3 yo DS says "I can't do it" constantly - Mothering Forums
 
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#1 of 11 Old 11-10-2007, 01:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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When I ask him to help me clean up a mess he has made (or alternately, state that he needs to help me clean it up), he says "No, I can't" and runs away.

When I put on his socks/shoes to get ready to go, and he takes them off because he wants to wear a pair of sandals that are too small, then returns to the socks/shoes and demands that I put them on again, and I ask/tell him he needs to put in some effort and put on at least one sock/shoe (he is capable but struggles with the task) He says, "I can't! I can't do it!"

Ask him to please take dishes to the kitchen counter. "I can't"

Suggest to him that he get off the stroller and walk for a while because I need a break from pushing him and DD (a total nearing 100 pounds): "I can't, I'm too tired," but he isn't 'too tired' to run around when we reach the destination.

I try to make stuff fun, which seems to help (today he used crayon on the sliding glass door, and he helped me clean it up because windex and paper towels are fun, picking up toys/food/playdough that he has thrown on the floor is boring....)

The main area I am hoping for insight on is how to teach him to do new things, such as putting on socks/shoes that he doesn't want to do because it's challenging. He cries and screams and won't even try properly. Then I offer to put on one sock, and have him to the other. Then I offer to put on one shoe and have him to the other.

Today he had the shoe on (I adjusted the tongue a little, otherwise he did fine) and he pitched a fit when I wouldn't close the velcro straps for him. After several minutes (Well, I will wait here in the car until you get your straps closed and get in) he closed one strap and sobbed that there was still a part all scratchy and bumpy that he could scratch his finger with.

So I get that this means he is a perfectionist and he doesn't want to do anything unless it is exactly right, but how do I cope with this and help him to learn to do difficult things without having fits about it????

Thanks in advance,
-dflanag2
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#2 of 11 Old 11-10-2007, 03:40 AM
 
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Sorry not to have much advice but I have a 3.5 ds and he is just starting to get out of this phase. I think it is a phase anyways - alot of the boys we know seem to go through an "I can't do it" stage. So don't worry about him always being this way when it he comes to something difficult to do. My son mostly wears rubber boots because he can do it himself. This too shall pass.
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#3 of 11 Old 11-10-2007, 04:08 AM
 
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I went through this with my kids, my son was the worst. I got to the point that I just STOPPED helping him. I would tell him what I wanted and then either leave him alone to figure out what to do, or I would stand there and sing (Pick Up Toys, Pick Up TOys, Come On Now Were Picking Up TOys- over and over again) Try to allow more time for him to do things himself. Ask him to see how FAST he can do something-sometimes that works, and sometimes it will backfire so be careful. Then there is always the "Big Boys" do this kind of a line. I hate it, but sometimes it works.

And remember it won't last forever. Someday we will all look back and wonder where the time went.

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#4 of 11 Old 11-10-2007, 06:49 AM
 
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I think too that lowering your expectations may help YOU cope with the frustration better. Our son is highly sensitive, a bit delayed in fine motor skills, and not very persistent. It's a combination that makes his highly persistent mom go nuts sometimes!

I had the most luck with expressing sympathy for how hard things were, and then being very, very specific about how much I wanted him to try.

So, for the socks thing, I would start with "get some toes into the sock, and then I'll help" (I kid you not, I was that specific and that low in my expectations). Then, I would praise/comment on each step that he could do.
For the stroller type thing, I have no advice because ds detested strollers and was walking everywhere by 2.

We do clean up together - even now. My kids need very specific direction and a time limit. And even then, they're not always successful (i.e. compliant).

If it was something that I knew he could do, but he just didn't want to (a common occurrence in our house), I would help him, but at my convenience not his. "I'm working on ..... When I'm done with this, I'll be happy to help you." When he protested (and he always did), I would remind him that he had a choice to do it himself or to wait for me, and sympathize with how hard it was to wait (for the first few minutes - after that my patience wore thin and I asked him to go complain somewhere else!)

A lot of these issues were cured by him simply being older, and by my accepting that my son was simply going to learn these things on his time table, not mine. He was late to do almost every single bit of self care. And yet now at 6 1/2, he can (and does) do most of it. (He still can't button or zip, but that's his fine motor issues. And he's beginning to try. About 3 years after most kids do.)

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#5 of 11 Old 11-10-2007, 08:07 PM
 
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Well, the montessori school I worked in would just walk away and leave kids to do things for themselves, for however long it took -- and they were not allowed to move on to anything else until it was done. Which meant things like, sometimes a 2 yo. little girl would spend 40 minutes putting her tights on. I really loved working in that school, but this one facet of it really bothere me.

I think sometimes kids want help because helping/caring is a way to show love for some people. And a way to feel love.

I did a lot for my kids when they were 3 and 4 years old, probably more than I should have or needed to do.

I didn't like to hear "I can't," though -- I pretty consistantly responded by saying, "Say "I need some help." They learned to say that instead of "I can't" because I was more likely to respond to "I need some help," than to "I can't."

Then I also did what Lynn is describing -- "Start putting your toes in, and tell me when you get stuck. I will be right here waiting." Sometimes they would go ahead and complete the whole task. Sometimes they get stuck and I would help before too much frustration set in. For example, at the point where your son started to cry that his shoe felt 'lumpy' -- I would have stepped in and fixed it.
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#6 of 11 Old 11-10-2007, 08:14 PM
 
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I use, "How can I help?" a lot.

But, it sounds like you two are in sort of pissing match about this and I wonder if just accepting him at his word ("Oh, OK. How 'bout I get it, then?") and just sort of lovingly helping him out for a while might diffuse some of the power struggle.
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#7 of 11 Old 11-11-2007, 03:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the thoughts and suggestions... I do have pretty high expectations, but it seems that DS's expectations are higher--he doesn't want to do something unless he can do it perfectly. Or unless it is his idea, because once in a while he puts on socks/shoes himself, which shows he knows how to do the task, right? It's very confusing.

I am thinking about whether this shoe process in particular is a power struggle... from my end it feels like trying to drag a 2 ton elephant into the car, and it took 90 minutes one day last week to go from wakeup to car, I kid you not. (breakfast, dressing self/baby, then majority of time encouraging 3 yo to cooperate and let me dress him, and we were going to a place he supposedly wanted to go!) I can see that it is turning into one and I need to figure out how to make it less of one... the doctor asked at his 3 year checkup whether he was dressing himself, (uh, no) AND my sister who sits for us sometimes says he will do these things for HER... so I can see that I feel pressured for him to be doing these things, and I am passing on the pressure.

I like the idea of negotiation (put toes in sock, I do the rest, etc.) but I think we may be overnegotiated at this point. My son will be a great litigator when he grows up. He is always trying to make a new deal after agreeing to the first deal. Maybe I will try just being silent and doing it.

I guess at this point I am going to walk through the steps with him (locate shoes, bring to steps, put on socks, put on shoes, put on coat.), praise any steps he takes on his own, do the rest, and wait him out when he is not 'ready' to participate (aka running away thru the house). I see a lot of waiting in my future.

As for the "I can't" I'm glad to hear it is a phase. I already reflect his feelings a lot, I think I will start asking for clarification: "What do you mean exactly? Are you tired or do you just not want to do what I asked?"

Has anyone had any luck with saying, "You can, you ARE doing it!" (makes me think of childbirth...)

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#8 of 11 Old 11-11-2007, 03:49 PM
 
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When ds went through the "I can'ts" I made a rule that he had to try twice before I would do it. For silly things like picking up a toy car, "I caaaannnn't" I would tell him to try a little harder, then again and if he still couldn't do it, I would help. Then I would pick up one end of the stupid Matchbox car and he would get the other and the car would get put in the bin. After a few times we talked about how silly it was for both of us to put one tiny car away and all of a sudden he could do it on his own. I used the try it twice on everything, getting dressed, picking up, tooth brushing, butt wiping and it really worked for ds. I doubt it will work with dd, she's a different sort than her brother

Even now sometimes he will say he can't do something and I will tell him he can (this has been a huge issue with reading). He's a fantastic reader, but sometimes thinks he can't. So when he does do a great job I'll say something like "it's so weird, because you told me you can't read, but here you are, reading like you've been doing it your whole life. I gues you CAN read!!" He loves it and it works on him for some reason.

I think 3 is so hard because they aren't little and they aren't big, but sort of stuck in between. Getting bigger is scary and life was a little easier when mom did it all for you.
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#9 of 11 Old 11-17-2007, 03:31 AM
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I can't stand the i can'ts either, LOL. (pun intended.) With socks and shoes, I turn the whole thing into a kind of "I'm gonna get you" kind of game. I threaten to "get" her feet, and she giggles and trys to get her feet into socks before I "get" them. After a few days of playing in this fashion, she puts on her socks without a hassle. Hope that helps. Otherwise, I really like the idea of telling my DH to say "I need some help," instead of "I can't." Because I worry about the "I can'ts" becoming a way of life. Also, the things she claims not to be able to do are always things she's done before, sigh. Despite my worries, I do believe it's a phase, though.

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#10 of 11 Old 11-17-2007, 05:45 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dflanag2 View Post
but it seems that DS's expectations are higher--he doesn't want to do something unless he can do it perfectly. Or unless it is his idea, because once in a while he puts on socks/shoes himself, which shows he knows how to do the task, -dflanag2
My daughter is similar, and I am as well, unfortunately! : There's actually a whole thread about it in Personal Growth. here

Quote:
I like the idea of negotiation (put toes in sock, I do the rest, etc.) but I think we may be overnegotiated at this point. My son will be a great litigator when he grows up. He is always trying to make a new deal after agreeing to the first deal. Maybe I will try just being silent and doing it.

As for the "I can't" I'm glad to hear it is a phase. I already reflect his feelings a lot, I think I will start asking for clarification: "What do you mean exactly? Are you tired or do you just not want to do what I asked?"

Has anyone had any luck with saying, "You can, you ARE doing it!" (makes me think of childbirth...)
My daughter is also a great negotiator, but this shows what great reasoning and logic skills they have! After reading some GD threads tonight, I thought about how I can adjust my style to be more proactive. Tonight, I asked her use the bathroom because I could see she needed to go. But she usually doesn't want to go because she is so entralled in what she is doing. So, I said, Well, I think it is important you go so that you learn that you can stop what you are doing and go potty and then go back to it, without waiting until the last second, when you have to sprint to the potty. She said Well, I just don't think I need to go (obviously still having to go while she's saying this). So I said, so maybe we are at an impasse then. She said "What's an impasse?" I said it's when you can't come to a compromise, do you know what a comprise is? She said no. I explained that it was when one person thinks one thing and another thinks a different thing, that they can make a decision that works for both of them. I said, can we come to a compromise? She got a great look on her face, and said, I know, maybe I could go play for two minutes and then come use the potty? I said OK, that's a great compromise! Good idea! She was so surprised at my reaction I guess, and she gave me a hug. We used this again later, and again she was delighted that her idea worked. Now if her idea didn't work for what we needed I would probably suggest something similar that I thought fit her needs. So I don't know if you think he is too young that this type of reasoning would work for him, but it sure worked for her! Maybe he could come up with a compromise of how much you help him?

As far as saying you can do it, you are doing it. This works sometimes, but much better if it's her own revelation. Sometimes if I try to guide her and show her how she can, and then she is able to do it, that makes her really surprised and proud. Sometimes if I just say it instead of guiding her how she can, she just says "No I can't!"

Incidently, we also use to have issues with shoes. She likes her shoes really tight for some reason, I have no idea why! : So tight, that I think that she might not be getting enough circulation! Anywho, she'll pull her velcro straps so tight that they come off sometimes just from the tension and moving her feet! When they keep coming off or loosen, she'll tighten them again and sometimes get very frustrated they won't stay. Sometimes she would get so frustrated to the point of tears. But she was at the point where she didn't want me to do it for her, so she wouldn't let me help. I try to explain why it keeps coming off, but I guess she thinks they should stay anyway! One pair of shoes she tightened and re-tightened so much that all the velcro came off the middle part of the straps! Then, of course, they really wouldn't do what she wanted them too. Well, her teacher had a stroke of genius that I didn't even think of. Obviously, she was seeing her struggle with this as well, and told Lillian (this was all relayed to me by dd), do you want me to show you a neat trick? Lillian of course wanted to see. Her teacher showed her that she could criss-cross her straps to get them to stay the way she wanted. That's the kind of innovative thinking that I wish I thought of sometimes! Most of the time after that she did not get upset, although she still tightens them to the hilt!
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#11 of 11 Old 11-17-2007, 04:34 PM
 
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Thanks all! We have similar problems with our three year old and these suggestions are already making a difference. Meanwhile, our four year old has developed the langauage that, "sometimes she likes someone to help her", even though she can put on her own coat and shoes. The difference for me is huge--I can totally empathize with that!
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