How to respond to your child when they say “I Can’t Do It” and then they do not try to do the task they need/want to be accomplished.
All children eventually come to the “I Can’t Do It” phase of their lives, and it’s a tough one to combat.
As a parent you want to encourage your child to finish their task, however you don’t want to push your child or turn the situation into a negative one.
So what are you supposed to do?!
Well, as any challaneging situation, step back from the situation and think about the problem.
Did your child take on a task that was just too challenging for the age?
Did you maybe give your child too challanging of a task to complete for their age?
Is your child perhaps needing a need met before he can tackle the challenge?
So many things to think about! But I promise, once you can pinpoint the actual issue, you can help your child overcome their challenge.
When your child Says ” I Can’t”
It’s definitely discouraging to hear your once confident and “I Can Do Anything!” child all of a sudden slip into the “I Can’t” mode.
I see this a lot with the school work being done at home while we are social distancing and cannot be in school.
I figure I’m not the only parent battling the “I Can’ts” right now, and I wanted to address how I am fighting this challenge.
I’ve read resources upon resources and put ideas together to help you best in these situations. I have also practiced these with my own children, and they work!
So take notes and apply them in your own home if this is a problem in your house right now.
Ways Parents Can Respond To The “I Can’t” Attitude
The most important thing to remember is that it is not your job to RESCUE your child when they CAN’T accomplish something.
If you jump in and rescue, they automatically understand that you agree with them and that they really can’t do the task.
Here are some things that you CAN do to help your child solve their challenges.
Offering assistance is not the same as rescuing your child from their challenge.
It is a good idea to ask your child if they need a hand with anything, or if there is anything you can do to make the task easier.
Do not do the task FOR your child, but you can help!
For example, if you have a toddler that just cannot seem to get his pants on and is getting super frustrated with himself, you can offer your assistance by laying out the pants on the floor the way they are supposed to go.
You can also encourage your toddler to put one foot in the first hole and the second foot in the second hole and then pull up!
Your older kids may struggle with doing homework.
You can assist your child by reading the homework task out loud and asking them if they understand the question.
You can also help brainstorm ideas for writing assignments and even suggest looking in the textbook to help understand a complicated math equation.
There are many ways you can assist your child without actually doing the work for them.
Give Extra Attention
When your little one is having some trouble and has the “I Can’t Do It” attitude, they need a little bit of extra attention from you.
Be sure to give lots of encouragement, followed by hugs and celebrations when appropriate.
Sometimes children feel defeated and less confident when they feel alone in a task, and they really need you for that moral support.
It is definitely ok to give your child extra attention when they need it, after all, they aren’t going to be little for long, and soon enough they won’t need you as much, so enjoy this time!
This goes hand in hand with extra attention. When your child is in the “I Can’t Do It” mode, they need you to be present with them to help them with their problem.
You can be right there for support, but make sure you let your child complete the task on their own or solve their problem themselves.
If you are present during the problem, you can be right there to help your child reframe their negative thoughts when the problem is all solved.
You can say something along the lines of, “Wow! You thought you couldn’t do it, but you could. You stuck with it, and you didn’t give up!“
What you are doing is reframing their “I Can’t Do It” attitude and helping them realize their success.
This will help wash away negativity.
Take A Break
Sometimes, kids need a break. I know I need breaks when things get tough!
If your child has been working on a task for quite a while on a mentally intense activity, even simple tasks can seem overwhelming.
Offer your child a break by asking them if they would like a snack, or to help you water the garden before they return to their task.
A fresh look at the problem after a break can help solve things pretty darn quickly.
Focus on the process and not the product, and your child will be less frustrated with himself.
When you focus on the final product rather than the time it took to get there, you can discourage your child from future projects, even if your comment doesn’t seem harmful to you.
For example my 6-year-old wrote a letter to his teacher as one of his assignments.
I looked at the work and said that’s really good, but your letters have been better than this before, this is a little messy, next time let’s try to make the letters better.
That didn’t sound super negative to me when I was saying it; however, my child is now not doing his writing work because he is not confident about his letters.
This is now a problem I have to fix because I focused on the product instead of the process and the effort.
Whew, this parenting stuff is HARD!
Reevaluate The Task
When your kiddo is having some hard times with their task, take a look at the whole picture and see if the job is perhaps too complicated, and it needs to be adjusted.
Perhaps your child hasn’t eaten in a while, and the task you asked him to do should have been done AFTER lunch instead of before.
MAYBE your little one didn’t get enough sleep the other night because you allowed video games in bed and didn’t know what time they fell asleep and waking them up at 8 am to do school work is just too much pressure for them.
By the way, if you’re having trouble getting your child off electronics, you NEED to read 3 Easy Parent Tested Ways To Limit Daily Screen Time –(And Get A Happier Kid, Too)
Step back and look at the big picture and see if there is anything that can be changed about the day or the task to make things easier.
Goof It Up
This is my husband’s go-to move with our children, and he is SO good at it; I’m a little jealous, in fact.
When my kids notoriously just “CANNOT” eat another bite of dinner (after taking all of 2 bites), my husband gets silly and makes the children laugh.
Once the kids are laughing, they forget about their lack of appetite and end up finishing every ounce of food on the plate.
It’s like a little magic that goes a long way. Laughter IS the best medicine, after all.
If your child is feeling stuck in the “I Can’t Do It” attitude, see if you can sit together and brainstorm solutions to the problem.
For example, when we were new to the schooling at the home process a month ago, my oldest really had a problem with it. He couldn’t do any school work; it was just too hard for him.
So we sat down and talked about what can make the situation better.
We came up with the fact that he needed a schedule.
He wanted to know what time math was and if reading came before or after writing.
When we figured out what time we were going to wake up and start school work and an order to the job, things become so much easier, and the ” I Can’t Do It” attitude disappeared.
You can do this too, just talk to your child and see if you can brainstorm some solutions together!
Turn Those “I Can’t Do It’s” Into Confidence and ” I Can Do Anything’s!”
With a few relatively simple steps, you can turn those “I Can’t Do It’s” into confident “I Can Do Anything’s.”
Remember not to rescue your little one, but encourage them to complete the task on their own with some help from you.
Be encouraging and focus on the process instead of the product. Please learn from my mistakes.
Remember to take breaks and get playful when things get really hard, and most of all are present and engaged in your child’s difficult situation so you can help them through their problem by offering solutions or brainstorming a fix together.