"I can't"

[deleted account] ( 9 moms have responded )

My son keeps telling me he cannot clean up, but I know he can. I've explained to him in the simplest terms how to do it, and I kept it short too : Pick up the lego on the floor, then put it in the box. I even showed him how to do it by doing a few myself.

He keeps saying he can't--he says he knows HOW and I know he is strong enough to lift the legos, so I cannot understand why he thinks he cannot do it. If I could understand what part of the process he cannot do, I could help him, but from where I stand, he knows and has the physical capability to do it, so why does he think he cannot, and how do I explain to him that he can?

I hope that makes sense, I am really baffled right now, please help quickly.


Jenni - posted on 07/26/2011




I don't think he thinks he can't do it. It sounds like he's just using it as an excuse so he doesn't have to do it. ;)

What consequences do you use if he doesn't tidy up after himself?

I wouldn't engage in a conversation explaining to him *how* to do it. It sounds like he may just being using that to buy himself time. You showing him is his way of not having to do it himself. So I would apply a suitable logical consequence for not tidying up after he is done. I would also tell him before he starts playing with his lego what will be expected of him.

"You can play with your lego, but remember you'll have to tidy them up when you're finished. If you choose not to tidy them up after we will not be able to play another game/activity until they are picked up."

If he chooses to accept the 'conditions' but then bawks tidying up after. You can say: "I told you, that you would have to tidy them up yourself. If you choose not to tidy them up... such and such consequence will happen. I will speak to you again once you finish the job." And I'd ignore the pleading to buy time or get you to do the job for him.

It also would hurt to put a positive spin on cleaning up. Us adults do it. Play music. Set a timer as a 'race against time'. Have him try to beat his time each time he cleans up. Or whatever other creative way you make tidying up a little less mundane.

JuLeah - posted on 08/28/2011




I can't = I don't want to

"Pick up the legos son"

And then his life stops. Don't nag, fuss, holler .... life just stops

He wants to play with something else. You say "After the legos are picked up"

He wants lunch, you smile and calmly ask, "Are the legos picked up?"

Just go about your life without giving him extra attention until the legos are picked up

When he understands the concept - mom says pick up and I do - expand it to something else - hang up your coat, or bursh your teeth ...

Jenni - posted on 07/26/2011




Kids have no concept of time and don't possess the logic we adults do. To him, he is winning the power struggle.
The way he rationalizes it is not the same as you do.

I remind my kids when they make a mess, or start emptying the entire contents of their toybox, they will have to clean it up when they're done. They can make as big of a mess as they want, they can stay playing in their room as long as they want. But before they leave that room to play in another room. They have to tidy up. For us at least, I've noticed they've learned to think twice before taking *everything* out. If they were to refuse, they'd stay in their room until the chore is done. It's a pretty simple, easy to understand rule for them: We tidy up one room before we play in another. The consequence is directly linked to the behaviour. They can't play in another room until they are done.

I'd be weary of using 'time' as a consequence. As in, he was late to his friend's play date. He may not quite grasp the connection between having less time to play with his friend and not tidying up his room. The consequence needs to be direct and immediate to be effective.


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[deleted account]

I see what you're saying, Elfrida. I just thought if I could understand why he valued the process of whining and fussing before completing a task, I could show him the value in completing a task without that process.....I'm not sure if I'm making sense.

He is doing much better this week. I have found that if I keep a cheery tone (really cheery, not my norm!) and start the request with a description of it's benefit, he is usually more cooperative. I've also asked him what he would rather do instead and given him that as an option once the task at hand is finished (when possible).

Elfrieda - posted on 08/02/2011




Do you think that maybe you're spending too much time trying to understand his "logic"? That's just something that I thought of while reading this thread. Sometimes kids just have bad habits that aren't logical, and once you teach them something better, their lives improve even though they don't know why. I don't think it's necessary to understand his every motivation. If it's a bad habit, it needs to stop no matter why he's doing it.

[deleted account]

Thank you so much, Jennifer. Sorry I just got to read this, we took a long weekend camping and I didn't have internet....it was actually nice :)

I guess I'm so confused because he was always an "I did it myself!" kind of kid, up until these last few weeks. I never had to work with him when he was 3 or 4 or even 5, but maybe I should have been. Not that I can go back and do it now, of course...

We didn't have any problems with this at all while we were away this weekend. He had his grouchy, thankless moments, but I felt those were in the normal range of behavior for his age and situation (it was REALLY HOT and he'd spent quite a while in the car).

I'm going to try the timer with his math. I just need to come up with a good consequence. I'm holding out hope that it was just a phase since we have not had issues in over 4 days, but I still want to be prepared in case he falls back into it now that we are home.

Jenni - posted on 07/28/2011




Kelly, I am going through the EXACT same thing with my 3 year old son right now! lol "I Can't do it!!!" I am beginning to absolutely adhore those words. :)

Some kids love to 'I do it myself" (like my SD) and some love the "I can't do it myself!" (like my son who'd prefer to get me to do it for him).

I'll use my son putting on his shoes for example. I'd always get the "I can't do it myself, you do it mommy!!!" followed by whinning and crying. He obviously could, they were crocs. So I'd reply with "Yes, you can. You need to try first." with calmness. When he would protest longer or throw fits the rest of the family would get ready and get their shoes on and prepare to head out the door. This was enough for my son to want to make an effort. But it's mostly because of his age, at 3 they assume you will leave without them if they're not ready. ;) So eventually, he figured it out... he'd sob while putting his shoes on but when he finally got them on, he'd stop and say proudly "I did it myself!" And I'd praise him for doing it himself.
I took similar measures with teaching him to put his pants back on after he pottied. After I showed him a few times 'how to do it' I would have him try it himself. I'd ignore the "I can't do its!" Because they are ultimately a ploy for attention (attention of getting me to do it).

Now of course it's much harder to break a 7 year old of bad habits than a 3 year old. Your son is more set in his ways. Also the same things the work on my 3 year old may not work on your 7 year old.

But I think the less you stress about it or put emphasis on it. The more his diddle daddling will lose it's appeal. Just address it once and be done with it... allow the natural/logical consequence to run its course.

Another idea you could try, is setting a timer. Give him X amount of time to get ready. Start with a larger amount of time than you think he actually needs. Tell him if he is not ready before the buzzer goes off. He isn't going. And stick to your guns. Once he masters getting ready in the over alloted amount of time, you can begin shortening the amount of time he has to get ready... to something more reasonable.

Also, be careful not to compare him to yourself as a child, or other children. He is his own individual person. I am telling you from personal experience, comparing children to other children will only inhibit your discipline of him. I made the mistake of often comparing my son to my SD. And it only causes you to focus on the child as a negative and not focus on the behaviour as a negative which will breed resentment towards him, and not the actual behaviour. I hope that makes sense.

[deleted account]

He's doing it again. This time it was the written portion of his Taekwondo test. The consequence for not doing it would be, of course, that he cannot move up to the next belt until next month if he doesn't hand it in before the physical portion of the test. He did eventually do the written portion, but not without nearly an hour of telling me that he couldn't do it first.

He eventually does what he is supposed to do, but why is he telling me "I can't" for an hour or more first? Is there a way to make him do it faster, or am I supposed to just let him complain about it before he does it?

I don't understand the complaining. I didn't do it, even when I was a kid, and I cannot comprehend why he likes to do it--it is clearly unpleasant for him, and it makes a task he doesn't want to do take even longer.

I think if I could just understand his logic, even if it is flawed, I could help him.

[deleted account]

Thanks, Jennifer, I think you are right about him just buying time. But I still don't understand why he would rather spend 30 minutes arguing about cleaning up, then 10 minutes cleaning when he could just spend 10 minutes cleaning then go play--seems playing would be more fun than the argument, but maybe he like to argue?

I picked up in the fact that having me show him was just me doing it for him, so I only picked up 3 legos. The consequence was that he had a playdate this morning with a friend who is moving out of state and we could not leave until the house was tidy. We were late, but he got there.

I've told him what was expected before, and I've tried to remind him to take a break and tidy up if his room starts to get too messy, but he doesn't do it--I don't think he realizes how messy it is until it's time to clean up, or he can't find something.

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