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Blog – Teaching Children What They Can Do

January 11, 2019
Blog – Teaching Children What They Can Do

This month’s blog article was written by Speech Pathologist Genevieve Ackland.

Teaching Children What They Can Do

In our busy and fast paced lives, we often find ourselves guiding our children by telling them what we don’t want them to do. We might hear ourselves say “don’t run on the road!” or “don’t throw that truck!”. Of course this is an important part of learning about safety, behaviour and social skills, however we can also use this as an opportunity to teach them what they CAN do!

As a Speech Pathologist I am privileged to be able to teach children about all areas of communication and behaviour. During my training, a Psychologist explained a golden rule of following a ‘don’t comment’ with a ‘can comment’. Over the years I keep reminding myself of this rule and providing children with opportunities to learn about important play, behaviour and social skills.

Here are some examples:

Play
During play, children may be unsure of the next step of what to do. Impulsivity kicks in and they may suddenly throw the item they find in their hand. Of course we will need to set the boundaries and say “you can’t throw….” but our child is signalling they need support for knowing that to do next. If your child throws the baby doll they are holding, we can show them all the ideas they can do with a baby, from putting the baby to sleep, feeding the baby or giving the baby a bath.

Safety
When teaching safety to our children we can show them what they can do in different situations. Following our comment “don’t run on the road” we can teach them “you can hold my hand” or “you can run with me on the footpath”.

Social Skills
We may see our children carry out undesirable actions in social situations instead of using their words. Frustration about who gets a turn first or who gets the toy can lead to pushing or other physical behaviours to show how they are feeling. After we teach our children “you can’t push…” we can model the appropriate language they CAN say, such as “can I have a turn next” or “I was playing with that”. Of course we want to model the language at a level the child can repeat, even if it is one word like “mine!” or “give”. Using this language can help the child express themselves in a clearer way to their peers without the tears.

So next time you find yourself starting a sentence with “don’t” see if you can follow up with a “you can” sentence next.