We fight the battle against “I can’t” at school every day. Sometimes it is spoken directly. Other times, it is more subtly evident in low motivation and effort. But regardless of the form it is a killer of incentive and a negative life path.
When will it stop? “I can’t finish college.” “I can’t hold a job.” “I can’t be faithful to my family or my God.”
It is even more insidious when it creeps into others’ attitudes towards a child. Think about the impact when, in well-intentioned support of the child, those who should be encouraging are in effect saying, “You’re right. You can’t.”
Does everyone have to meet a child where he or she is and move from there? Of course. Do we need to be aware of physical, intellectual, or emotional challenges unique to each child? Undoubtedly. Does that require accommodation and modification at home and school? It sure does. But that does not need to translate into a “can’t” message.
We can focus on what the child already can do and has done.
We can focus on what we envision that child doing that he or she has not mastered. And help him or her catch that vision.
We can focus on incremental steps and see each small bit of progress as proof of what the child can do.
We can avoid the temptation to say, “He’s a chip off the old block. I can’t do math either.” Just think what future that sets up for a child!
We can focus on the importance of grit as opposed to innate ability. Ms. Cox had to overcome the innate inabilities her lack of arms gave her. She did not learn to fly because of her abilities She did it because she was determined to beat her disabilities.
We can ban “I can’t.” from our child’s vocabulary unless it is accompanied by the word, “Yet.”
Please, let’s work together to set our children on a path of possibilities, not limitations. Let’s send the message of independence and personal accomplishment, not reliance on others (including parents) who are working harder than the child.
Let’s help kids use mistakes, disappointments, and falling short of expectations as building blocks toward “I can,” not final judgments saying “I can’t.”
And then let’s celebrate like crazy and praise God when the child shows he or she can!
In His Children’s Service, Robert C. Boyd