Admittedly sometimes I feel like That Mom when I talk about this... mostly when my coaching school, iPEC Coaching, will post something on facebook asking something along the lines of, "When was the last time you used X coaching skill?" and I'll chime in, "Yesterday, with my 4 year old!" But I did. Because it's awesome. I'm teaching my pre-K things that I've seen adults have a hard time figuring out; then again, adults have to re-learn and break existing thought habits, while my 4yo is just now forming those thought habits himself.
For example: We were at the park one day playing on the big-kid equipment after fattening up some of the geese nearby, and the pole. Oh, that pole. It was out to get him. He'd worked with Daddy the time before, learning how to reach out and grab it, then jump and wrap his legs around to slide down. It was scary, but with Daddy's help, he was brave and went down the pole by himself! Once. And then he remembered that it was scary, which is what carried over for him during this visit. The pole is scary. He was scared. I tried cheering him on but frankly, I'm not Daddy, and Mommy cheering never has quite the same effect as Daddy cheering (just like Daddy's bedtime songs aren't quite as good as Mommy's).
Several minutes were filled with a back-and-forth of "I'm too scared!" and "You can do it! Just count to three and jump!" before we finally decided that it was okay, we would try again next time.
As we started walking home, the 4yo was repeating to himself, "I was just too scared. That was so scary. The pole was too scary. I was really scared." So I told him, "Raiden, what you're doing right now is called psyching yourself out. Do you know what that means?" Of course he didn't. "Psyching yourself out means that you're telling yourself that it's scary so much that you're making it even scarier for yourself. The more you tell yourself 'it's too scary!' the more you'll believe it!" I think he said something along the lines of, "Oh." I went on, "But, did you know that you have the power to change your own thoughts?" "I do?" "Yes, you do! You can choose to stop saying it's too scary, and start saying that you can do it! Can you say, 'It'll be fun next time'?" If there were a way to articulate a whiny tone through text, I would do it, but since I can't particularly think of one, I will simply tell you that in a whiny tone and with a slouchy stance, my child did, in fact, repeat, "It'll be fun next time..."
Still, I cheered him on. "There you go! The more you say it the more you'll believe it! Can you say it again?" With a similar whine and slouch, he repeated, "It'll be fun next time..." I cheered him on some more, and after a dozen or so more times (because what four year old doesn't love to repeat himself and repeat himself and repeat himself and repeat himself and...), it became enthusiastic.
So the next time we went to the park, do you think he was able to go down the pole? Well, no. It was still scary. Because, let's face it, he's four, and that's a big jump for a 4yo. But he also did not stand there telling himself how scary it was. He tried, he just couldn't do it, and he told himself, "It'll be fun next time."
Since then, he has asked me a couple of times in similar situations, "Am I psyching myself out?" If I confirm that yes, he is (and comment that it was very big of him to recognize that), he'll stop and change his phrasing to how fun it might be next time. And that's way better than sliding down a pole.