Get it in Writing

Lyle was an emotional wreck this morning.  I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s probably some combination of fatigue, allergies, Daddy leaving on a business trip, and end of the year changes.  Although he fell apart about a great many things today, the one that we really got stuck on was about Blues Clues.

Lyle went digging through our video collection and presented me with an old videotape of Blues Clues.  “I want to watch this while you dry your hair,” he decided.  I sat down with him and explained that drying my hair would only take five minutes and then we’d be ready to go to school.  That he would be very upset if he had to turn off Blues Clues after only five minutes. And that we could watch it after lunch today, during quiet time.  But the wailing, sobbing, and copious amounts of drama were not going to stop.  This response is very unusual for him these days and I could see that he needed something more;  none of my usual strategies were working.

So.  We went into my office and got out a yellow legal pad.  I told him this was “work paper” and that it’s what I use for writing Very Important Things.  He started to dry his eyes and relax a bit.  I took a Very Special Work Pen out of my Amazing Work Bag and wrote:

Lyle will get to watch Blues Clues as soon as he is finished with lunch today.

Signed, Mommy

I handed the paper to him and said somberly, “This is my promise.  You can hold onto the promise all the way to school and keep it in your cubby.  Anytime you think about Blues Clues and feel sad this morning, you can go look at it and remember my promise.”  And he did.  There was not another word of complaint.  I dried my hair, and off we went to school.  It stayed in his classroom, tucked carefully into the little cubby hole that bears his name and photo.

I talk a lot with parents about the importance of the written word. Last year, I wrote a piece here about using writing and drawing to explain social situations, and coincidentally Susan Etlinger has written a fantastic post today about her very successful use of a social story to help her son, Isaac.

When you’re feeling really, really stuck in one of those truly difficult parenting moments, stop and ask yourself if there’s a way to improve on things with a piece of paper and a pen.  Make the solution tangible.  I’ve been amazed professionally and personally how often it works.  The written word is pure gold to kids.


14 responses to “Get it in Writing

  1. This reminds me of a similar kind of IOU thing I gave SB during a meltdown several weeks ago …. but now that I think about it I could be doing this sort of thing a lot more often. Thanks, Jordan. I’ve printed this out and posted it on the fridge.

  2. Yes, another keeper from the Wonderwheel!! So damn simple, it’s the kind of thing I would never think of in a million years…

    Thank you!!

  3. Oh, man. I love this. Done it often. First, it was CRUCIAL for Miss M, but at 5, Roxie needs it all the time. It has gone from her dictation of the memo to her actually writing it herself, which is very empowering.

    Great tip.

  4. Great idea! Armando had a tough time going to school this morning and I probably didn’t handle it well in all the morning rush. Writing a note with him would empower him and me! I’m going to use this with him and Syona the next chance I can.

  5. Wow, just in time!!! Noah and I have a daily tussle about cartoons before school. We have a rule about no Curious George on school days as we have enough trouble getting the four of us out the door as it is. This is really upsetting to him and his pouting about it in the mornings – every morning – is making me a bit nutty (more nutty than I already am!). I will try this tonight! Yay, Jordan!

  6. That is great advice! Thanks!

  7. So smart! Thanks for the great idea! I know I always feel better when something is written down, same holds true for the kids.

  8. Great advice, also I’ve heard that having kids try to write you notes as reminders (even pre-literate kids).

  9. Thanks for the tip!

  10. I’ll have to tuck this away for the time Nik is ready to read. This sounds like it could be worth more than gold!

  11. Good idea. I’ll have to try it with Julia the next time we get into one of Those Situations. Though of course they’ll get us all back when they start blogging.

  12. It takes a village indeed! This morning, for the first time in weeks, after “putting it in writing” last night, Noster did NOT ask me about a cartoon this morning. Ah, sweet relief! Yay, Jordan! xo!

  13. What a great idea. Thanks for stopping in with your two cents on Momformation. After attending the Glen Hansard concert I quickly realized I was just one in a million 40-something woman with this little “problem.” Sigh.

  14. Jordan, this is brilliant. Just taking their feelings seriously makes such a difference. Your blog is terrific.

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