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When Children Say ‘I Can’t,’ but They Can, and Adults Know It

Jessica Lahey’s January 13th Parenting Blog post in the New York Times is an excellent example of what we call “conventional wisdom,” the common belief that when kids aren’t meeting our expectations, they are just trying to avoid something or get something. We get this message all the time, and it can make both kids and parents feel incapable.

At Think:Kids, we are trying to push parents, educators, and helping professionals to think more deeply about those situations in which a child isn’t doing what we asked.  The child described in the article could do laundry last week but suddenly is jabbing at buttons and wailing that it is “too hard…” Could he have actually forgotten the order of buttons and need a patient refresher? Could he be nervous or distracted about tomorrow’s test, and this task, menial to you but new to him, suddenly seems overwhelming today? We contend that no child would choose to wail, flail arms, and be thought incompetent by his parents if he had the ability to meet the expectation calmly and competently.  Research indicates that kids (and all of us!) seek autonomy, competence, and good relationships with others… In short, kids do well if they can!

A refreshing voice among the others in this article, Dr. Bryson calls for some perspective-taking and flexibility in cases like this.  Kudos, we say!  So how do we do that?  One way is with Plan B. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this article, whether you agree or disagree; feel free to post them to our Facebook page.

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