It’s not only children that fall back on “I can’t do it!”
It’s not only children that want to give up when things don’t look easy.
And, it’s not only children who find it unhelpful to be on the receiving end of a righteous sermon insisting “you really can do this – it’s not hard”.
We can all relate.
But as counter-intuitive as it may seem, part of encouraging independence in our child is to allow them to think that they can’t do something - that sets a benchmark by which their future feelings of satisfaction, confidence and self-esteem can be measured as they strive towards, and conquer, their ‘insurmountable’ tasks.
It’s OK if our child feels something is too hard.
Our toddlers and young children are growing, developing, and changing every day. They’re experiencing and learning a lot, and at that age they can get tired and overwhelmed easily. They’re dealing with really big emotions and they’re working on mastering tasks that they see us complete every day. So, of course they are going to say they can’t…
and of course they want to give up …
and of course they want us to do it for them.
And that’s OK.
But letting them off the hook (and doing those ‘insurmountable’ things for them) is not going to help them become independent.
How can we can help them without doing that?
- encourage our child to feel good about what they can do (not what they can’t)
- ask them to “give it three tries” before we help
- add an element of fun or play
- make it easy to succeed (if the shoes keep going on the wrong foot, put a dot on the inside of each shoe so they can match it)
- give choices rather than directions (“Would you like to put away your books or your toys?”)
We really mustn’t:
- criticise, judge or ‘correct’ their efforts (children at this age really do want to please us and if we always rework their attempts they have every right to give up!)
We have to be willing to let our child make mistakes as they learn their independence.
And, if we still get a lot of resistance we may need to take a step back. Our child may need some more one-on-one time with us until their natural desire to be independent takes over again.