does that trickster thing too! And he just started reading some words lately…it seems to happen really fast. It’s funny, I just blogged about the reading thing yesterday!
    She’s doing great, Mama!

  5. You’ve got to be proud of your sneaky little bugger!

  6. So funny. Yea kids are sneaky and smarter than we think! Recently my kids gave me a gorgeous pair of diamond earrings from http://www.idonowidont.com that they helped pick out. My hubby asked them to pick the earrings they liked the best, they can read now so helped choose the gift. So sneaky and adorable!

  7. My younger one did that, too. It’s kind of weird, because he’s THAT kid in his grade, and he was already starting to feel a bit self conscious about it even in preschool.

  8. Anissa Mayhew says:

    You’d better check under her shirt for her superhero costume because she could full on be living an alter ego life where she fights crime and reads novels!

  9. That is hilarious. Isn’t it just completely amazing to watch your kid do something you didn’t know they knew? It’s just the best feeling ever.

  10. How wonderful for Cordy! Even if she was keeping it a secret that little devil. It’s a great thing to know now.

  11. That’s great!!! I think it’s pretty common for kids on the spectrum to teach themselves how to read since they have such great memories. My son, Ethan, loves to pull the “I don’t know” thing, too.

  12. Maureen @ Wisconsin Mommy says:

    How nice to get that kind of a surprise! They are such sponges at this age.

  13. So, she is a reward kid, eh? If you really want to find out what she knows, follow that student teacher’s method. You do this, you get this. You do this, you get this. I’ll bet you she can actually read WAY more than she’s letting on. And recognizing sight words without anyone working with her? Amazing. I’ll bet if you presented her with a book that had pictures and all new sentences, she could get the basic gist of the sentences properly. Which is, by all accounts, READING.


    Justin was an early reader, too. It definitely felt like a reward for his other difficult behaviors, you know? Brag on and lay on the praise for her. Having something she excels in is fabulous for her self-esteem.

  14. Maureen @ Wisconsin Mommy says:

    You’ve been ghosted – come over and grab a puking pumpkin :)

  15. Your Cory sounds a lot like my middle child. She didn’t want anyone to know that she could before she had perfected something. School came much to easily to her so for a challenge I put her in piano at the tender age of 5. She too lessons through high school, but was never intersted in pursuing it further. Be sure your Cory gets in a gifted program. It is ones like her that are sometimes overlooked for such programs because they aren’t flamboyant about what they know. And way to go mom for being a voluteer at school. Thanks

  16. Go Cordy!!
    My oldest also has that “only does things when he wants to and can’t do it when asked” thing going on.

  17. Funny little girl. I bet she likes to be read to. Some kids think that if they can read then no one will read to them again. Perhaps you could choose two books at bedtime/reading time: one for her to read to you and one for you to read to her. My oldest liked this plan. My 10 yo still likes to be read to…we are reading Little Women. I read part, then my 10 yo reads part, then my 12 yo drops in….I think we all like reading to each other. The book is long, so we will likely not finish it, but it is fun nonetheless.

  18. Wow, that’s one smart kiddo!

  19. This is so awesome, Christina! Cordy is amazing. I honestly don’t know if Dawson knows any words. I’ve tried to get him to spell his name and he acts like it’s going to kill him.

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