There are two phrases that my my son has found the habit of saying that completely irritate me. One day, I finally came to my breaking point and commanded my son to NEVER SAY either of those two phrases again…OR ELSE!
No, the phrases were not curse words. And, yes, there are times when it is appropriate to use one of the phrases as a response. But, when they are just excuses to keep from doing anything that requires effort, the mere sounds of the words grate on my nerves.
Phrase #1: “I Can’t”
Phrase #2: “It’s Too Hard”
My son often uses these five words when he doesn’t want to put the effort into doing something – when he thinks it will be too much work or even when he simply does not want to get off the couch. The phrases have also been used when my son is afraid that he will not attain perfection in the goal or task that I have set for him (yes, there are perfectionist tendencies; and, no, perfection is not a general requirement in our house). From schoolwork to chores and everything in between, these phrases have been a common response in the attempt to get out of doing what he doesn’t want to do.
How I Changed Our Direction
1. Stop Defeating Yourself. I talked to my kids about how the language we use affects everything. The more we say that “I can’t” or “it’s too hard”, the more we believe it and the more we defeat ourselves. I also challenged my kids to not let those words be used in our family (my kids have the opportunity to challenge me if I use those words as an excuse).
2. Visual Reminder. I created a sign for my son to hang in his room. He will see this sign every morning when he wakes up. The sign simply listed the phrases with a red circle drawn around the phrase and a red line through the phrase – kind of like the “forbidden” or “not allowed” signs.
3. Introduce New Phrases. When removing a bad habit, experts tell you that you must replace the behavior with something else – or, the bad habits are likely to return. So, I am introducing new phrases for my son to use. I started with encouraging my son to use words like “I can”, “I will”, “I love a challenge” and the reminder that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Excuses are an everyday challenge for all of us. What’s your story? How have you led your kids to give up the language of excuses?