There are two types of toddlers. The “I do it myself!” toddler and the “I can’t do it!” toddler. Some kids evolve and develop a new go get ‘em attitude as they get older, but some kids don’t.
If you have an “I can’t do it!” kid you are probably having some daily struggles. Getting dressed, doing homework and cleaning up can be major challenges.
But don’t worry, it’s never too late to teach kids that yes, they can do it – and no, they don’t need your help. Here are a few tricks to get the ball rolling.
Stop rescuing your kids.
It is tempting to jump in and rescue your kids when you see them struggling. Unfortunately, this can exacerbate the “I can’t do it” attitude. When you help, you are inadvertently conveying to your kids that you agree they can’t do it.
Instead, walk them through it. Say things like, “Clean up all your clothes first and then I will tell you what to do next.” Teach them one step at a time. When teaching things like tying shoes, let them master one step before moving on to the next. Kids learn best with hands-on practice, so be sure to give them an opportunity to do it themselves.
Even if you help, let them do the last step.
There will be times when your kids just can’t do it. Younger kids might struggle with getting their arms through their shirt or completely tying their shoes. Older kids might struggle with school projects or a very messy room. It is not helpful to let your kids sink into despair. If you think they are not going to get it, help them – but back away right before they complete the task. It is crucial to let kids feel the success of completing the task independently even if it is just the last step.
Reframe their negative thinking after an accomplishment.
Once your kids have done a task or activity be sure to reframe their negative thinking. You can say something like, “See! You thought you couldn’t do it, but you could. You stuck with it and you didn’t give up!” Reframing their “I can’t do it” attitude will help them internalize their successes and will slowly chip away at their negativity.
Let them be the family expert.
You want to slowly empower your kids. What are their skills and talents? Highlight their strengths and make them your family expert. You can say things like, “I don’t know, you should ask your brother, he knows the most about animals.” Or “Ask your sister to help you, she is great at organizing things.”
Highlighting what your kids are good at will help them adopt a positive self-image and will help discourage the “I can’t do it” mentality.
Having kids who constantly feel like they can’t do things can be draining for them and for you. Although these tips aren’t going to change your kids overnight, using these approaches consistently will slowly start to alter your children’s “I can’t do it” belief.