Friday, December 17, 2010

The Forgetful Child

We, as parents, quite often enable certain behaviors without knowing it. When we deal with our own "forgetful" child, we wonder how this child of ours can be so...absentminded.

See if these thoughts sound familiar:

"Mom! I forgot my backpack at home!"

"I forgot my lunch."

"Where are my shoes?"

"Have you seen my..." (fill in the blank)

I'm a mother who feels like there is a "home" for everything. With six kids, there always HAS to be some chaos organization. But, the children often ask me why everything has to be "perfect". My theory is: if everything has a "home" (and it "lives" there, like it should), you can find it when you need it. :)

The Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Way

Have you ever heard of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald? Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is the main character of a line of chapter books that I used to love (now there are movies, too)! Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is this old woman that loves children. She had her ways with kids, too. It is the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Way. She often went to the extreme. Parents were always calling her for advice and, quite often, she would step in to be part of the solution.  For instance, there were children in one book who would NOT go to bed on time. They procrastinated and put it off like bedtime was the plague. (Sound familiar?)

What did Mrs. Piggle Wiggle do? She told the parents to let her keep them overnight and she kept those little procrastinators up ALL NIGHT LONG, watching television, playing games...they would start nodding off and she would wake them up with a reminder something like, "Hey, I thought we were staying up all night? Isn't that what you like to do?" Needless to say, the kids did not stay up all night long...and they learned a lesson the next day when they were tired and did not want to get up.

What Is My Point?

My point is this: Sometimes we have to take the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle way and allow our children to make their mistakes and learn from them. Otherwise, we are enabling their "forgetfulness". Okay, there are times when a child who never forgets their lunch makes a mistake one day - and in that case, I say bring your kid their lunch, if you want to.

This is not about the once-in-a-blue-moon forgotten lunch...this is about the Chronic Forgetter. The child who constantly forgets to bring their homework or lunch or hat or mittens to school. The one that you are ALWAYS reminding about something...doing their homework, cleaning their room, finding their shoes that are not in their "home".

That's your child, I know, and you feel like you need to make sure that their needs are fulfilled - which is understandable, because you are a good parent, however...

There is a point in life when your child needs to learn the consequences of forgetting, and if you constantly pick up the "missing pieces" for them, how do you expect them to learn? You will be expected to "save the day" every time your child forgets...and that is a lot on you.

What Your Child Learns

If you are constantly "covering" for your child's forgetfulness, you are teaching them something: If I forget, Mommy will remember...or Mommy will bring it. You're teaching them that you will "save" them every time. Aren't you tired of that?

If you stop "saving the day", they will learn something new. They will learn that if they forget, they pay a price (consequence) - and although it may be hard for YOU to watch them pay the price, you have to step back and help them learn the beauty of being responsible and remembering. You're not a bad parent...

I Will Not Save the Day

Just this morning, I told one of my older children to put two important pieces of paperwork into his backpack THREE TIMES! Lo and behold! After the children loaded on the bus, I found these vital pieces of paper ON THE FLOOR. Talk about wanting to spit fire! Did I bring them to school? No. (I did call the school to tell them that he left them at home after being told 3 times to put them in his backpack, but he will notice that he doesn't have them...and, ultimately, he will need to be responsible for answering for these items when he realizes he doesn't have them.)

Another child of mine left his backpack in the van two days in a row. When the teacher called to tell me that she noticed he hadn't had his bag for two days, I told her that he knows exactly where it is and when HE decides to get it...then he'll bring it to school. I told her that I expect HIM to take responsibility for his own backpack...and she did not blame me.

I know I say it all of the time, but with six kids (even with TWO, things can be difficult!), you have to go the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle route quite often or you will be running around, fixing problems all of the time. I refuse to enable forgetfulness. Children, even at a young age, must be taught how to be responsible. Forgetting every once and a while is justified - we are all, of course, human! I'm not expecting perfection.

I do, however, expect my children to pay attention to the important stuff in life and remember when there are important things to remember.

Would Your Child Forget Something Important to Them?

After all, if there is a special function...let's just say a friend's birthday party, for example...would they forget? Would they ALLOW you to forget? LOL. MY KIDS would hound me a million times about a birthday party...and they wouldn't forget a single detail: where it is, when it is, what to bring, who it is for. I couldn't "forget" about it even if I tried!

So, if they can remember all of those details about something that is important to them, they can remember their lunch for school or their backpack or where their shoes are. When you "save" them every time they forget, you are sending a message: "Don't worry about it, Mommy will cover for your irresponsibility." Is this what you want them to learn?

My Mom Mantra

I will say it over and over again, as it is my mantra as a mother: "Our main goal as parents is to raise our children to become responsible adults". This goes for every child in the world...If we enable them to live in their forgetful world by covering for them every time they forget something, we're not teaching them responsibility for their own actions.You are their mother, not their brain.


  1. Brilliant post. You are so right. I've learnt my lesson I have to admit. I have so often just said, "Oh, it's the autism." Then, I remind myself that autism doesn't count for everything! I'm very forgetful and it's bound to have rubbed off on Amy.

    I make her do things for herself these days even though remembering for her will always be a problem.

    CJ xx

  2. Crystal! I'm so glad you came by! I'm a fan of your blog...and I'm glad that you liked the post and picked up on the "every child" part...I believe strongly that, no matter what your child's "weaknesses" are, we can either be their biggest advocate or their biggest enabler. :)

    And, I say that in the most loving way possible.


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