The philosophy Myra-Jean’s school follows is based, roughly, on empathy. I don’t feel like going into all the finer details–nor am I qualified to–but suffice it to say you never shame a child; bribing is discouraged; physical punishment is forbidden. There’s lots of “seeing,” “honoring,” and “celebrating.” There are no time outs, no praise or rewards; the phrase “good job” is frowned upon. It’s all kind of wacky, and before I had a kid I would’ve thought much of it was ridiculous. But I’ve come around to most of it. Although I have promised Myra-Jean a bucket of jelly beans if she poops on the potty before she turns four. I’m not proud of it, but there you are. Some things trump principles, and frequent crappy diapers are one of them.
One of the most helpful tricks we’ve learned through this approach is “book” making. The idea is: when your kid is having feelings that are dramatic or overwhelming, you sit down with them, make a small book out of folded paper, and encourage them to describe in it what’s happening, their feelings about it, and anything else they want to add–all of this in the third person. The most important thing is that the words are all theirs–you just take narration. Then you or they illustrate, depending on their wishes.
It sounds simplistic, but let me tell you, in the last nine months we’ve made a dozen or so of these books, and each one has wound us out of a spectacularly gnarly emotional breakdown. They have titles like: “Myra-Jean Doesn’t Want to Brush Her Teeth Herself,” “Myra-Jean Didn’t Like It When Matthew Pulled Her Hair and Punched Her Neck” and “Myra-Jean Doesn’t Want To Go On Vacation.” Then there’s the one that kills me every time: “Myra-Jean Woke Up and Called Mama and Daddy and they Did Not Come.” Ugh. It’s true. It was one time, OK? And no, we weren’t passed out drunk. Just really tired.
Still. The remorse! I guess I should write a book about that.
One of the parents at MJ’s school jokes that, when his daughter is eighteen, he will hand her the giant stack of books she has made over the years and tell her to bring them with her when she heads for therapy. “She’ll have everything she needs!” he added cheerfully. Sort of.
Anyway. Myra-Jean has had a cold for the last couple of days. This morning she didn’t want to take the homeopathic (and probably useless) medication we bought to help with her runny nose. We got stubborn about it. So did she. It turned into a fight.
Finally she and her dad made a book.
Here it is, for your reading pleasure. Be forewarned: it ends a little darkly.
(Yes, that last page says “we are lonely.” I told you it was dark.)
As for the medicine? I ended up sneaking it into her apple juice. Some times the old remedies still work the best.