10 Ways to Gently Respond When Children Say “I Can’t!”

by Rita Brhel on October 2, 2010

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Our son, Kieran, has been struggling with a bout of the “I cannot’s” lately.

“I cannot take my shirt off, you do it mama.”

“I cannot ride my scooter! I cannot!”

“I cannot glue the ribbon on.”

At first, I tried to isolate the problem:

Am I asking him to do too much? His “can’ts” are sometimes, but not always, in response to something I’ve asked him to do, so I don’t think they are the result of request overload or mere unwillingness. And they are usually in reference to a skill or activity that I know he can do, so they are not based on inability or even fear of failure.

Are the “can’ts” related to a mood or condition? I have not connected them to a time of day (i.e., when he is tired or hungry) or an emotional state (i.e., when he is upset). Nor do they appear to be a matter of disinterest.

Does he really think he can’t? The frequency of the phrase made me worry about his developing self-esteem. It is important to me and my husband to respond in a way that will acknowledge Kieran’s feelings as well as empower him, but we weren’t sure how to address the “can’ts.”

After researching, reading, and soliciting the advice of some wise mama friends, parenting blogger Dionna Ford came up with the following list of ideas parents may use to respond to a case of the “can’ts”…

http://theattachedfamily.com/membersonly/?p=2604

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Rita Brhel (105 Posts)

Rita Brhel is the Publications Coordinator for Attachment Parenting International and Editor of Attached Family magazine. She is also an API Resource Leader and a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor at Hastings, Nebraska, USA, where she lives with her husband and three children.


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