Better parenting through duct tape

By Mir
January 29, 2007

I’m in something of a holding pattern with my children, at the moment. One of the supreme joys of the complicated child (because there are just so many) is figuring out how to balance patience and appropriate consequences.

In other words: Misdeeds require correction, yes, but you don’t want to be punishing behavior a child cannot help. On the other hand, you don’t want to be issuing a free pass to be irresponsible and bratty to a kid just because they have some issues, either.

It’s such a delightful conundrum, constantly trying to discern when an infraction requires creative problem-solving and when it requires a sound beating.

(Oh, I don’t really beat the children. I prefer to holler at them until that little vein in my temple throbs.)

Chickadee is having a pretty impressive resurgence of depression, and one of the things that happens when she’s depressed is that, well—brace yourselves, this is shocking—SHE’S DEPRESSED. Depression in kids looks a little different than depression in adults, but it has many of the same features. So anyone who’s ever been through depression, themselves, won’t be surprised to hear that she has trouble getting up in the morning, is lower-energy than usual, takes longer to complete her work (and doesn’t do as good of a job), and becomes rather scattered in general.

Monkey has always been one to misplace his head if you haven’t bolted it firmly onto his neck, and I chided him regularly until we started with this whole investigation this year where it was suggested to me that, hey, maybe he can’t help it. This may be a “piece of the puzzle” as the team at school likes to call it, and while his, ah, lack of attention to detail can be frustrating, I try to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Well, Monkey needs to be learning how to take greater responsibility, while we acknowledge his limitations; and Chickadee perhaps needs to have a break extended to her during this time of difficulty, yet she still needs to be meeting various requirements and not excused from them. In other words, the world has gone topsy-turvy and I don’t know how to parent through the hundreds of problems we’re facing. Be stricter! Be more lenient! Hide in the corner! (I prefer that last one, but the kids, they ALWAYS FIND ME. Sheesh.)

Today both children came home dejected. Chickadee had homework to do, but had forgotten her folder at school. We had just last week gone over the rules and consequences, and she knew what she was facing and was distraught. Monkey had forgotten his lunchbag at school last Friday, and I’d packed his lunch today in the spare lunchbag. Did he remember to bring home the forgotten bag? Nope, even better! He forgot BOTH bags!

I pushed back from my desk and surveyed the pitiful specimens of regret standing in front of me. Two different problems, two different children, a million different ways to screw it up. It was almost imperceptible, but they each cringed a little, which was more than enough evidence that I’m not exactly known for handling these situations with grace and gentleness.

“Chickadee,” she continued to study her feet. “I will call Daddy in a minute and we’ll discuss finding a solution for this, okay?” She nodded, and slid out of the room.

“Monkey,” he immediately began to whine and protest (“I didn’t mean to! Don’t be mad!”) and I grabbed his hands between mine, “Buddy. Stop. I know. But I have to tell you what’s going to happen tomorrow. You will bring home BOTH bags, okay?” He nodded earnestly. “Also, I’m sorry, but tomorrow morning after I make your lunch, I’m going to have to tape your sandwich to your shirt, since we don’t have a bag to put it in.”

Yeah. I’ve still got it.


  1. Meghann

    You know, I read your posts every day. And I thoroughly enjoy them. But I often don’t comment. Why? Because I want to write back something witty, something that makes people say “You know that Meghann? She is SO witty!” “Let’s flock to her blog and store and fling wads of cash at her!”

    But alas, yet another post goes by and I got nothin.

    You Mir. Me Meghann. Post good.

  2. Lena

    Fabulous idea. However, for me that would be a REWARD.

  3. Sandra

    I wish it were not adding chaos to your life right now, but it does not surprise me that all the living changerously has triggered problems for your kids. Change is hard on everyone, even when the changes are good.

    If you ever figure out the balance between making allowances for challenged children and requiring them to live up to a certain standard, please do pass it along. I could really use some of that. I have my own set of challenged kids and reading your struggles makes me realize I’m not alone. I’m so glad to not be alone in dealing with this stuff. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Mom2One

    Now that’s what I call “creative problem-solving.”

    Poor Chickadee and Monkey. I hope things get better with both of them soon. *hugs* to all of you.

  5. Krisco

    Mir, you did a good job. That is a big challenge, and I’m sorry the kids are having a rough time. It does have to be hard on kids to know there are REALLY BIG changes in store for them (even when good) so my heart goes out to all of you.

  6. Sara

    Hoping that balance is restored and peace and refreshment will visit your household soon.

  7. Kate

    I love your lunch solution, and I hope things get better for you and your kidlets soon.

  8. el-e-e

    Ah, patience vs consequence. I’m going through similar stuff with a 2-yr-old and read yesterday at, whom I normally like… (not a real quote) “if he’s throwing a tantrum to exert control over you, it needs to be dealt with authoritatively. But if it’s an emotional tantrum involving his congnitive development, like he’s having trouble with a puzzle piece, he needs your support.” And I thought, Well, Sorry, Dr. Sears-dahling, but the line is not always quite THAT CLEAR.

    I’ll be hiding in the corner with you. ;)

  9. chris

    That was great. And now I am thinking of all the ways I can apply this new found knowledge…

  10. Chookooloonks

    *taking notes for future reference*

  11. Judy

    Hang in there, girl. This too shall pass, they will both grow up and get out of this stage (or learn to deal with things themselves) and you will all live happily ever after.

    Either that or you’ll start a new trend in French-fried Children.

  12. Woman with Kids

    I can pass the duct tape, it works wonders for taping lunch to shirts.

    And try hiding in the closet. It takes them longer to find you, and you can stash a couple bottles of wine in there with you.

  13. LadyBug Crossing

    My LLB would forget her head if it weren’t attached to her neck. She has a planner, writes down the assignments, but doesn’t read it.

    #1 Son usually has his act together except for the notices I’m supposed to sign. He hands those to me while I’m driving to school… Not very convenient.

    Alas, they do their best… they are good kids… I won’t drive back to school for a forgotten book, but I will send a note to the teacher explaining the situation and ask for lenience. More often than not, they are allowed to complete the homework the next night. :-)

    It will get better. They will graduate from high school. They will lead full and successful lives… promise.


  14. Melisa

    The tape solution is much more gentle than my normal suggestion: “I’m going to staple it to your forehead.”

  15. Bob

    Hang in there, kiddo. I’ve seen you handle worse with your usual aplomb & grace. By the time you’ve learned how to handle all of these situations – the kids will be grown and you won’t need to know it anymore!

  16. liz

    i don’t think i have any words of wisdom, but i wanted to let you know that i think you’re doing a FABULOUS job and Chickie and Monkey will be fine! how can they not be, with a mom like you, a dad like the ex who really seems to be good with them and Otto who’s turning out to be Super Stepdad? i plan to be emailing you for advice for my little darling when the time comes. ’cause you’ve got nothing else to do. :)

  17. Susan

    I was already laughing at the tape, and THEN I read Melissa’s comment about the stapler.

  18. Karen Rani

    I really admire how in tune with your kids you are. Like Karen, I’m also taking notes.

  19. Melanie

    I want to give you all huge hugs, because I know how awful depressed kids are – I started getting depressed when I was 13 and I was an awful wreck of a monster child. I blush to think of what my poor mother endured with me. I wish I had a magic wand I could wave to make Chickadee feel better and you able to have it a little easier. (And Monkey, too, I’m not ignoring him – I just haven’t gotten to that stage of little boy yet, since mine’s only 4, so I haven’t got a lot to say about his situation. Though I’m bossy and opinionated enough that I’m sure I could think of something if I tried).

  20. Jenn2

    I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to watch your child struggle with depression. And then, to have to figure out a discipline strategy that accomodates her depression. I am in awe of you.

  21. dorothy

    I’m going to have to remember that one.

  22. ChristieNY

    Fabulous solutions, bravo! You are looking rather pretty today Ms. Mir. I think you should kick back with tall glass of $9 orange juice and relax a bit while the kids are at school today. You won’t even have to share! :D

  23. Nancy

    I bet it would make the teacher’s day to see Monkey come in with a sandwich taped to his shirt.

  24. Randi


    So what’s your solution with a 2 1/2 year old foster child with severe developmental and speech delay who doesn’t want to try to say words and gets dejected every time you don’t understand him?!

  25. MMM

    So sorry, but you handled it really well. Duct tape. Always the answer. ;)

  26. LeeAnn

    I feel for you and the kids. Mine have similar problems and it doesn’t really get better, you just get better at handling them. I get frustrated because I, as a kid, didn’t have the same problems and have a hard time understanding/relating to their problems. I have tried to learn that you have to pick your battles and let some (most) things slide. I do relate to the forgot my lunch box because I never remembered and I was the kid that had her’s in a white plastic bag and both me and my mom were happy that I never had to remember to bring it home again.

  27. Ben

    Ya know that “lack of attention to detail?”

    We like to call it “thinking outside the box.” Often, my kids think outside the box, the room, the building, and even the nation.

    I like to pretend that they have the skills to be extremely creative when necessary, perhaps having a lucrative career in the entertainment or legal professions.

    I know, it’s a little dream, but it’s all I’ve got, some days. Good call on the tape.

  28. Liise

    No no no, do what my mom did with my house key, crotched(crochteted?) whatever, a little necklace thing and attached the key to it so I could WEAR IT AROUND MY NECK ALL DAY so I would not forget it anywhere nor lose it. This, by the way, was never an option as the key and the crochetededed necklace came in one nice neat package on the very first day.

    Man, you’d think I was bitter or something. So crochet a fanny pack and have Monkey put his sammich in that.
    Oh wait, does crotcheting take time? Nevermind.

  29. Liise

    heh. Crocheting – sounds like a pornographic sport…

  30. Liz

    Yet another use for duct tape – oh, the cleverness of you – and me wasting all that good money on paper lunch sacks!?!

  31. Daisy

    My (engineer) husband has a t-shirt that says, “I can fix anything; pass the duct tape.” Here’s a use for duct tape that he hasn’t thought of!

    Good luck, and hugs to you again, and gosh, remember that you’re moving to the land of Comfort Food and Warm Weather.

  32. Melanie Marie

    I don’t know how my mom did it. 2 kids with undiagnosed ADHD (one with extra learning difficulties) and one with undiagnosed depression and ADD (no hyper). We are now all adults and she still doesn’t know what to do with us! But the point is, we made it to adulthood and my mom still has it!

    Good job!

  33. Christina

    I admire the creativity in that solution :)

  34. Mom101

    Oh it’s heartbreaking seeing your kids in any sort of pain, isn’t it? But it seems like you done schooled them good. The remorse, the distraught reactions – those are kids with a conscience.

  35. Carolyn

    I’ve resorted to buying the old standby, the brown paper lunchbag. I got tired of cleaning out moldy lunch bags that sat in a locker or the lost and found.
    I hope things are better soon!

  36. Jane

    I’d like to compliment you on the fact that you have gotten them to the point of knowing when they are in the deep-end of your tolerence…I can’t seem to get there. Also, kudos to you for somehow knowing that it wasn’t a good time to lose it because it would have made it much more yuckie for everyone involved. I can’t seem to get there either. And I agree, hiding in closets is best – especially when you remember to stash the wine in there.

  37. jibiibear

    Mir…I love this! Duct tape is the stuff that holds the universe together, but never in nearly twelve years of parenting have I considered using it for anything other than taping whiny mouths closed. If duct tape can hold a sandwich to Monkeys shirt I am sure it could hold Lollys homework and Boos swimming money!

  38. Amy-Go

    Duct tape fixes everything! Now apply one strip to their mouths and use another to fasten them to the bed…cocktail time!;)

  39. laurie

    i just made a cover for my ipod out of duct tape. but your use is so much more excellent.

    yeah. you’ve still got it. bravo.

  40. curlykidz

    Oh, that lunch bag dilemma sounds familiar. After my 10yo (who has ADHD) forgot his it for five consecutive days on three different occasions during the first quarter of this school year, I was getting desperate. None of the notes or reminders were working, and I hated screaming about something that was so minor and that was related to his ADHD. Finally found a consequence that worked and that my 10yo DS, 7yo DD and I felt reasonable. If a child forgets her/her lunch box at school, said child has to buy the school lunch with money from his/her piggy bank until the lunch box makes it home. My son buys his own lunch more often than my daughter, but that lunch box makes it home within a day or two!

  41. Julie Q.

    Oh, you put this so perfectly. I struggle every day with this internal debate: is it possible to correct/punish behavior that maybe they can’t help? I wish I could hide in the corner too.

    We also fight the lunchbox battle. If my son doesn’t remember to bring home his box and leaves the spare at school the next day, on day 3 he has to take his little brother’s Bob the Builder lunchbox – which in 6th grade is like a mortifying fate worse than death. Cruel, perhaps. But effective.

  42. Ruth

    Randi – hug them and kiss them and laugh and try it all sorts of wrong ways until they want to help you get it right…use visual props if necessary.

    Favorite memory from when mine were toddlers: A leader in our church, (who had it ALL together, super house, coordinated designer clothes for her well-behaved teen kids, effective leadership, lots of friends…) showing me the treehouse she hid in to get a break from her kids.

  43. sozzled

    i realize you didn’t ask but because I live that interaction here daily I have to tell you what we did to solve the lunch bag thing. Paper bags. they are cheap! and yes they may get smushed, but we are ALL so much happier not having to worry about the lunch bag coming home that it is worth it.

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