Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman LICSW

School of Thought

Parenting Through Post-It Notes

When did it become acceptable to choose clever notes over conversations?

Posted Sep 10, 2015

Donaldson-Pressman
Source: Donaldson-Pressman

Katie’s mother will only give her the WiFi code after she cleans her room.  She was supposed to clean it last night, and now she’s being punished.  I don’t actually know Katie or her mother, but I’ve seen the post-it note left by her mother on facebook, and read the reactions of other parents who have applauded her clever punishment.  Jenna’s children forgot to clean the lint filter after doing their laundry.  Rather than having a conversation with them, a clever note was left on the filter, a picture snapped, and it was circulated on twitter.

So parents, I’m asking you, when did it become acceptable to parent through post-it notes? 

I spent nearly a year traveling throughout the United States to big cities such as New York, and tiny little towns like Wimberley, Texas.  I interviewed both teachers and parents in a quest to discover the most effective learning strategies used by families. It turns out, parents and teachers in both big cities and little towns have the same complaints.  From parents, I universally heard about “poor communication skills.”  The top concern from teachers was “poor social skills and anxiety.” 

Simply put: Kids no longer have the ability to resolve basic conflicts with their parents or their friends; not even on the playground.   When they can’t communicate, they are unable to gets their needs met, so they feel anxious, frustrated, and often, angry. A lot of children’s acting-out behavior is simply to get noticed; with good communication and social skills, they could use words instead of behaviors.

I did interview one parent who left a beautiful note for her daughter during a time of conflict.  No, it wasn’t a “post-it” note.  It wasn’t clever or funny.  She didn’t snap a photo of it and post it on social media.  She respectfully requested a “meeting” so that she could speak directly with her daughter. And that's exactly what happened, they spoke. 

Worthwhile communication almost always requires a conversation.  It is phrased respectfully, and it’s helpful and kind.  It tells the listener how I feel and what I want-to-happen, or, what I don’t-want-to-have-happen.  It explains “why.”  It paves the way for one child on the playground to go up to another and ask, “Can I play with you?”

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Perigee Books
Source: Perigee Books

Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman is an expert family dynamics and the author of the groundbreaking book, The Learning Habit, featured recently on The Today Show. 

Twitter: SDonPress