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I Can't Do It!
Photo: Peter Galbraith
If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase “I can’t do it” last weekend, I could buy a new car—or at least go out for a nice dinner!

I had just spent four days baby-sitting 4-1/2-year-old Johnny* while his parents traveled out of town. Within the first hour at our house I realized his “can’t do” attitude. He used the phrase liberally in reference to pulling a shirt over his head, hoisting up his underwear, picking up toys, clearing his plate from the table, looking for something in his suitcase, or slipping his untied shoes off his feet.

I claim no special expertise in child rearing, so I point no fingers at Johnny’s upbringing and make no assumptions as to the cause of his behavior. Nonetheless, during the course of the weekend, Johnny drove home to me one of my personal parenting beliefs: If a child is old enough and capable of performing a given task, then loving parenting encourages him or her to do it.

Kids are Capable

Kids are capable of much more than we give them credit for, whether in performing personal hygiene tasks or dressing themselves, picking up toys and clutter, making beds, or pitching in with chores around the house. Certainly youngsters need plenty of time for play and exploration and should not be expected to slave about the house all day. I merely suggest a few basic, age appropriate tasks that require a reasonable amount of time and foster a “can do” attitude within the child. Once enabled, children learn responsibility, consequences, a sense of teamwork and accomplishment, and increased independence and confidence.

The establishment of routines and responsibilities requires commitment on the part of parents. There’s no arguing that it is often faster to perform a task yourself rather than take the time to teach your child how to do it and then risk mistakes. The key is to remember that the long-term rewards of enabling children far outweigh the short-term inconveniences.

*not his real name

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By Hannah Henry. Copyright © 2008 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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