But I misplaced the form…

We recently heard of a story from one of our parents about an interaction with their teenage daughter. Thought it was worth sharing with everyone and see if it generates some discussion here on our blog and on our Facebook page. Don't forget to become a fan if you like what you see.

The background is that the first school dance of the year was coming up and the kids had to turn in their permission slips by a certain date. At the top of the form it clearly indicated the date the forms were due and next to the date in BIG BOLD letters it said (NO EXCEPTIONS NO EXTENSIONS). Child #1 brings the form to the parents as soon as she gets it. Parents sign and she turns it in. Typically these parents haven't let their kids participate in these types of events because of all the negative things they've heard and lack of supervision at these types of events but the kids are growing up and the parents wanted to let the kids start to explore a bit more and further develop "trust" and "good" decision-making skills.  As a compromise, one of the parents is going to go as a chaperone to reduce the parents own anxiety and reduce the stress about going to the dance.

Child#2 (adopted and with trauma history) does not give the form to her parents. Recognizing that child #2 may miss out on some fun, the father asks his daughter to bring the form to him so that she can go to the dance. Child's response - "ok Dad, It's in my book bag. I'll get it later and give it to you"  (while watching tv). Dad - "Ok, but the form is due by X and if you don't turn in the form, you can't go. Do you understand?" Child - "Yes, I'll get it later."  According to the parents.... with attitude.

The day before the forms are due the father asks child#2 again for the form. Same response. Dad really wants to make sure this child gets to go to the dance because she has been asking him to go to a dance since last year but struggles with allowing the child to take responsibility for making sure the form gets signed and brought back to school by the deadline.

The day the forms were due Dad asks child #2 when she gets home from school whether or not she submitted her permission slip. "No Dad I didn't, I couldn't find it but here is a new one. Just sign it and I'll ask my teacher if they will accept it beyond the deadline." Dad - "Hunny, it says right here, no exceptions or extensions. I asked you several times to bring me the form so that you could go to the dance. Now you've missed the deadline and it says no exceptions."

Think about the stress building in this conversation between the two and in the house where the Dad wants to let the child take the form in and see if they will in fact make an exception while Mom says it's too late and now she won't be able to go.

So let's think this through. Clearly there is certain level of stress created by this interaction and at some point there is a level of fear for both the parent and the child. The child is now afraid that she can't go and her sister can and the Dad is afraid and upset for the child.

What could these parents have done differently? How do they help the child? How can they reduce the stress and diminish the behavior?

Let the dialog begin...


  1. Michael Demarest says:

    Wow. I just happened upon the Post Institute. I am the adoptive father of a fear-filled boy who has unresolved difficulties. When “put on hold” I would likely have clarified the definition of later to (hopefully) the next station break, then had my son retrieve the document then. I would have signed it and had him place it in his homework folder. I would have contacted the teacher to let her cue my son to turn in the slip.

    That might be inconsistent w/ the PI, but I am a “noob”. The cuing and communicating w/ the teacher also would address my son’s functional age level. Because he was not cared for, he requires demonstrative caring.

    • Appreciate all of the comments left on this article. These comments have helped these parents think differently about how to avoid the stress and by reducing the stress their duaghters behavior will be diminished. Great job everyone!

  2. Mom and Dad need to avoid conflict with each other. BTDT. 😉 Once you’re at the point where the form is late, I’d simply sign it and let the school be the bad guy. Lecturing at home won’t help. Life lessons that are taught by life itself, are seldom helped by lecturing. In fact, that usually just gives the kiddo an excuse to get mad at the parent.

    Depending on the child and my relationship with the child, though, I might have done some additional talking leading up to this point, especially if I thought there was any stress about the whole thing – asking how my daughter felt about going, if she had any mixed feelings, commiserating about how nervous I might have been at her age, reassuring her that I’d be there and/or that the other parent could come and get her and take her home if there was any problem, etc. I think I would have also told her that turning in the form didn’t mean she HAD to attend – she could back out up ’til the last minute if she wanted.

  3. Dree Hudson says:

    Since this child was predicted not to be able to be regulated enough to get the form filled out, it would be OK for the dad to take the responsibility of just facilitating the form filling and avoid the whole stress. This is probably not the time to teach responsibility and logical consequences which do not work for the child with trauma history anyway. The child is simply not ready yet, just like a two year old is not ready to find a form, fill it out, and turn it in. We are also supposed to ignore the attitude but not ignore the child. Perhaps the form signing event could occur during a time that the child is not preoccupied and better able to be engaged in a relationship with Dad, like during a family dinner. A judgment also has to be whether the child is ready for the dance in itself. Are her behaviors telling Dad that she is too scared to go?

    I believe the parents should have preempted the stress by facilitating the form to be filled out and turned in on time if they felt this child should go to the dance. I often copy the forms of the more regulated child to use for everybody. I even did this for my oldest son without trauma history, now a graduate of Cornell and MIT, married, successful job, wife and baby, but clueless about what was going on when he was in high school. Luckily his next younger brother always was on top of things and shared!

  4. I believe I would have signed the form and express genuine hope for the child that she can get it worked out and leave it for the child to deal with with the teacher. If the teacher refused to sign it and allow the child to go. I would empathize genuinely with the child w/o scolding or teaching and provide a place for the child to grieve. It may be that the child had an underlying fear about going to the dance that was played out but her “forgetting” to have it signed.

  5. Since I have several girls in the same grade and one brings a paper home and others do not manage to get it to me always, if possible I make copies and do all three at the same time. Less stress for me and them. Then if they all three turn them in we did well!!

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