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When Children “Can’t Do It” (And How To Help)


“Don’t be afraid to try” and “Keep trying, don’t give up” are directives we hope our children will internalize. Self-initiative, gumption, resilience, tenacity and perseverance are character traits most of us wish to foster. So it can be disconcerting when our children seem to quit rather than stay on task, or worse, appear to have a defeatist attitude and refuse to even try.

Here are the most common reasons young children say “I can’t do it” and what we can do to help:

1. External pressure

Causes: Our own agendas, misunderstanding our role or our child’s developmental readiness.

Children most commonly adopt an “I can’t” attitude because they have routinely felt pressured to perform beyond their ability and/or counter to their own interests. Since young children are especially sensitive to the underlying messages in our actions, this pressure is often completely unintentional on the part of the parent.

The Sliver, or How to stop fighting about screen time

by Lori Pickert 


Parents want something better for their kids than TV, movies, and video games — they want their lives to be full of better-quality activities, like playing outdoors, reading, playing, and building. Many parents approach the subject of screen time — or other kid activities they don’t like, like reading comic books — by placing a strong limit on it. They say to their child, “We want our lives to be lovely and full of all the good things, so we are cramming all the stuff you love that we don’t like into this sliver.”


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3 Words That Reframe, “How Was Your Day?”

By Deborah Farmer Kris

“Did anyone have an oops today?” asked my four-year-old son at the dinner table last night.

“Oh, I did!” replied his six-year-old sister. “I left my Patriots hat on the bus in the morning. But my oops is also my yay because the bus driver found it and gave it to me in the afternoon!”

“I had a blah today, Mommy,” my son told me later. “I had an accident at school. I just didn’t want to stop playing and use the potty! Did you have a blah, too?”

Yay!  Oops…Blah.

These three words have changed the after-school conversation in our house.

It began with sharing a daily oops. One day last spring, my daughter burst into tears when she got in the car. She had misunderstood the directions on an art project. “I ruined it!” she wailed. It wasn’t the first time she had come home upset about a mistake or misunderstanding. Her amazing teachers and I both talked to her about how mistakes are part of how we learn and grow!

She wasn’t buying it.

So I made her a deal. Every afternoon, we would each share one mistake we had made that day.  And then we would give each other a high-five! That caught her attention — it seemed silly to cheer mistakes, but it also sounded like fun.

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