The Key to Your Child’s Emotional Needs is in “The Stupid Shirt”

by Queenie on March 25, 2010

Image of QueenieI had one, my brother had one and most of the children I have taught have had one, so I am confident that your child has one:

It’s the stupid shirt.

I mean the cape, the toy, the something that your child cannot live without. Some kids go through this phase quickly but for other children they seem to camp out here.

I call it the stupid shirt because its like nothing else in the world matters but that doggone shirt. I remember this particular student named Greg who was, shy, reserved and often in another world. My little space cadet wore an old, tattered batman costume-I mean this kid wore this costume every single day and his mother couldn’t get that child to wear anything else but that costume.

I secretly wondered if he even wore it in the bath.

Then there was John. John would wear this baseball jersey with everything he owned, day in and day out, for every occasion. Truthfully, the shirt begins to wear me down.. In my mind I’m like, “If I see that stupid shirt one more time, I just might . . .” Well, we don’t want to go there!

But that stupid shirt actually gives you some keen insight into your child.

Simply stated children have an extremely high need for consistency, so high they will choose something as mundane as a Halloween costume and wear it like it’s the newest thing since sliced bread – the attachment to the ‘thing’ has some clues to your child’s emotional needs.

When your child is screaming for consistency or regularity in their life look for the stupid shirt. Start there. Watch when they go for that “thing” and if they do happen to take it off observe what’s going on for them.

Identify the emotion that is connected with the shirt, what changes for them, what’s alive for them.

Most importantly look around. Have you changed? Are there any major issues going on in their life that the stupid shirt allows them to escape?

What ever the case – beyond a security blanket I have often found that children who have a high need for the shirt have other things going on for them.

Study your child and begin to connect with him. Douse him with your love and compassion. Give him the experience of connecting with the person with the same level of intensity as he has with the shirt. Don’t take the shirt away just give them other opportunities to feel the way the shirt makes them feel: safe, comfortable, familiar.

Queenie Lindsey is an academic coach and educational consultant. She is the founder of Tandem Teaching and Distinguished Learning Group, an academic coaching firm. Follow her on Twitter.


Megan March 25, 2010 at 5:06 pm

My “Stupid Shirt” is more like a stupid pint of Cherry Garcia ice cream. Tend to seek comfort there 🙂
.-= Megan´s last blog ..The Key to Your Child’s Emotional Needs is in “The Stupid Shirt” =-.

Queenie March 25, 2010 at 6:25 pm

My “Stupid Shirt” was a purse, that I never went anywhere without. Today its more like a bag of Mike and Ike’s
.-= Queenie´s last blog ..Simple Stories to Chapter Books – Four Series Your Kids Will Love =-.

Joan March 25, 2010 at 7:24 pm

You know, it’s always made me really sad that my child doesn’t have a “stupid shirt”; no binky, no blankie, no favorite stuffed animal, nothin’. I wonder, sometimes if she has attachment issues. I mean this was the kid who had ZERO separation anxiety, who walked into pre-school at the ripe old age of 2 and never waved goodbye. I’m serious. She never waved goodbye!

But now, I’m reading your post and wondering if perhaps it has something to do with the insane, obsessive-compulsive adherance to a routine and precise schedule that I’ve always insisted on. I mean, it’s been breakfast, lunch, dinner, bath, books, bed at the same time, every day, since she was born. She’s been going to the same children’s gym once a week since she was 8 weeks old!

Perhaps she doesn’t have a “stupid shirt” because we have so much stupid consistency at home. Hmmm…

Heather March 25, 2010 at 7:44 pm

You know I don’t think my son ever had that either. There isn’t anything that sticks out in my mind and I think that for us it is the opposite. We always have a plan but home environment has changed so much over time that I think my son was forced into accumulating. Like deal cause we have to move on and I love you and I am hear for you but things have gotta change. But maybe that stupid t-shirt is me know that I think about. I am not sure I gonna have to sit with that know.

GWENLYN March 25, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Well everyone let me tell you”ll about the stupid purse and stupid brown coat. you”ll know her as Queenie” this same issue was her own . so funny she would blog about it. everywhwere she would go that purse and brown coat had to go, ” Quanda, mommie would like you to please take off this coat it is to hot for it today ( we lived in Florida) we will put it on when it gets cold ;NO MOMMIE MY FUR COAT IS PRETY, MOMMY DON’T YOU LIKE IT MOMMIE YES QUANDA GO AHEAD AND WEAR THAT STUID BROWN COAT WITH THE FUR AROUND IT. didnt matter how hot or cold it was that coat was not being left behind. She carried that purse of hers like a professional AND STUFFED IT WITH EVERYTHING EXCEPT THE KITHCHEN SINK L.O.L and wore that COAT like a fashion model UH GIRLS SHE WOULD TWIRL AROUND IN IT LIKE A BALLERINA DOES HER TUTU. Queenie was only two, her father was in the military at the time and he was constantly deployed and he brought her this coat back from one of his trips. Her Grandsy brought her the purse she was really close to both of them . I was young and she would go from our home to their home sometimes two and three times a week. so maybe this was inconsistency in her life but parents dont worry look how she”s grown up now she has all the answers that even her own mother couldn’t figure out.

Professor Pete March 26, 2010 at 10:16 am

The ‘stupid shirt’ for most adults are their cell phones. Just try to drive in Los Angeles without having a driving cell phone user make some kind of error in front of you. We adults set the examples that these children see and need to keep it straight ourselves if we expect others to adhere to the conditions we create.
.-= pistole pete´s last blog ..Fried catfish sticks =-.

Queenie March 26, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Joan the consistency that you give to Elizabeth made her feel like you would be back, even at 2- I’m sure you thought that something was wrong with her because she just “let” you go without a hitch, but the truth is that she is a well adjusted child that is centered and very sure of herself. I commend you on everything that you have done with her.

@Gwenlyn, I’m sure that my attachment to my brown coat and purse had a lot to do with the back and forth and the fact that my dad was out of the country. Over the years I certainly found a routine, stability and assurance in our home.

@Heather, I would love to hear what you came up with after you’ve had sometime to think about it, are you his “Stupid Shirt”?

@Professor Pete- I would certainly agree that the Stupid Shirt for most adults is a cell phone? Because of this, children have become so attached to their DS, iPods, Game Boys etc, that their ability to attach to anything authentic and real is diminished.
.-= Queenie´s last blog ..Simple Stories to Chapter Books – Four Series Your Kids Will Love =-.

Melissa March 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Baby Queenie in a fur. I want a picture of that!

Melissa March 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Mine was a pink tutu. My ma (bless her heart) let me wear it everywhere!

Alberto March 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Tremendamente interesante y bien escrito. Me ha recordado a muchas situaciones divertidas y momentos vitales enternecedores. Yo creo que mi camiseta estupida han sido muchas cosas, peluches, llaveros, una manta y por supuesto camisetas. Como odiaba cuando desaparecía mi camiseta favorita, ya en mis tiempos de adolescencia, y luego descubría que estaba sirviendo como trapo para limpiar algo. Siempre se descubre este detalle que te da la pista definitiva. Claro que tu madre te la quita para que no parezcas un pordiosero aunque a ti te molaba un montón y pasaste horas intentando buscarla y pensando donde se podía haber perdido….

Here you go your first spanish comment, I’m sure you do not need any help to understand.

Kisses from Montreal