Parenting Forgetful Behavior

Parenting Forgetful Behavior

By Deborah Godfrey

“Dad, where’s my backpack?” 

 “Mom!  I forgot my lunch! You have to bring it now!”

“Where’d you put my sweatshirt?”

Do any of these statements sound vaguely familiar?  At Positive Parenting, we have a saying:

“A child who always forgets has a parent who always remembers!”

Many of the complaints I hear from parents have to do with children’s irresponsible and forgetful behavior.  It usually begins early, around 4 or 5 years old, and peaks when a child hits junior high.  What happened between us happily picking up our screaming toddler’s bottle that rolled under the couch and giving it to her and the preteen screaming at us that she can’t find her favorite jeans and us snapping at her that if she didn’t keep her room such a mess, then maybe she could find the clothes she wants?

First, parents often don’t realize how much young children can do.  Many toddlers are very capable of understanding our words and body language, even when they cannot communicate that verbally.  So in the example above, when a child is distressed, we often “rescue” the child. This is a natural, normal response!  The “saving” of a small child from their distresses is the way in which bonding occurs between parents and children.  When a child cries because he is hungry, we “save” him by feeding him.  When a child cries because she is wet, we “save” her when we change her diaper.  This mechanism occurs instinctively under normal circumstances, and bonding between parent and child is established.  The problem occurs when we “save” a child from an activity that she is capable of completing herself.  So when her bottle rolls under the couch, you do not need to “save” her from starving right now.  Now is the time to help her problem solve.  You could play a game, “Where do you think your bottle went?”  And start looking under things and behind things and help her to find the bottle.  This way, she begins to learn self-sufficiency with your loving guidance.

Think of something that you are doing for your child that she could be doing for herself. Give this to your child as a new responsibility.  In this way, you build her self-esteem and are teaching self-reliance.

The next complication occurs around the time that children start school.  They forget their lunch, homework, sweaters, backpacks, library books…and on and on!  They forget, and we nag, yell, complain, threaten and punish.  Nothing seems to work!  Here are 3 rules to teach children responsibility:

  • Stop remembering for them
  • Don’t say “I told you so!”
  • Don’t tell them what will happen, let the consequences do the talking for you

So the first thing parents need to do is stop reminding!  When parents remind children, they rely on the reminders and become incapable of remembering for themselves.  We parents cannot understand why they don’t remember since we tell them over and over!  But it’s the telling them over and over that creates the irresponsibility!  The second thing we need to do is STOP saying “I told you so!” or “See what happens when you forget?”  In this case the child is focused on how mean we are or how stupid they are, and not on learning to be responsible.  And finally, stop telling them how the world works, let the world and the natural consequences in it teach your child.  When you tell them, then they will focus on you as the teacher and not learn from the way the world works.  What I love most about this parental response is that I can make myself be the safe haven when that big bad world is teaching my children.  For example, when Michael, my son, would forget his lunch, I would have a sandwich and food ready when he got home.  “Wow, you must be starving!  Here, have a sandwich!”  If he tried to blame me, saying “Why didn’t you bring me my lunch!” I would just say, “You must have been really hungry from forgetting your lunch, you need another snack?” And he would see it was his responsibility and not mine, and I was actually soothing him.

Finally, over time you can help your children be more responsible by teaching them how to think.  When you tell them what to do, they don’t learn.  When you ask questions, in a loving way, they learn to use their brains.

When you find yourself telling your child to do something, phrase it in a question instead.

For example, instead of saying, “It’s time for school”, say “What time do you need to leave in order to be on time?”

Instead of saying, “Remember to turn in your library book” say “How are you going to remind yourself to turn your library book in on time?”

Instead of saying, “Do your homework” say “How much time to you need to do homework this evening?”

More than anything else, this style of communicating will create kids that learn to remember, be responsible and accountable for their actions. You have so much to do with how your children learn to think, how they react and how they communicate.  By asking questions, you become a master teacher of the very communication you want your children to learn to be successful in school and their lives.

Thank you, Kathy, for sharing this great photo of Aly with me!

Deborah has been teaching parenting classes for over 20 years.  Her kids are 28, 23 & 22 and wonderfully self-sufficient!

Did you find something useful you can use in this article?  Please share it with your friends below.  Do you have questions or comments?  I want to hear from you, please submit them below.

Do you need better attendance at your parent education programs? I split my time between The Hudson Valley, NY, So. California and Louisville, KY. If you are interested in parenting classes & workshops in a 3 hour radius of either, there are no travel fees. Please contact me for topics & rates. I love to travel & have an 8-week proposal for parenting workshops, intensive classes & instructor training in your area of the world. Please email me for details.


  1. Lori (in Germany) Says Reply

    Thank you for your amazingly practical, always a win-win solutions for those daily hangups/snags with our kids! You really understand both sides of the coin!
    Cant wait for more blogs!

  2. Terrie rein Says Reply

    This is a great reminder for us grandparents not to do these things when we have them with us.

    • regina Says

      I took my 5 year old nephew in august and am trying to adopting him now but he was raised before I took him by my mother-in-law and father-in-law for all 5 years who always let him do what he wanted when he wanted and now I am having the biggest struggle to get him to listen at home and pay attention in school which is structured and he’s never had any structure before I got him So to see that you want to try to not encourage just letting them go because they are with grandmaw is awesome to me!

  3. Marcie Paige Says Reply

    This is fantastic advice, I’m actually going through this with one of my girls right now!

  4. 3 Very Good Reasons Why Your Child is Not Doing What You Have Asked Says Reply

    […] forgetting what you told them 5 minutes ago – this may be a delay tactic but it may also be because they genuinely are not focussed on what you want them to do and they are more interested in playing or watching TV or doing what they are doing. I think we are less likely to remember things we are told if we don’t think they directly concern us. […]

  5. Derek Says Reply

    I have tried all the above. You name it, I have tried it. My now 14 year old son forgets homework all the time. He forgets to take his agenda into class and write down assignments. His grades are A+ and F’s .. nearly all the F’s are for homework. If I know about something, I can remind him and get it done but most times I do not know. I ask him every day what HW he has. He just forgets. I have tried rewards, threats, restrictions.. there does not appear to be anything that has solved it.

    It has been going on for nearly 3 years and next year he is in high school. He should be an A student but struggles to maintain a B because of so many F’s. I am at my wits end. Last year it was mostly turning in the homework. Taking it out of his bag and putting it in the box. I just can not get him to do this simple task, or in the case of this year, take his agenda to class and write down the assignment into his book.

    Some have suggested I just let him fail but how does a parent do that?

    • Deborah Godfrey Says


      Sounds frustrating! One of the things I help parents with in my parenting teleclass is to turn over the responsibility for schoolwork to their children from an early age. It is so important that they take “ownership” for their work before they get to high school as it’s so challenging to instill that during those HS years, as you are discovering. But don’t give up! It’s possible!

      One of the things I show parents in my class is a parenting style that is “democratic” where it is possible to help a child learn responsibility by “allowing” them to get the consequences (failure or bad grade perhaps?) of not turning in a project on time, IF you think the child will learn something from that.

      I also teach that it’s your responsibility NOT to allow your child to fail in school, that you ought to never give up and keep trying. I know it sounds contradictory, but it’s really not :))

      I teach alternatives to rewards, threats, restrictions as those all will backfire on you in the long run (as you have mentioned).

      I think if I was coaching you, the first place I would start is finding out what your son is interested in, what his passion is, what motivates him. NOT to use it against him (a big mistake most parents make) but to use as a foundation for support and encouragement which will lead to motivation when he can see how school fits into the entire picture of his dreams and goals in life.

      Have you taken my free teleclass yet? That would be a great way to hear what I teach and assess whether you would like to learn more from me for ways to help your son do better. You’ve done a great job being so involved, I’d love to show you ways to encourage and motivate him that will actually work for you!

      Good luck to you and Happy Parenting!


    • Andrea Says

      My 14 yr old son is exactly the same!! I hope you get a reply.

    • Derek Says

      Part of the issue with my son is that he does not appear to have any passion for anything except history. So no amount of restrictions really bothers him. The vast majority of children, if you take away their games, computer etc, will fix the issue knowing that doing so will return the item they want. My son is currently in month 5.. He enjoys computer games and reading fiction so normally, taking them away would inspire him to improve, but alas, no.

      I know to some, restrictions etc are not their method to deal with all this, but I have told him this is life.. effort = rewards.. You do not get to play computer games whilst you are getting F’s because you did not turn in homework, or go to the teacher at lunch etc. You do not get to go on a trip or enjoy the benefits of my successes in life when you will don’t work towards resolving these issues.

      My main issue is his lack of effort in trying to fix any of this. I have tried to teach him techniques for remembering.. to do lists etc.. but the only time he has created a to do list is when I stood over him and made him. I have told him his school agenda is the key to fixing this and his success, but after 4 years he still does not take it to class or write in it.

      We have tried a few councilors but did not like them.. one said in the first session he thought my son was angry about something.. not correct at all. In the last few weeks we finally found an awesome Psychologist. I realized that I needed the sessions too because the whole thing was stressing me out. The best thing we came away with from her was “We can not care more about my sons education that my son”. If he, for whatever reason, does not think grades are important or will not make any effort to fix things, then nothing we can do will fix it. He has to want to succeed.

      Failure has to be an option.. otherwise you can end up with an 18 year old child who can not leave home or get a job.. I have stood behind my son for 4 years keeping him in all honors classes but the downside is that he has not taken responsibility for his own education. He starts high school next year and I can not continue to stand there pushing him.. so in some regards, I disagree with “it’s your responsibility NOT to allow your child to fail in school, that you ought to never give up and keep trying.”

      He will stand on his own two feet in high school and if at the interim’s he has continued his approach to school, then the teachers (not me) will remove him from all his honors classes. He has to experience this. Right now, he will end the year in 3 honors classes with an A or B grade and over 500 on the SOL.. but that is not a true reflection of HIS effort.. it is MY effort.

      We will continue to work with him and help.. but in the last week we have come to terms that we can not care more than he does about his grades. He could easily get A’s on most of his subjects, but he has to ‘suffer’ the consequences of his inaction or lack of effort because that is real life.

      As a parent, watching your child fail is extremely tough, but it must be an option when all means have been exhausted. There comes a time when a child must stand up on their own and deal with the consequences of their actions or inaction.. and also benefit from the success and rewards when they do put in the efforts.

      It has taken me a long time to get to this place. It is heartbreaking.. but 4 years of very hard effort has seen no success.

      In answer to the other question. No he is not suffering from any mental disorder. He is one of the nicest kids out there. Very polite, calm and has no learning issues. He can tell you exactly what happened at the battle of waterloo. You can have a reasoned, intelligent debate with him. We discuss politics, social issues, world events all the time. Some would say he is depressed, but we see no evidence of that either.

      Hopefully more sessions with our current councilor will help. I will look at the free teleclass, I am always open to anything that might help.


    • Mohamed Says

      Hi Derek,

      My son Zach is now 14 and is in the 9th grade. We have the exact same situation, and I am not sure what to do. He got 14 Fs(Homework) in the first two months, and A’s in his tests/ Quiz. We tried everything you mentioned except having him fail.(I can’t)
      Did you let him fail last year? Did you see any change?

    • jesss Says

      Mine doesn’t mind getting Fs.

  6. cheryl basser Says Reply


    Your son maybe suffering from adhd, executive function disorder or another learning disability. I would encourage you to have him properly assessed by a qualified psychologist. Once they are able to determine where his weakness lies they will be able to guide you with appropriate techniques and strategies to help…

    • iagree Says

      I too would look into executive function skills…at the minimum, there are some books about it. But I would look into a diagnosis so that someone can coach him with learning/using strategies in the areas of exec function that are hardest for him.

  7. Dj Says Reply

    I just want to ad some stuff towards Dereks conversation. Personally I don’t think your son has ADHD. My brother had that and it doesn’t sound like your son does. I just feel that like your psychologist said stop worring about his grades too much. I can see why you would say your son seems depressed. what are your sons wants..not yours. Maybe he doesn’t want to be a straight A student. Maybe you guys need to compromise on a resonable GPA. Reality in life you go for what your passionate for not to see who has the best grades or who goes to the best college. For example a family friend went to long beach state, but now he is very successful in what he does (bussiness). Harvard the university asked him if he can come over and teach, WOW. You said he is not passionate…he just hasn’t found out what he really likes because I’m sure your being to much on this him to be perfect on getting all As (question for you, are you hard on yourself?). He likes to read put him a book club or something or something with history. Do not threat that just makes him feel like he’s worthless. Want your kids to feel safe and loved. Which I’m sure you do, but don’t threat. (Treat people the way you want to be treated). I’m sure you’ll find what’s up with your son. I like giving my kids reasonable consequences but most important is sticking to what i say. I believe that no on is perfect and we need our kids to make mistakes just like us even if do get an F :/. But it’s a good idea you take away something valuable to them away because there’s is not any excuses for a bad grade. Also be an example first also monkey see monkey do. Maybe find something that your passionate about and your kids will fellow. Also every kid has different personality. Maybe your child needs a little more guidance than others. It’s ok to be different and your child needs to know that your fine with that. Love him up and tell him how much you love him everyday. 🙂

    • Derek Says

      Hi DJ,

      Thanks for adding to the conversation.

      I agree that my son does not have ADHD or is depressed.. he is an otherwise healthy child with many great attributes. He is polite, friendly and I adore his personality. That is what makes it difficult to deal with all this. In some way, I feel cheated because I would love to take my son out more and for us to do things, but that is just impossible. He knows exactly what he needs to do but will not do it. I tell him exactly what I expect but it does not happen.

      We are long passed looking for A’s.. I will just settle with him not getting 0’s for missed work. He had two projects in May that he spent more time lying about and hiding that he had not completed them than if he had actually done them. He turned his A- in English to a C. I can not comprehend how he could lie to everyone about completing the projects and never actually doing it. It is not like he had anything else to do. So for us, success in 9th grade is just him knowing what assignments are due and completing them on time. So effort to produce good work would just be a bonus at this point.

      There is a disconnect in his mind between wanting something (history teacher is his latest) and actually making an effort. He knows that if he does well in honors history there is a chance at a 2 week school trip to historical sites in several European countries in the summer of 2016.. but as much as he would love to go on such a trip, he will not put in the effort to achieve it.

      He is doing 9th grade health over the summer and he already has an F due to missed work. It is all there in front on him on the school website. It can not get much easier. One assignment was a test that was ‘open ended’. You could reference all the lessons or google the answers. There is no reason why anyone can not get 100%.. he completed the test in just 9 minutes and received a 33/70. He said he thought he knew answers.

      I would not say our actions are of a threatening nature.. that was done in the early days and obviously does not work. We are now at ‘Effort = Rewards’. Which is what real life is.. If he wants to go places, play on computer, have treats etc, then he has to show effort. If he does not put in any effort, then there are no rewards. That is life.

      My son has many excellent examples in the house. Both me and his mother are successful. We both work hard. His mother is currently going for her masters to continue her climb up her career. His older sister just completed first year at college.

      As for guidance, I can tell my son exactly how a project should be done, how he should approach it and he will just argue with me about how much effort should be put into it. When he gets a low grade, it does not register that his way was wrong.. or he just does not care.

      I am ok with my son being different, but this is a very unforgiving country. If you do not get a college education then your prospects are slim. Everything I have tried over the last 5 years has changed nothing. He just does not see grades, doing well, putting in effort as important to him.

      The one thing we have not tried is failure.. which is what we will be doing this year. He will stand on his own two feet for 9th grade and experience failure if he does not change. If he continues his approach of the last 3 years in middle school, I expect him to be removed from honors by the interim’s and he will likely fail 9th grade. It is just not possible to pass a grade when you get over 30 F’s.. many of which are 0.

      I know some will disagree with that approach, but he has to stand on his own two feet, forge his own path and experience that lack of effort = failure.

    • Mom Says

      Jeez, Derek, this is my kid exactly. They must be twins. Loves fiction, history, computer gaming, gets A’s and F’s, and has Swiss cheese for brains. He has gone through a series of planners, keeps losing them. We bought him adaptive clothing with pockets to put things in. We switched out his binder system. I get snippy accusing e-mails from teachers about my failings in not doing more for him, when I am already guilty of helping him more than I should ethically help him because of previous snippy accusing e-mails. He is a nice, polite kid, just really passive-aggressive. The world will continue to exist if he doesn’t do x y or z assignment? What the heck is with this giant existential shrug? The sidewalk is pretty cold, kid – and due to our hard work in this family, you have never had to feel it, I told him.

      THIS is a possibility too:

      I am past being “positive” at this point (does nothing) and I can’t let him just take the consequences, because the teachers will blame ME for it. I assist, remind, yell, double-check, interrogate, audit, inspect, criticize, shame, check the school’s portal (not all assignments are up there – the teachers act like you have access to all the same info your kid does – NOT). I deprive him of his recreational computer time, etc., but NOTHING. WORKS. I am sure he has some kind of executive processing or auditory processing problem despite being bright, having a good heart and in AP classes.

      Let us know what happened with letting him fail. Did it change his behavior?

    • Chris Says

      In my opinion- Sounds to me like homework is either way too boring or the parent(s) don’t have time to spend going over with the child the homework -possibly the child wants the parental contact in the socializing …the point of homework is to be a remedial exercise to reinforce what they learned in class if the child is acing it on the tests then clearly he’s retaining the knowledge that is necessary …I think it’s only a temporary thing and it’s one of those you should choose your battles moments where he has to pass the grade -literally by doing well on tests.if in fact homework is based on doing reports and projects well then that’s a different story

  8. robin Says Reply

    Great article!!!! Thank you!

    • Dawn Says

      Did anyone’s 14 year old begin doing their homework when they turned 15? I am absolutely beside myself. This kid, the sweetest in the world. Playful, happy, full of life. He remembers so many things in life, just not to do his work for school. We have the same scenario. All A’s or F’s. It’s not deliberate. He’s a happy child, I’ve never seen him angry a day in his life. He doesn’t really care about loosing things either. He’s currently in a “no passion for anything zone” minus coming home to play with the dog for hours on end. We’ve taken away the video games, the only thing he can remember to sit, do and complete. The only positive thing I’ve seen for “We, the parents of these teens” is that we’re not alone. It sounds as if it’s too late to try a different approach to teaching them how not to forget, minus letting them fail. That’s a difficult decision when 9th grade counts on the college application. *sigh*. How could they be so awesome and yet, tear our hearts out so painfully.

  9. LUCKY THELA Says Reply

    hey guys,

    great articles I am suffering the same problems with my son, I strongly belive he is making excuses, as we speak he is going for his 2nd D isciplinary Hearing for the same offence of not doing homework and not completing hios work.

    • Liz Says

      I’m going through the same problem with my 13 year old son. He’s very bright, smart, social full if life friendly kid…gets great grade but is so forgetful makes really dumb mistakes, refuses to write in his planner. It just started this year in 7th grade. He forgets everything, study packets, misplaced them in school etc. Forgets to bring works home, hands in work late. I remind him, does not help. We are hands on parents, but at our wurst end.

  10. Linda Says Reply

    I have a 14 year old boy who spends most of his time in his room playing video games on his computer. I am upset due to the lack of respect for his family. Most recently he bought a new computer with money saved and from working at his new job. We asked him before ordering the computer if he has everything complete and it will do for say a couple of years? He said yes. Three weeks later he asks to go to the store to buy a video card I said no. I found out he lied and is borrowing a friends video card. Also his grades have dropped in English since getting the computer but he went up a few percent in others. So last night we sat him down to discuss the lying and grades but got no answers from him. He went and spent the night at his friends after the discussion. His step dad said i am to get him to and from work and that is all no driving him to buy stuff. If he wants stuff he takes the bus. So I told him to be home at 10 am as he worked at 11:00. The next morning no show at 10:15 so I go get him. I find out that he called his boss and asked to start at 1:00 instead but neglected to tell me. I am feeling like I dont matter at this point. I proceed to ask him questions and get brief vague anwers. Do you care about me? Yes because you do things for me. What are you going to do to change I don’t know. Do you care about your family? Yes by doing stuff. I take him home and we leave later but are running late the road is very bumpy with snow and ice and I am rushing. He proceeds to ask if I will take him to best buy later. I say no and he isn’t buying Xbox one. He says he wants to buy something else. I end up swerving the vehicle and plow into the edge of a yard. Luckily no one is around no cars and I back up and slow down. His step dad thinks the solution is letting him fall and doing nothing. He has tried talking to him but nothing has changed. Don’t cook dinner for him don’t take him to stores when asked. Let him spend his money and take the bus. I don’t know what to do? Do I take his electronics away computer and iPod until he talks? He has no remorse for lying and doesn’t care about what he is doing. Doesn’t understand why he needs to save money either. Refuses to talk to a counselor but says he wants to change. But his lack of actions are speaking louder than words.

  11. DJ Says Reply

    Very effective to my kids 5, 7, and 11 years old. Thank you for sharing your idea.

    • Pris Says

      To the parent who is complaining about their 14 old who is working: All I can see is that your 14 year old bought a computer with money he saved from working at his job. That’s absolutely awesome! Not sure what your problem is. Sometimes us parents forget the awesomeness of our kids.

  12. Betty Says Reply

    Sounds like oppostional defiant disorder.

  13. Maria Says Reply

    Ok so I know its because I have always done for my kid. I always thought she was more responsible because by 5th grade she got up with an alarm, and got herself ready. But as she got older she is dealing with some mental issues and takes certain meds that she has to take 2x a day. She also has bad acne so washing her face and applying her medication cream is important. She is almost 18 now and every morning before school. I say did you take your meds? “Oh I forgot” , did you wash your face, did you put on deordant and so on.. and its always “oh I forgot” . I know this is probably because when she started having issues I made sure she took her meds and everything, but now she will be going off to college and I have created a kid who never remembers! HELP!!! I had her put reminders in her phone, but she ignores them. I really messed this up and I need help!

    • Deborah Godfrey Says


      Don’t be so hard on yourself! If your daughter has mental issues, she may have needed the extra support you provided her. Gently try to go back to having faith in her ability. Instead of asking, “Did you….?” I would sit down with her and let her come up with a routine so that she can remember herself. Ask her how you can support her. She will be empowered to guide the way and I think that can help her as she goes off to college. No worries, she’ll figure it out one way or another!

      Good luck!

  14. Cdw Says Reply

    I dont agree with letting the consequences naturally happen. Because that doesn’t always work. Maybe let it happen a few times.

    But if you let your son forgets his lunch everyday for school then that is YOUR fault as the parent and not the child’s fault for not remembering.

    Plain and simple that is neglect. You are neglecting to feed your child and you blame it on him. You are blaming the victim.

    What you should do is take his lunch to school, go to the office, have the office call him out of class, and you reprimand him in front of the office and his peers to stop forgetting his lunch. Maybe if that happens a few times he will not forget. And if that does not help then your child needs to see a doctor.

  15. darkocean Says Reply

    This looks like it could work, I’m going to try it; I’ve printed it out, thanks much.:)

  16. Rose O'Reilly Says Reply

    Thank you for this awesome post! You’ve given great tips for some of the toughest decisions that we face as parents. Its so hard to stop yourself when you know that a little reminder can save your child a lot of embarrassment in class but its true that if you’re willing to remind them, kids will always be willing to forget. However, another great thing that you’ve pointed out is that despite letting kids learn from their mistakes, we must not use harsh words. Any kind of negative talking is detrimental for children. I am learning a few things in programming and I swear I start to feel worthless just after a little bit of disapproval by my coach. It’s as if all the things I’ve ever achieved are useless and now, I’ve become somebody who’s good at nothing. Having read your post and so much more about positivity and parenting, I understand that I’m much more than just “programming” but I can see how devastating it can be for children if they’re always reminded of their mistakes and continuously threatened for them.

  17. Beatrix Says Reply

    My 13 year old son forgot his social studies book and he has a test tomorrow. Other parents gave me advise that he just needs to face the consequence and get a bad grade to learn the hard way. That makes no sense to me. He is 13 and he does not care about grades. If I would use this approach that would reinforce the behavior as studying is an activity he does not prefer to do. No book , no studying and a grade is just a letter with little meaning attached for our 13 year old. I cant blame him as he is 13 and he is not interested about college at this point. The solution is easy he needs to call his friend and ask them to email or let him photograph the pages he needs. This worked as his forgetfulness causes him more work. Everybody forgets and makes mistakes but then we also need to fix it. And a bad grade fixes nothing.

    • Deborah Godfrey Says

      Quite the contrary, ONE bad grade CAN motivate some kids. You get to use your judgment as a parent to figure out whether this is an opportunity to learn from the consequences of their mistake, or not. Your judgment call was that he wouldn’t learn, so you helped him do what he needed to do, very valid choice, great work. In my 15-week Teleclass, I teach both these options in detail and help you get comfortable about making that decision.

  18. DUDI Says Reply

    My son studying in class IX. He is just fond off History channel, Fiction movies and History to listen. Do not take interest in study or computers or physical exercise. I am afraid what to do. In India there is cut throat competition but i am worry how he will survive in future. He is very cool obedient for social calls but do not want to read write. Many times he dreams big but the next second he do nothing to achieve those dreams. Plz advise me what to do.

  19. Tamz Says Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing. Actually too have tried all the above but nothing seem working for my 8 and 10 year girls. I cannot see myself letting them fail or run into a mistake, say like eatimg without washing their hands, how is that one going to bring immediate results/effects that they can see? Most of the things they forget l see no immediate effect that will make them remember or understand it’s effect. Say tidying up or clearing their mess, organising their toys, keeping their environment clean, they so much do even care about anything. I have tried punishment, love and play, restriction and confiscating or stopping them things they like much, nothing is working for me, so frasuated

  20. PrincessMomOf5 Says Reply

    This article and the comments are very helpful but I most relate to Derek and would love to know how the last 2 years have gone for his son. My 6th grade daughter has exactly the same challenges where she is mostly an A student until she gets the occasional zero for late homework or even major project. We try encouraging her to write in her agenda to no avail. We have taken away her phone and non school related computer time. She says she wants to make good grades but we are not seeing the level of effort to support that statement. We are very worried about her work ethic and really have a hard time watching her fail. Until this year, she has always been an A student. This year she is still somehow maintaining A’s and B’s, but it is a miracle and a major roller coaster ride getting there. It is baffling to me that a late assignment wouldn’t create a “hair on fire” “I have to get this done” sense of urgency, but it just doesn’t. I usually make her do the assignment regardless of whether or not the teacher will accept it, and so far it just hasn’t changed her behavior. It is so stressful! And we do feel like because we are always on her back about these issues that she does not get enough loving. I will take any success stories or strategies that have worked for other parents out there!

    • Deborah Godfrey Says

      I definitely cover this in my 15-week Positive Parenting Teleclass Series. We look at it from several angles too: I use an example of a child bringing home their report card to discuss the difference between praise and encouragement, an example of a child who has waited until the last minute to finish her science project when we discuss how effective different parenting styles can be, and again when I use an example of a child “generally” failing in school when deciding to use natural vs logical consequences. I don’t think there is one magic answer for you. What I do know is that it’s really important to establish their “internal” motivation by junior high school where the child’s main focus needs to be figuring out time management and organizing all their different classes, and high school where they REALLY need to be motivated for their own purposes because parents can lose so much of their influence.

    • Emily Says

      She sounds just like me ( I’m 31 now) she has ADD and a stimulant will change her life for the better.

  21. Regina Says Reply

    My son 7 years now in class two. Most of the time he is on cartoons in the evening this is his favourite tv channel when he is idle. He is able to follow everything in this cartoon and he can narrate it all after it ends. When you visit new places the next day you passby he will point to you the place you were yesterday. Come to the books, when you teach a today how to write a word after ten minutes he forgot. He struggles but if you observe him seriously he can’t remember. when we come to mathematics he tries abit and this he can atleast remember. but to languages very poor. I have been struggling for five year since he was in nursery by even paying the teacher tuition fee to coach her part time but all in vain. How can I be helped.

  22. ??? Says Reply

    My son Ethan forgot his report:-( and we were going to Thailand but he can’t come

  23. DEDRA Says Reply

    While I can appreciate most of your points, I cannot agree with letting consequences happen when it comes to eating. I have spent years in eating disorder recovery in part because of early eating patterns. At age 6, I forgot my lunch (and so did my mom apparently). My teacher informed me that I was old enough to remember my lunch, and did not call my mom to advise her. – I went without lunch that day. I can’t say one event led to eating disorders but, I can tell you this event still comes up in therapy years later.
    I know at some point, a child should remember their lunch but, I would say there are other ways to address the problem.
    For me doing without food became something I had to do to make it through certain situations, so later I didn’t see the behavior as abnormal.

  24. garima Says Reply

    regina , i am facing the same problem with my 7 year old son. what is the solution. I am very weak emotionally to leave him on his own.

  25. Maria Says Reply

    I was hoping this article would provide guidance on how a child could remember to do school-related stuff but I’m afraid that letting them fail – period – does not sit well with me.

    My son is 12 years old and is in 8th grade. HIs situation is a bit different where his grades are alright (no failing grade) but he wants to be an honor student/be recognized because like all the kids mentioned in the comments, he is intellectually capable (he is invited to represent the school in inter-school math and science competitions). One thing that he agrees with me and his dad’s observation is that he tends to be careless when it comes to noting down questions and requirements for his homework. He explains that there are times when he is in the middle of finishing an activity for class when the teacher gives out the homework and he misses some details. Because of this, he has to go on Facebook at the end of the day or during weekend, and ask his classmates on their chat group or text them about the HW before he can complete them. When this happens he does get concerned because he wants to turn in good quality submission. My initial impression is that he is not yet capable to multi-task while in the classroom, which I am very cautious about because multi-tasking tends to be not productive e.g. you start a few things but finish none at the end of the day, specially when the person gets distracted easily. What we do now is to point out that he has to literally and mindfully INSPECT his notes, check if they make sense (if something is not clear he should immediately address that problem – it’s up to him how he is going to do that). We have talked to him about the possible effects of the unhealthy habit of carelessness e.g. how his classmates would eventually feel if they always receive messages from him asking for help .e.g if they are able to get the information, how can’t he?, or how this will fare with his goal to make it to the honor roll, or his overall state of mind and body on a daily basis during the schoolyear. His dad and I pointed out that if he wants to achieve something then his success should not rely on other people’s efforts which he can otherwise do on his own. In our current situation, our son wants to succeed so we advise him to focus on his goal because we can only do so much (provide the materials he needs, offer guidance, make sure he is fed and gets to school on time!) but the rest is really up to him. It would require for him to change the way he sees things, there will be pain in doing new things and forming new habits but they are eventually overcome through persistence and consistency.

    I have let my son know that I will support him as much as I can but he has to do his part. Right now, his sense of responsibility and confidence has improved (goes to his teacher’s office after class to ask about information) but still tends to forget some things. Our discussion with him reveals it still has to do with carelessness e.g. recites from memory what his HW are but does not check his notes which eventually reveals there’re this item he needs to complete, etc.) and his fear of being embarassed in class when he asks the teacher about a certain information he did not understand.

    So in the end, it is forming the habit of inspecting his notes and making sure they are complete before the teacher leaves the classroom/he leaves school (what is the HW about, when is it due, who are the people concerned, how it is to be submitted and where, etc.) and knowing that the person who asks is not dumb but it smart enough to find out the facts and work efficiently moving forward. I would still need to ask him everyday if he has any homework but I might have to go the next level and ask the details I mentioned above. Also, to make him realise, he does not need to memorize everything and it is much safer to take down details in a notebook rather than know them from memory, and that he shouldn’t ever be afraid to ask questions.

    • Nak Says

      Wow I wish our son cared about being on honor roll or just getting a decent grade. Our 14 yr old son doesn’t seem to care about anything but Xbox & that’s it. We have tried everything to show him life is rewarding when you try & put effort in everything, as long as you tried your best you will hold your head high & just keep trying atleast you can feel good & positive that you tried you’ll eventually get a good outcome & gain confidence.Putting no effort into things just creates a low self esteem & makes you feel bad inside. But that doesn’t help either ,He doesn’t care about his grades, his own cleanliness, going outside & hanging out with friends,literally forgets seconds after we ask him to do something just xbox. We received notes from teachers he can do the work he just doesn’t try or forgets. We’ve tried everything possible to help him, just talking about it,taking away xbox when he forgets, had him put alarms in his phone, put a poster board on his bedroom door & fridge so he constantly sees it, had him write down his homework & have all his teachers sign it, telling him we will reward him with a new game if he does remember but nothing works, he is 14 & doesn’t find the importance in anything but Xbox. I think our job as parents are to guide our kids into becoming strong independent adults that can stand on there own to feet, find there passions & be proud of there accomplishments & who they are, have goals & strive to accomplish those goals.The world doesn’t remind us to take care of our responsibilities, our bosses will not constantly remind us or listen to a bunch of excuses without finally firing us. They have to want this for themselves & feel the backlash of what there actions or in actions cause good or bad. But We to are at our wits end & don’t know what else to do.

  26. james Says Reply

    Thank you for your amazingly practical, always a win-win solutions for those daily hangups/snags with our kids!

  27. Mike Siver Says Reply

    If anyone has notices I do not use the word “Punishment” I believe we as parents need to replaced the word with the word “Consequences” The thing about consequences we as parents seem to forget and to teach our children is they are a result of an action.
    Our children need to understand in the real world you will be held accountable for all your actions. It anyone breaks a rule/law and are held accountable there will be consequences. Some consequences are very serious and some are enough of a lesion to learn from in itself.
    An example most everyone understands is the consequences of working. When you do a week’s work your positive consequences are you get a paycheck at the end of that week.
    When you get fired for breaking the rules of your employment you may not be able to pay your bills and if you have a family they may suffer because of the negative consequences you got for your actions and behavior.
    Both positive and negative consequences are a result of your actions and behaviors and cannot be blamed on anyone else

  28. Liz Says Reply

    I had two kids with these behaviors – both boys. They are adults now, so here’s feedback from someone who has acquired some distance and perspective.
    Call it what you want, ADHD, memory processing, whatever. Newsflash: it doesn’t go away. It’s a function of their brain. So efforts to punish, apply consequences, rewards, etc don’t work. Many of the posts reflect the frustration of trying unsuccessfully to get the child to change. Tried them all myself. I let the frustration take over my relationship with them. I really felt responsible and a failure as a parent for something I couldn’t fix and I worried that my kids wouldn’t be able to function normally unless they started making efforts to remember. I couldn’t understand why someone who was SO smart could be doing such dumb things to sabotage their chances of success. High school was the worst. We had all variations of forgotten homework – didn’t write it down, forgot to bring home the book, had the book; forgot to do the work, did the work, left it at home, brought it to school, forgot to turn it in… And that was just school work. What about the lost keys, wallets, cell phones, hoodies etc… I didn’t want my son to learn how to drive, I was so afraid he would miss a stop sign and die. Both did get through high school and go on to college. That’s when things changed. I let go. Not of helping them, but of my expectations of who they should be and how they should be functioning given their level of intelligence. Looking back, here’s what helped them the most:
    1) Praise them for the EFFORTS they put toward achieving a goal. Because they are smart, they pick things up quick and too easily. The younger you can start them on “Wow, that was hard but you did it” the faster they will learn the satisfaction and value of earning and investing effort. Always validate behaviors you want to see, and try not to focus too much on what’s wrong. You can get a lot of mileage out of a child wanting to please you because they like the praise.
    2) Give them organizational skills. Relentlessly. Know they will drop the ball on this. What you are doing is building a foundation of strategies to deal with these issues when they are grown. Over time, they do own their behaviors and they learn to figure out what to do to manage the consequences of their forgetfulness. When my son periodically forgot his lunch, I discovered that he figured out several ways of getting food from different places (schmoozing friends or the lady in the lunch line). For those of us who don’t forget, we don’t need that skill, and we shouldn’t use it. People who do forget need a different skill set to get their needs met. They will always have to depend more on others due to their organizational deficit.
    3) Adapt your expectations to match what they can manage. I had to come to terms with the fact that even if my kiddos had the intelligence to be accepted in a really good college, they didn’t have the grades. They went to local schools and managed to get their degrees. One forgot to go to his midterm exam once and had to drop out of the class and take it over. Once I let go of feeling responsible for these missteps, I found they didn’t affect me anymore and my relationship with them really improved. It turns out they are both happy and well adjusted in their career choices.
    Does it ever go away? No. Some days are better than others. When my son got married, he forgot the rings at home. Did I mention he forgot to fill the car with gas and it died on the way to the rehearsal dinner? There was a time that could have sent me spinning. I let him figure it out, and he found the help he needed. I don’t need to get frustrated because he owns this and manages it. My job was to teach him how, not make it go away. I hope this helps…

    • Quiana Says

      This is the beat advice of this entire feed for me. I’ve stressed myself out trying to make my son be what I think he should be. The reality os, his loves, passions, and interest have nothing to do with what I want. And yes, my son is very resourceful when it comes to figuring out his mess ups or forgetfulness. And yes, you are exactly right! For us parents who spend too much time focusing on the negatives or being angry that our kids don’t meet our expectations, we are seriously damaging our relationship with our little ones. I love both of my sons so very much and want the best for them. But I know that what’s best doesn’t mean it has to fit my expectations. Thank you so much!

    • Kelechi Says

      I agree that this is great advice! I would love to see an update to Derek’s plight as well, but seeing as it’s 2018, it’s unlikely.

    • Kelechi Says

      Oops, I spoke to soon! There is an update.

  29. Ronda Says Reply

    I don’t entirely agree with this article and the advice it gives. Mainly because that is how I have raised all three of my children, and it doesn’t get their rooms clean!! I am, however, extremely proud of all of my kids, they all have such beautiful hearts, they generally make sound decisions (when it matters the most), and they are good kids.

    I think the real message that this article should have been sending, is one of acceptance. Your kids are just that, kids. They aren’t adults, and shouldn’t be expected to act like adults. Every kid has his flaws, shortcomings, etc… and so do you! My oldest has a hell of a time getting her homework turned in, but she’s a really sweet and smart girl. Her teachers see that, and she gets through it. My middle child is in all Honors classes, but she is a total slob.

    Our home is their safe place. There is no fighting, nagging, yelling, or tension. I’m always here to help when they ask for it, but I don’t make their decisions for them. And they pay the consequences when they go the wrong way, and I help them get back up and try again. I spend all of my free time WITH MY CHILDREN. I give them as much one-on-one as I possibly can, and we talk about whatever is on their minds. Raising kids isn’t about their grades, or the cleanliness of their rooms, and it isn’t about control. It’s about love, support and attention. But most of all, it’s about respect. From all parties. You wouldn’t talk to your friends the way you talk to your children, would you? Think about that.

    Parents tend to spend their time, trying to control their children’s lives, trying to mold them into whatever it is that they want them to be. That’s not respect. That’s control. And it doesn’t work.

  30. Mary Says Reply

    My problem is that she forgets things like flushing the toilet and turning off lights. There are no consequences for her when she forgets stuff; I am the one who has to wait 10 minutes after flushing the toilet before I can use it because the water doesn’t fill up quickly. I am the one who has to pay the power bill. Then when I remind her that she forgot she reminds me of all the things that I forget throughout my day. How am I supposed to respond to that and how am I supposed to get her to remember?

  31. Blanca Says Reply

    Hay Name Is Blanca Just have a question my son is 11years old my Mother-in-law said that my son should know think like a ground up because he still play with kids so should I do

  32. Farrah Says Reply

    This is kind of off the subject. My question is how do you respond when someone is constantly reminding you of how “bad” your kids were when they were small? And they point out that their kids didn’t get away with that behavior with them. I am so tired of the comparison.

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  35. Laura Says Reply

    I have tried letting consequences speak for themselves and try to not do the reminder bit. I ask her “Do you have everything you need for school and dance?” “Is there anything you need to take care of?” But she keeps forgetting things. She has lost 2 phones and her ipod. I replaced the phone after several months because she has dance class at a studio and its far enough away from home and work that I wanted to have a way for her to reach me. But I told her no phone if she lost this one. She lost it. Then she needed to use mine because she needed to contact a classmate about homework. I didn’t let her leave my sight with my phone but now I am getting texts and calls from her friends even though I have told her AND them that my phone is NOT her phone. She also didn’t turn in a bunch of homework and now is failing one of her classes. But she doesn’t seem to really care. She doesn’t know what information is going to be on the finals this year even though they went over it with the kids on Friday and she doesn’t know where the study guide for the finals that they gave the kids is. I say no going over to friends and she doesn’t seem to care.

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  37. Courtney Says Reply

    Hi there thank you for this information it is very helpful. I have been struggling with my son losing his school uniform. Last year i brought 4 brand new pairs of shoes which he lost, a new school Jacket which he lost and he just recently got given a new one from the school that he has also lost. Can you please advise what i could do to help him remember – he’s almost 7 years old and he always blames everything on me as to why he can’t find things or he’ll tell me i need to find it for him. We spend lots of mornings arguing and me nagging him about getting ready. From what i read i am definatley the nagging mum which from reading this article is not the way to go. I am prepared for him to reap the consequences however it is heading into winter and somedays it’s raining so i feel bad when he doesnt have a warm jacket and goes to school with a t-shirt only. Im also worried he’ll get sick, he actually doesnt mind not having shoes or a jersey or jacket either. You help would be appreciated. Thanks

  38. Tammy Says Reply

    How do you handle 11 year old son with neuro issues, has Tourette’s, and forgets to close freezer door & all the good spoils?

  39. TINA Says Reply

    WOW, wonderful tips! I’m guilty of doing everything for my daughter (she’s the middle child/only girl) her entire youth..she’s 19 now with NO self motivation whatsoever- it’s horrible how lazy she is..I blame myself completely. Then i had my youngest son and I try not to do so much for him…but it’s hard. I realize in the long run I’m hurting them 🙁

  40. Ettina Kitten Says Reply

    “A child who always forgets has a parent who always remembers!”

    What a blaming attitude. I’m high functioning autistic, and I was very forgetful as a child. I can assure you, it was not because my parents would always remember – very often, they didn’t, and I’d end up missing out because we’d all forgotten.

    Executive functioning is a skill, and some people are better at it than others. Some people have an actual disability in this area.

    The assumption that if I really wanted to, I’d remember to do it, has done a great deal of harm to me. I still blame myself sometimes for screwing something up. When I miss out on something important, it’s so hard for me to remember that it’s not my fault, that it’s my disability. I was blamed for my forgetfulness so much as a child, that now I have an automatic tape of blame playing when I realize that I have forgotten to do something.

    But no amount of blame ever helped me remember better in the future. I had to learn to try differently, not harder. So many times I’d resolve that this time, I’d stay on top of my assignments and pay attention in class… And I would, for about two weeks. And then I’d get exhausted, and do even worse than if I hadn’t tried in the first place. I never understood why I couldn’t do it, when everyone assured me that I just had to try harder. I felt like a failure.

    It was only after I got my diagnosis (at 15) that I started to break down the blame. I started trying to set up cues and reminders, to limit how much I needed to remember to a more realistic amount for my abilities, and to try to stop blaming myself when inevitably I did forget. I now have a system, using my phone to remind me of tasks and ‘striking while the iron is hot’ by doing tasks when I have the impulse to if I can. And building in rewards, because it makes the accomplishment more tangible. And I still don’t know if I’ll be able to keep track of things well enough to actually live on my own.

    Never assume that a smart child can remember if they want to. Autism and ADHD are invisible disabilities, and can easily be missed. And all children have poorer executive functioning than adults do, for the simple reason that their brains are still developing. Instead of punishment and blame, try teaching and scaffolding. If they forget something, help them figure out a good reminder. Be patient, and remember that they’re probably at least as frustrated with their forgetfulness as you are.

  41. Sanjana Sharma Says Reply

    Thanks for the sharing great post!

  42. Khadira Says Reply

    Hi, Just a bit of advice from a grandmother. No matter how much angst we deal with when raising children, no matter how many parenting classes we attend they will turn out a certain way. The best thing to instil in them is to be a good person, to be kind and caring and this is usually from example. My one daughter was a nightmare growing up, forgetful, irresponsible, not a high achiever, her room was always a mess and now she is an organized Financial Manager at a successful high tech company. My other daughter was a parent’s dream, straight A student and she is now a happy Fitness Instructor. Both are kind, caring and contributing members of society. It is a roller coaster ride parents, hang on and support your kids. Never, never, never berate them but love them for all of their diverse ways. They are not meant to be perfect. There are stages in life and none are easy.

  43. ZT Says Reply

    DEREK – I am facing a similar situation with one about to go into 9th grade…. Has the ability but does NOT care about grades… I have been told to let her fail and she will learn a lesson… I DOUBT she will care if she gets poor grades – but I will – all that hard work I put in will go to waste. I am equally invested in her grades by now and if she does poorly in high school she could potentially lose scholarships or not get admissions to colleges – again MY problem too… so whether she gets a punishment or not, I SURELY will ! My aim at this point is to get her through college and then she can learn her lessons…
    BUT I WOULD LOVE to know how it turned out with ur kid…

  44. Derek Says Reply

    I thought I would post an update since I still get the occasional email from people.

    I wish I could tell you all I found some secret and everything worked out great, unfortunately, I am still dealing with the same issue. He is 3 weeks from maybe graduating high school. I say maybe because he is close to an F in English. I hear the same thing from all his teachers, very smart but will not complete or hand in his work. He will not write things down, always forgets and has no issue getting bad grades.

    We actually had a bit of a blowup a couple of months ago. He said he’s got this and does not want to talk it about it anymore. So I stopped, and in 4 classes, he is close to failing.

    I pretty much tried everything. Well, nearly everything. I was never able to just outright step back and watch him fail a grade. I also never removed him from the one thing he was passionate about, that being band. I figured both those approaches would do more harm than good in the long run. I grounded him and banned all fun outside of school but that never made any difference. Band and music is his passion and taking that away would have been the worst thing to do.

    After a horrid freshman year, he seemed to do better over the next 2 years and managed to raise his GPA up to a 3.75 and did well on his SAT. However, it was still incredible frustrating seeing him struggle and receive so many zeros on his work. High school is very forgiving and part of the problem as he always had opportunities to catch up when pushed. With all his missed work, he should never have had such a high GPA.

    Even explaining how his grades can affect his college applications and merit awards made no difference. Getting him to apply to colleges was frustrating. He progressed nothing and we had to keep pushing him to finish the applications. In the end, he applied to 5 colleges and got into all 5. So not much of a lesson there lol. Seriously, it thrilled me and irritated me at the same time.

    In the college he picked, he decided he wants to be teacher and gain a music major. I told him to review the application process. He did not, and missed the deadline for auditions. He got lucky again when we spoke to the music dean during a tour, and with just 2 weeks of college left, allowed my son to take a late audition. He was accepted.

    In this, his senior year, he is doing worse than any other. Over 30 zeros in his classes. I have spoken to him extensively about college and how they will not be so forgiving about missed work. I have told him that with real money involved I will only fund or co-sign loans for 1 year if he continues not turning in work and putting in the effort. I have explained that real money is involved and as much as it will be heartbreaking to see him fail at this point, I will not fund a 2nd year of college if he is not turning in work or studying.

    My only advice is this; YOU do all you can to give them the tools and support to be successful, and then if that is not enough, try and accept that you did all you could. You can’t be more hurt or frustrated at their lack of success than they are to themselves. It is tough, very tough. I want my son to have an amazing college experience, graduate and be successful. Knowing that unless he changes, he will likely fail, is heartbreaking to a parent. But this is something I have to come to terms with otherwise it will just send me over the edge.

    Out of everything we have tried, probably the one thing that came close and he still tries to use, is post-it notes. I have learned that screaming and cursing does not work. It just makes you feel like you are doing something. Any conversation over 10 minutes is 5 minutes too long. He switches off so those 30 minute chats were just a lot of words he did not hear. Lessons about life mean nothing to them since they can not relate, but how can you give a child a common frame of reference?

    Deep breaths and take each day as it comes. One day you will blink and they will be 18 and not far from leaving home. I have had mixed thoughts about the times I grounded him. It robbed ME of spending fun times with him and of him spending time with me.

    My son is about to go off to college and I feel I spent way too little time with him having fun. I don’t know, or never learned, how to balance everything.

    • Moto Says

      Your honesty and sharing is appreciated .I think its important for those of us with young pre-high preschoolers and younger, who are smart but act stupid , to understand that there is probably nothing that we are doing that is going to be a magic bullet to turn our kids around. We spend our lives and our kids lives angry, accusatory and generally disappointed in feeling they are wasting their talents. As someone said previously, its doubtful we will get through to them with life lessons so the time might as well be spent looking for what they did do and praising them on it. Its just cannot hurt them where as the memories of their parents screaming at them probably will.
      Hands up which parent got through to their forgetful, low achieving but capable kid and turned them around to be an academically focused and driven kid?

  45. Isabella Fontecha Says Reply

    Very helpful info! This will be such a win-win.

  46. Christine Says Reply

    I am so glad I came across this article today when researching about “forgetfulness in children”. Recently, my child has been forgetful for two weeks in a row and it’s time we have a discussion.

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