23 answers

How Do I Get My 10 Year Old to Be More Responsible?

Hello, I am looking for some advice on 10 year old responsibility. My son is a very good student, very bright and fortunately does not struggle academically. My problem is, he forgets his homework a lot, he is in fourth grade this year and it just started this year. It's almost always the same book, his Spelling workbook. If he comes home and knows before the school closes, I take him up to get it, the school is only a minute drive away. If not, our neighbor's daughter is in the same class and we copy the page from her book. I understand that occasional forgetting is ok, we've already copied things for the neighbor as well when she forgot. He frequently forgets to write in his agenda also and the teacher has on the board first thing in the morning what the homework assignments are so they have all day to write it down. I tell him to check against his agenda and the board before he leaves each day to make sure he has everything, but he's not getting it. It's very frustrating. His dad says to let him go and take the consequences from his teacher but I want his homework to get done. I've given him consequences at home though; no playing with friends, no video games, no TV, bed early, but nothing seems to help. Any suggestions or ideas are very much appreciated. Thank you in advance!

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So What Happened?™

THANK YOU to all who responded. I have so much advice to go with, I think I can incorporate a lot of it together. The majority said hubby is right, although I knew that I didn't want to admit it. Some of you said you understand how hard it is as a mom to let our children take the consequences at school, but I understand now how important this is in the long run...years down the road. We've had issues with his teacher this year (not just us) so I don't think getting the teacher involved is the right thing...very long story. I will definitely follow through the rest of the year (less than a month) and be on top of it next year; it will be his last year before going to Middle School so I'll work with the teacher next year if it happens again.

Featured Answers

Hello M.,
My name is M. and I am the mother of a 10 1/2 and 2 1/2 year old boys. My 10 year old always forgets things. I started taking things from him, like the priviledge to watch t.v. until the next day if he bought home his homework, also his WII which he would not be able to play. After a week of this he started to remember. He even got a reward for not forgetting any assignments for the month of April. Hope this helps.

M. G.

To chime in here with the let him fail. My 2nd grade daughter has always been responsible for her homework until the weather changed this spring. Since it's been nice she seems to forget lots of things because she can't wait to get home and go play. Well, the first two times I did get the assisgnments for her but after that I let it go because I have other things to take care of besides getting her homework. She was very upset because she didn't want an incomplete because she ahs never gotten one of those (she knew the consequence). She had to go in with no homework and got a green N (that's an incomplete) and she hasn't forgotten since! She hates to disappoint her teacher so it was a lesson well learned.

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As a second grade teacher for 8 years, with my Master's Degree, I have to agree with your husband. Having to face the teacher with an assignment not finished, will probably be more difficult than what you can dish out. Plus in letting him fail, you are teaching him that he is responsible for his school work and you are not. Isn't that your ultimate goal?

I grew up with a wonderful, caring, amazing, mother. But in loving me so much, she always bailed me out in situations like this. It taught me to be less responsible because I knew she would always come to the rescue. It took me a long time to be the responsible person I am today. Plus, it robbed me of taking full pride in my work and projects because they were not %100 my work.

Let him fail now while he is young and the grades really don't count in the long run (towards college or graduation) or he will be depending on you to bail him out when the grades really do count.

I would however contact the teacher and let him/her know your plan, so she/he realizes that you are giving your child the gift of being self motivated and responsible.

1 mom found this helpful


Your son sounds much like mine. Mine is very bright...high iq...is in the gifted program...BUT...has ADHD. Certainly I'm not suggesting your son has the same thing, but you may want to do some reading on it...see if any applies and have him tested if so. It manifested itself in our son in 4th grade.

So...we've been through some counseling with him (and he's had some on his own) to develop some tools to overcome his challenges.

The big thing the psychologist stressed is that he needs to suffer the consequences of failing to follow through on what's expected of him. She reminds us that the stakes are so (relatively) small when they're in elementary school. If you continue to cover for him, he will never learn. He'll be 30 - with a wife and kid and get fired from a job when he forgets something and he'll never know what hit him.

Believe me...I speak from experience. It HURTS to see your kid mess up...and do it again...and again. It feels like it would be so much easier to bail him out, and it would in the short run, BUT...if you continue to enable him, he'll continue to rely on you.

Just remember...the stakes are small now...I have to remind myself of that on a daily basis.


P.S. There are still SOME times that I bail him out...but they're less freqent...and it's for extenuating circumstances only. I also take away his video game time which is very painful for him...the important thing is to be consistent. If we say we're going to take away his game time if he forgets, we do it...even IF...he has a friend coming over or whatever else...

I think you need to let your son experience the consequences of forgetting his homework. What you are doing is not working because he knows you will come to his rescue. As parents it is only natural to want to rescue our children, but one of our jobs as parents is to teach our children to be responsible and to be organized. If you continue to bail him out, he will never learn these lessons. You said that he is very bright and does very well in school, so I think that getting a bad grade on a test because he forgot his homework would really have an impact on him. You may even be able to talk to his teacher about the situation and what you are trying to do to teach your son about being respnsible and organized, she may be willing to work with you. However, since you have come to his rescue so far you should have a conversation with him to explain that it is his responsibilty to bring his homework home and tell him what you will do(not bail him out) if he forgets it in the future. To just spring it on him one day when he forgot his homework would be cruel, since you have bailed him out in the past. You need to let him know in advance what YOU will do and then you need to follow through. I believe that just one time would end this power struggle for you. This is your son's problem not yours, so just let the natural consequence of him forgetting his himework play out. I hope this helps
Take Care!

I started a clothespin discipline which seems to work pretty well. (You can put the clothespins on a display board or a piece of cardboard) The first offense, they get a clothespin. The second offense, they get a clothespin. Third offense, time out, fourth offense grounded. This also helps mom from yelling because discipline is all on the child's shoulders. When they reach the grounded stage, ask the child what they think their punishment should be.

To chime in here with the let him fail. My 2nd grade daughter has always been responsible for her homework until the weather changed this spring. Since it's been nice she seems to forget lots of things because she can't wait to get home and go play. Well, the first two times I did get the assisgnments for her but after that I let it go because I have other things to take care of besides getting her homework. She was very upset because she didn't want an incomplete because she ahs never gotten one of those (she knew the consequence). She had to go in with no homework and got a green N (that's an incomplete) and she hasn't forgotten since! She hates to disappoint her teacher so it was a lesson well learned.

Been there done that! My son is now 14 and in 8th grade. He really struggled with writing down assignments. It came to a head in 6th grade. He had to get his teachers' signatures every day for almost 6 months. He now knows all of his assignments and suffers the consequences if he doesn't complete them.

Back to elementary school... there is a lot more coddling in elementary school. What percentage does homework count towards the grade? My son had straight A+'s in 5th grade. There was no challenge. Homework was completed in no time.

My suggestion is to have a heart to heart with him. Let him know that he's bright, but needs to be responsible for bringing his books home so he can complete his homework. Homework will only increase, especially at the middle school level. Go ahead and have him suffer the consequences of not completing it. If the "A" is really important to him, not getting the "A" will be a wake up call.

BTW, my 10 year old daughter in 4th grade doesn't complete her agenda either. She hated it when I tried to get her to fill it out earlier in the year so I gave up trying. She completes her homework for the most part. I work with her on her homework when needed.

Hope this helps!
A. D

HAHAAA...Are you talking about my son? I can relate ENTIRELY!! My son is 10...brings home an "i forgot" slip almost every single day. Fortunately making him stay in is working for the moment. It seems we have to switch up his consequences,depending on what he is most interested in at the time (video games,out playing with friends). So punishing him from everything at once or long term..basicaly doesn't work. In my opinion these kids have a lot on there plate at school these days and have a lot more responsability at a much younger age. I have a HIGHLY intelligent 14 yr. old and I can remember his struggles at that age too like being organized.Let's not forget they are boys...not that it's there excuse!Both my boys had the same teacher and let's just say she is not a happy camper and gives lot's of homework even gave a test 2 days before school let out.So I think some kids feel a little overwhelmed on a daily basis. Some think because there grades are fine...not doing all the homework will affect them. I do believe that if you make the teacher aware that this is a problem and you can use her help in this..(i.e. ask her to peek at his agenda and remind him to bring home his books...it's not that hard for her to do..and his grades are most important..being more responsible and organized will be more of a focus next year...in preparation of middle school. Start fresh then and if you notice it starting again early on...then again bring it to the teachers attention and let them do there part too. During the summer give him a couple small chore's if he doesn't already have..just as a way of excersing his responsibilities and keeping him on his toes! Honestly you sound like me and knowing my husband and I have done all we can..the only thing I wish we did earlier was getting the teacher more involved. It has helped us and the stress we've had all year. Your not alone!! I hope this helps! Good luck!

How about instead of consequences for forgetting the workbook, rewards for remembering to bring home the workbook? Like maybe on a weekly basis if he remembers everyday that week, Friday night or over the weekend do something special that he would look forward to, like having a friend over or a day trip. "My dad and I are going fishing this weekend. I am so excited but I have to bring home my workbook everyday to be able to go. My mom said I can't go if I am not responsible and bring home my work" Obviously the consequences did not make an impact on him if he still can leave school without saying to himself, "oh let me grab my book because I want to play video games tonight". Also, call the teacher and let her know and perhaps she can keep an eye on what he is doing when its time to leave school, or she can just give a friendly reminder to all the kids in the class if he is not the only one.

I would tell the teacher so they know and can a buddy in school check his planner?

Hi M., I wish I had the magic answer for you...all I can share however is that I went thorough this with my oldest! When she started school (in Ohio) she had homework every night except for Friday's. She would do her homework at the table as soon as she got home (from school or the babysitters) then she was free for the night. Good habit right? We moved here the middle of 2nd grade and it all went nuts. She didn't have homework everynight and it was hard to keep track of...for her and for me. It's been my experience that homework help lines are totally unreliable....no matter how well-intentioned they are. After the adjustment peroid she just got lazy and didn't want to do her home work. We tried everything. Her 4th grade teacher got so mad at her for falling behind in her homework for the second time she actually told my daughter not to come to school until she had it all done! This was after I had repeatedly requested she call me and tell me when my daughter had missed no more than 4 assignments! When the teacher said that to my daughter she was 15 homework assignments behind. Needless to say I was crazed. We spent the entire weekend getting her caught up and she didn't play softball that season. It was horriable! The best thing that ever happened for us was another move. We moved to a smaller school district and just happened to move into a house across the street from her new 5th grade teacher! The idea of Mom walking across the street to ask her teacher if she had any homework was just too awful! That year was her best year ever! She didn't skip or turn in one paper late that year and has only had the occaisional slip since then. She is now 16 and finishing up 10th grade on the honer roll.

Here are my suggestions: 1. Never threaten him with a punishment you won't follow through with completely and take something that really means something to him (my daughter lost an entire season of softball because she was unwilling to do homework & she still hasn't forgotten it!)
2. Become friends with your son's teacher and be willing to call them at random to find out his progress in this area. Let your son KNOW that you will be doing this and that he will be held accountable for his actions or inaction.
3. Don't harp about how he organizes his school work or fills out his daily planner, he needs to develop a system that works for and is comfortable to him. The most important part is getting the work done.
4. I recommend that you have him do his homework before he does anything else. I know some people think kids should have a break between school and homework, but for us it always seems to go faster and better if they just do it when they get home then they can enjoy the rest of their day.
5. I also recommend you have him do it at the kitchen or dining room table. I find that when you let them do their homework in their room they have too many distractions.

I'm sure none of this is new. All I can tell you is that it will get better if you hang in there and keep makeing his education your priorty. Just think, in less than a month this year will be just a memory and next year is a fresh start! Good luck & best wishes!

Hi M.,
I feel your pain :-)
I have a friend with a 14 yr old son who is daily fighting this same battle! She tends to take away the thing nearest & dearest to his heart--no, not her! -- The XBox 360!
Maybe if he forgets stuff, no video games for a few days so it sticks in his mind? Good luck to you!

I agree with your husband about learning to fail. BUT, talk to the teacher and make sure the consequences are clear, there aren't any exceptions, etc. Then ask him how HE can remember better about the assignments. Make a checklist, w/ boxes for "agenda", "HW", etc. laminate it and pin it to the outside of his backpack w/ a whiteboard marker(OK flawed idea in the rain but the rest of the time...) He's got to check off the things as he's leaving school each day and you check with him when he gets in the door. If this is uncool, even more motivation for him to remember. 3 months makes a habit. I have to peak in my purse before leaving the house, my husband has to pat his back pocket for his wallet, you are teaching your son how to check before he leaves school w/out doing it for him. If he forgets he forgets but at least you've tried to give him tools to remember. Keep up the consequences at home too -it shows him how important it is and is the best way to make an impression.

i wish i could give you advice, but my 14 year old daughter in 8th grade still does it. But when she gets her report card and it says missing or incompleted or late assignmenst and she went from a b to a D, well she knows she is grounded and then improves (at least for her progress report). I just think it is part of being a kid and we still have many years to go.

Although another possibilty for you could be that he is having a hard time in that area (spelling), check with his teacher! Good luck!

If he's only forgetting one book, consider buying an extra copy of that book to keep at home. You can sell the book after he's done with forth grade.

Ask the teacher if there is an extra spelling workbook that you can purchase and keep at home...
As a PTO activist, push for schools choosing more books with online web accessible textbooks. This eliminates you're hassling him, giving consequences, and he having to remember because at home, the textbook is easily accessed online! Start petitioning your school district now because the weight of textbooks as a student progresses each year seem to weigh more with each grade! It saves the health of your child's back as well as your peace of mind! (I also think textbooks should be available by cell phone texting/pod casts. Yes, it won't be long for those days!)

Remember this too shall pass...
Happy Parenting Journey,
19 year old Bridie's Mom and 17 year old Sam's Mom

PS - I have to agree with your spouse. Let your son take the consequences. It's his spelling homework...not yours. He's the one who needs to be more concerned about it. Don't let him see that it pushes your 'button'. Just calmly respond, "Oh my, what are you going to do about not having your spelling workbook?"

Hello M.,
My name is M. and I am the mother of a 10 1/2 and 2 1/2 year old boys. My 10 year old always forgets things. I started taking things from him, like the priviledge to watch t.v. until the next day if he bought home his homework, also his WII which he would not be able to play. After a week of this he started to remember. He even got a reward for not forgetting any assignments for the month of April. Hope this helps.

M. G.

I have some of the same problems with my daughter now that the weather has turned nice. I spoke with her teacher about this and he let me know my child was not the only one. She is getting her assignment sheet signed by him and also me when she is done with her homework. She has also suffered the consequences at school if she has forgotten something. That seemed to work the best. I think fourth grade is when the teachers start making the kids be more independent with their work. It is a learning process for kids since they are use to much more coddling in the lower grades. I hope some of the suggestions help you out.

I hate to be the one to tell you but. Your husband is right!!! I have a almost 17 year old son that I myself went through the same issues. this is actually not uncommon at this age. Let go and let GOD!!!

If I didn't know better, I would think you are talking about my 10 yr old, 4th grade daughter. Same problem, this is how I solved it. I did what your husband said. At her school they take minutes off of recess, so she would lose minutes. It doesn't happen too much any more, even when she occasionally forgets, I tell her that she has to deal with it at school. I am the President of the parent/teacher organization(2nd year) and could easily run back up (we live less than a minute away too) and I could get the book, but what does she gain from that? I am not always going to be able to bail her out and even though it's something small, it's big to her. No one wants to sit inside on a sunny day during recess. You aren't doing him any favors by covering his butt every time. Also, maybe this is his little form of rebellion. maybe he wants to see what you will do, and you are giving in. It's the parent's job to set up the boundary's and it's the kid's job to push those boundary's.

Good luck!

Hi M.,
I have to say that I agree with your husband on this one. Let him "face the music" with his teacher. This is a school issue. Let the teacher handle the consequences on this one. It'll probably only take one time! Best of luck to you.

Sounds like there is a running theme with your responses. I am thinking with school just about to let out for the summer, the problems at school are just about over but only for a few months. I am worried if you don't make him more responsible for things at home, he will return in the fall with the same issues. With him being 10, he is ready for a lot of chores he could be responsible for at home. You need to sit down with your husband and decide what chores he should do on a daily and weekly basis (for instance, making his bed, putting his clean clothes away in his room, emptying his pockets and putting his dirty clothes in hamper, dishes, trash, recycling, and even some light vacuuming). Then discuss with your husband the consequences if said chores are not done. I would them put them in writing like on a chart in his room or on the fridge. Then stick with it..... Do NOT remind him to do any of his chores and stick with the punsihment when they are left undone. Also reward him when he DOES actually remember. Give him an allowance or do something special with him, like a family amusement park trip when so many good reward tokens are recieved or something to that effect. You could do this with all 3 of your boys....imagine how nice and organized your life could get. We currently do an allowance system with are 7 year old and that has helped her out A LOT... She has actually come to me and asked me to put it all on a chart for her so she won't forget. I am tossing around changing it over to a good reward token system though this summer. I am tired or her buying a bunch of garbage toys with her allowance;-) Good luck no matter what you do. You are already winning a battle with 3 healthy boys with good grades and a strong marriage of 12 years! It sounds to me like you are a great mom, with a great husband for a dad.

First you may need to determine if it is a organizational failure on his part or he just doesn't want to do the home work. My son just didn't want to do the homework and was failing due to such. I discussed it with the teacher and she was gracious enough to allow me to have a set of the classrooms books. Boy did his eyes get big the first night he used the excuse that he didn't have his books to do his homework. If it is a scheduling problem with writing down the homework you also may have to work with the teacher and let him pay the price in school with no homework done.

I have watched the same struggle with my nephew who is 11. He is extremely bright and in another world when it comes to his own responsibilities. He goes to a Montessori school which encourages the children to take responsibility for their own actions, including when they miss a homework assignment. It is not easy, but your husband has the right idea. Your son needs to see what the consequences are when he does not take down an assignment. It will show him that it is actually his problem, not yours. It frustrated my nephew no end when he kept forgetting. When he remembered, my Mother (his guardian) would ask him how good it felt and he was so proud and relieved. I know it sounds harsh, but he is much more mindful of many things now. This method works, but it has the approval of the school. I can see where this might frustrate another school.

Another thing that helped is that my nephew is normally not allowed tv during the week. On occasion he is allowed an hour and weekends are negotiable, but he rarely asks. Knowing that the tv will be off when he gets home does help him focus and he does not feel as though he is missing anything. Good luck.

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