Forgetful Child Syndrome

By Andrea Simanson

What do you do about the child who constantly "forgets" what he was supposed to do? You know the story: "What? I don't remember that!" Even with the written chore list posted on the wall where he can see it, he will still forget to do something. That's okay. He's a kid. But we (the adults) get to train him to be responsible, right? So how do we do that?

What usually happens when we hear those words "I forgot"? We often express frustration and say something like "You forgot! How could you forget?! It's posted right on the wall." Or, "I've told you ten times!" But, this isn't training. It's complaining. Training is consistently enforcing consequences or removing privileges in order to effect a certain result.

Here's an idea to teach a forgetful child how to remember what's expected of him.

Write down four privileges that motivate your child.
1) Ride your bike
2) Watch a favorite show
3) Play a computer game
4) Free time

Now, post that list on your refrigerator. The next time your child says "I forgot" when you ask him why he hasn't done something that was expected of him, you walk over to the refrigerator and cross off one of those privileges. It won't take too many cross-offs before your child will start remembering to do what's expected. It will teach him to take responsibility for his actions, instead of transferring the blame to his friend named "I forgot." This is a simple method for removing the "excuse" and putting "teeth" to your plan. Try it (and change the list to whatever age-appropriate privileges work with your child).

Remember, organizational skills are not inherent at birth (though some children may be more inclined to be organized than others). Organizational skills must be taught and trained into children. If you help your child "remember" enough times in a row (you know the old rule: it takes 21 days to change a habit), he will eventually be trained in an area. Too often, we expect him to be organized, a hard worker, and responsible, but we haven't done anything to train him. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What specific steps have I taken to train my child in the area of "blank"?
  2. If I have trained him in this area, why isn't he getting it? Have I given him enough time to learn and practice what it is I'm asking him to do?
  3. Have I walked through the steps "with" him (at least once, if not several times)?
  4. If I haven't trained him, why not? Have I been too busy? Have I simply not made it a priority?
Take a step back as a parent to evaluate how you are doing in the training process. It's the first step to problem-solving with your child. Don't "forget" your role in your child's life and how important it is to stay involved.

Andrea Simanson is a wife and mother of three children, and the website and ezine editor of Successful Family Chores - Putting FUN and ENERGY into everyday tasks. For a regular dose of family organizational ideas, sign up for Successful Family Chores, a free bi-monthly newsletter, at