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Student Observation 1 (Parenting)

What We Saw

While a mother and her four-year-old waited in the check-out line at the market, her son looked over the vast candy selection. He touched none, but asked his mother three different times, “Can I get one of these?” pointing to different candies each time. As the mother loaded her groceries onto the conveyor belt, she first responded by saying “no” without turning or looking at her son. The second time, she raised her voice saying, “Boy, I already told you no. You aren’t getting no candy tonight.” With his third request, the mother stopped, turned to face her son, lowered her voice and said, “How many times do I have to tell you?” The mother then grabbed her son by the forearm and pulled him away from the candy to the bagging area. The son stood still, looking down until the mother was finished paying. The mother then pushed the cart forward and the son walked behind her, following the mother out of the store.

What It Means

The Can Do skill is a parenting technique that equips parents and caregivers to redirect unacceptable behavior, by following four steps: notice what you don’t want your child to do, think of something else your child can do instead, tell your child what they can do, and help your child if it is necessary. The Can Do skill allows parents to establish limits and boundaries, while teaching competent behavior.

The mother above could have readily employed the Can Do skill, reducing her frustration and her son’s. For example, she could have said “We’re not getting candy today, but you can help me by placing our items on the conveyor belt.” Although he was too small to reach to the bottom of the cart, she could have handed him items to place on the conveyer belt (step 4 of the skill: help your child if needed). This would have been a Teaching Do statement, in which she was teaching her son how to do the activity (shopping) competently. Overall, the Can Do skill helps parents teach competent behaviors that can replace behaviors they find unacceptable, which can lead to less conflict, warmer parent-child relations, and a more competent child.

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