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The Two Words I Can’t Stand Hearing My Toddler Say

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

There are few things in life that I really, truly cannot stand.

I think life is simply too short and too beautiful to be bogged down by negativity, even if it’s only in the form of your opinion about something or a brief thought that flutters through your mind.

You can imagine how I feel each time I hear my son utter a phrase that falls into such a category of things I hate. He’s only 3, and it’s a tiny cluster of words that I’ve already been hearing for years:

“I can’t.”

Me: “Pull up your pants.”

3-year-old: “I can’t.”

(He can.)

Me: “Put your plate in the sink please.”

3-year-old: “I can’t.”

(He can.)

Me: “Will you draw me a picture?”

3-year-old: “I can’t.”

(He can … sort of.)

“I can’t” is the epitome of negativity. It’s the opposite of optimism. It’s a fail without even trying.

To hear it come from a child who is barely old enough to know what “can’t” means, let alone to know what failure is, breaks my heart. Yet I hear it over and over again, day in and day out. If he’s already admitting defeat and claiming he can’t, what’s going to happen when he truly faces an obstacle? When he really learns the true meaning of “can’t”?

There’s only so much I can explain to a 3-year-old and only so many life pep talks he’ll sit through (I kid), but sitting by idly while I hear that awful phrase pour out of his tiny mouth just isn’t an option. I don’t want him growing up with an “I can’t” attitude or growing up believing he can’t do things.

Believing I can do things is what has gotten me to where I am in my life, especially when faced with the opposition of others who want to believe I can’t. This is why it’s inherent to me to instill this in my son as well. I refuse to let him so easily think he doesn’t have the ability to conquer something, whatever the task may be.

With only such little parenting experience under my belt, I won’t say I have the answers, especially to such an abstract concept, but we’ve been trying to not allow this as an acceptable end to a conversation.

“I can’t” isn’t a valid answer or reason for anything in our house.

When he says “I can’t,” I respond with some variation of, “Yes you can,” often letting him prove to himself that indeed he can, with the ultimate goal being we eventually skip the initial disbelief on his part.

When that doesn’t work, I remind him that he’s done it before or how does he know he can’t if he hasn’t done it before or at the very least, he should try.

If it’s still not something he’s able to do, I make sure he knows that it’s not something he can’t do, it’s something he can do with a little help, or something he’ll be able to do soon.

Sometimes it feels like a futile effort, constantly trying to reinforce this abstract attitude, but I knew I’d at least made a little progress when one day, I accidentally let that acutely hated phrase slip out of my own mouth in response to something my son said.

He simply looked up at me and said, “Sure you can. Just try, Mommy, try!”

Sure enough, I could.

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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