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-   -   5 year old defeating himself with "can't" (http://www.mothering.com/forum/65-childhood-years/1370348-5-year-old-defeating-himself-can-t.html)

Catholic Mama 12-16-2012 10:57 AM

Please help! My 5-year-old continually defeats himself by telling himself and others that he "can't" do whatever he was previously trying to do - be it zip up his coat, make something with modeling clay, tie his shoes, read a word, etc. I tell him, "If you think you can, you will. If you think you can't, you won't." but either he doesn't understand or he isn't convinced. It is so frustrating to see him choose to be helpless and start to cry instead of continue to try. Thanks to anyone who can offer wise words of advice!


woodchick 12-16-2012 12:21 PM

DD1, 6yo, has a tendency to do this as well.  We've made some strides by saying "Nope. You couldn't do it this time, but next time you can give it a try again."

 

I feel like it validates her feelings (that she can't do it) because at the moment they are true, but it leaves the door open for success next time.


pek64 12-16-2012 12:43 PM

Take a step back. "Can't" is not stopping him, because the subconscious does not understand "not" or "try". What he is doing is saying, in a slightly backwards way, "someone else do this". Maybe he believes someone can do it better or faster. Maybe he feels pushed, eithet aside or ahead. If he's feeling pushed aside, he probably wants to feel important enough to get the help. If he's feeling pushed ahead, he most likely is feeling frustrated.

Most kids in my experience cannot tie shoes until 6 or 7. Maybe you can get hom velcro shoes in the meantime, or just tie his shoes. If you tell him everytime he puts his shoes on "I'll tie these today", you may be surprised by a "I want to try" response.

I would back off the reading, too. This is a life skill, with no real advantage to early mastery. Let him read what he's ready to read. At least for a few months.

Zipping the coat. Get it started for him. Then he can pull it up. Some day, when you can calmly and patiently work with him, see if he'll try to start it himself. No pressure to get out the door associated with the exercise, however.

I just asked my son his memories of the early years. He remembers zipping his coat being my job, and he'd feel annoyed having to wait for me to do it. So one day he did it himself. Seeing him zipped, I said we could go. That was it. No pushing. And it worked. How old? Neither of us remembers. It's not important when going forward in life.

Mummoth 12-17-2012 09:35 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

Take a step back. "Can't" is not stopping him, because the subconscious does not understand "not" or "try". What he is doing is saying, in a slightly backwards way, "someone else do this". Maybe he believes someone can do it better or faster. Maybe he feels pushed, eithet aside or ahead. If he's feeling pushed aside, he probably wants to feel important enough to get the help. If he's feeling pushed ahead, he most likely is feeling frustrated.
Most kids in my experience cannot tie shoes until 6 or 7. Maybe you can get hom velcro shoes in the meantime, or just tie his shoes. If you tell him everytime he puts his shoes on "I'll tie these today", you may be surprised by a "I want to try" response.
I would back off the reading, too. This is a life skill, with no real advantage to early mastery. Let him read what he's ready to read. At least for a few months.
Zipping the coat. Get it started for him. Then he can pull it up. Some day, when you can calmly and patiently work with him, see if he'll try to start it himself. No pressure to get out the door associated with the exercise, however.
I just asked my son his memories of the early years. He remembers zipping his coat being my job, and he'd feel annoyed having to wait for me to do it. So one day he did it himself. Seeing him zipped, I said we could go. That was it. No pushing. And it worked. How old? Neither of us remembers. It's not important when going forward in life.

 

This sounds good to me. Try and find the middle ground between him doing the whole job himself or you doing the whole job for him. Like maybe you tie his shoes but show him how you can adjust the strings tighten up the knot or pull the loops to make the strings shorter. 

 

For the modeling clay, you could bring out another kitchen tool and just redirect him from what was frustrating him. Maybe instead of trying to build an animal, he makes a pizza and slices it up.

 

What about telling him you want him to try his best for 2 minutes, and then you will help. that way he gets some practise on his own, but he's not going to get so frustrated that he's crying. He might be saying "I can't" because he's trying to avoid the frustration if it's hard for him.


meemee 12-18-2012 07:42 AM

5 is a huge age for them, esp. if they started school.

 

i remember my dd doing this. in her language it meant - mom will you still love me even if i cant do things. her world at that time was filled with confusion. she so wanted to be a grown up as well as a baby too. will mommy still love me even when i fail? even when i change. 

 

so i'd joke and i'd make flamboyant movments and say 'oh sweetheart let me do that for you. oh my baby you need help. mommy is always there for you when i can. oh baby. and i'd talk gibberish i love you language and do it and she'd lap it all up. mind you i parented using pantomime so dd is used to silliness. however there were times i was genuinely busy with something. and i'd say i cant really help you right now. can you try extra hard or you will have to wait. 

 

its a phase. the moment he works it out in his mind, he'll be out of it. 


Catholic Mama 12-19-2012 07:55 AM

Thank you for your advice everyone. I like woodchick's "Nope. You couldn't do it this time, but next time you can give it a try again" idea, and I agree with pek64 that he wants someone else to do it for him. Unlike many other children, he does not seem to like to be independent.

 

I don't think I can get him Velcro shoes for school, because they are uniform shoes, so if it's true that most children don't tie until 6 or 7 then I'll try to stop complaining about tying his shoes.

 

He's already on reading lesson 80 out of 100, and his kindergarten teacher told me he always does a great job when they review their letters in school, so I'm going to continue doing the lessons, but at his pace, not mine.

 

I will try to remember to start it for him and then let him pull up the zipper next time it's cold enough for him to need a coat. (we're still sort of waiting for it to get cold during the day here in Florida)

 

Mummoth, I might try telling him I want him to try his best for 2 minutes...I'm just afraid that he will continue to fuss instead of trying (or keep asking me when the time is up).

 

 

All of this is why I like to read him the story of the Little Engine that Could! "I think I can, I think I can..."


tbone_kneegrabber 12-19-2012 08:11 AM

Ds is 5 and he had never put on his own socks until about a week ago. He just hadnt. He had used a sharp knife and cooked at the stove. He rides a two wheeler and never used training wheels. But the kid couldn't put on socks!

I realized a lot of it was making sure we would still do things for him. That he felt loved and supported when we helped him. That was something he really needs.

Ds has been a tad reluctant to learn to read. And dp and I think it has to do with being afraid that once he can read independently we won't read to him anymore. So we've tried to be very open with him that we will read to him as long as he wants us to. In fact dp reads to me at night so hopefully that will clear up some of the nervousness.

Also if he spends a lot of time with a peer who is particularly good at things then he is way more reluctant. He has a friend that is an amazing artist. She draws these crazy good pictures. So ds would not draw because he knew that his drawing would not be as good. Now that they live in different states and only see each other occasionally instead d multiple times a week ds draws again. (Not that I would have cut off a friendship that was beautiful and healthy just because ds wouldn't draw)


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