At What Point Do You Say "Too Bad"

Updated on August 10, 2011
S.J. asks from Cherryville, MO
21 answers

My 6 year old has recently become VERY forgetful. He forgets his bookbag on a regular basis (last school year and current), he forgets small things, for example, his show and tell item or his towel and swim trunks for swimming lessons. Nothing major - but forgetting them nonetheless. I work full time, so I am unable to bring these items to him at school if he does forget them. He forgets them despite reminders from me 5 minutes before walking out the door and despite me or him setting the items near the door or table leading out to the garage. If he were to ever forget a big project or homework or something similar, I would make it a point to run the item to him at school. But we are not to that point, not yet at least. It still breaks my heart when he forgets even a small item like his show and tell.

My questions:

1) Recommendations to help him remember his items?
2) At what point do you stop the constant reminders and let him keep forgetting and learn his lesson?

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So What Happened?

I have tried checking him before he leaves the house, but then he ends up leaving the items in the car! I don't drive him to school, dad does, and he is as forgetful as his son! We get everything ready the night before as well. That is why I am asking the question, as nothing seems to be working. Keep the ideas coming!

Ugh - So Dad will have to be the last checkpoint. I was afraid you would say that! But I agree, 6 is very young. I just feel like I am the only responsible one with any memory in our house! I will have a talk with Dad, and I will still try packing the car the night before every single night and hope for the best. Thanks!

Featured Answers



answers from Baton Rouge on

My daughter had a bad habit of waiting until it was time to walk out the door to pack her school bag, and was constantly forgetting things, and calling me from school to bring them to her. I work full-time.
I gave my daughter two rescues per school year - two times that if she forgot something at home, I would leave work and bring it to her. Once she had used up her two rescues, too bad, even if it was a major project.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Why don't you try having him get his things together in the evening and put them in the vehicle?

Oh shoot you've already tried that LOL

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Medford on

get a white board and make a list of daily items that he needs. He can check the list before he walks out the door.

Keep everything in the same place. I know with my daughter if her backpack is in the wrong place she forgets it.

Make sure everything he needs is in his bag so things don't get left in Dad's car. For that matter teach hubby to check the car when he drops son off (good luck with teaching hubby :)).

At this age, I say if you put "safeguards" in place then its time to say too bad if he does forget something!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

What about a check list he HAS to check off, right before he walks out the door?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My kids get five oops a semester and one a week. In other words even if you have one of the five left if you already oopsed during that week I am not bringing your stuff up. They keep track of their stuff better because they have had to deal with the tough luck a couple of times. I think last semester they only used a couple of their oops. This is down from damn near all the time when we didn't have that system.

I have never reminded them to check for their stuff beyond the night before asking is your backpack by the door. I am a lazy, or maybe that is busy, mom.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

6 is a little young to expect him to remember everything. You need to check him as he leaves the house, and if dad is the ride than dad needs to double check the car at drop off.

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answers from Washington DC on

I would check him before he walks out the door. I need to do this with mine also. They are like us, and in a hurry they can forget something. I'd rather deal with the consequences at work and bring whatever they need to them, but with a friendly reminder that they need to remember. It sounds like your little guy may be extra forgetful, so I'd keep telling him. I think he'll get tired of you telling him a million times and eventually start to remember.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I would never say "too bad." I would personally check that he had everything he needed as we left the house, and I would do it nicely, as a favor to him, until he didn't need me to anymore.

Can you put everything into his bag, and then dad will see that he's taking his bag from the car?

I do the sticky note on the door for my husband, too, whenever there's a weird or longer list of stuff to remember. On the steering wheel is a good idea!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

let him learn to remember on his own when the stakes are small. He needs to learn responsibility. A reminder or two is okay...but ultimately you need to start training him to be responsible on his own. Let the natural consequences occur when the stakes are low.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Lots of kids, even older than your son, have trouble staying organized and remembering the things they need to take with them. I still have trouble with this, and I'm in my 60's. But we come up with strategies of our own when we realize it's the only thing that's going to work.

I recommend you do one of the wonderful strategies taught in How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. Get your son on the problem-solving team. Sit down with him when neither of you is in a hurry, and ask him to go through his morning routine. You write down the main points that he needs to remember, and help him make a checklist that he can hang on his wall and run through before leaving in the morning. He can even find pictures from magazines to stick on his checklist to make the reading faster.

Partway through his morning, ask him if he's following his list. Ask him again, at least 5 minutes before it's time to leave the house, whether he's checked his list and put everything in his backpack.

He'll almost certainly need some practice to stop forgetting things, and he may need to fine-tune his checklist to include occasional items like a toy for show and tell. But you'll be helping him tremendously in two ways: You'll be giving him a real tool that will help him take more responsibility for remembering necessary details, and you'll gradually be shifting the responsibility for the consequences of forgetting onto his shoulders.

I recommend you go to the source for this techniques and many others that will make your daily family life smoother and happier. Get the book. You'll wonder how you got along without it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I second BUG! a checklist by the door. You can make them at DKLT charts or get a white board type. Last year I always packed son's backpack for him as I am not there when he leaves for school (and Dad would need his own checklist!) Maybe I'll start the checklist soon.
have the show and tell or swim suit or whatever IN the back pack the night before

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

It doesn't stop. My six year old is fantastic about this stuff, but it's my ten year old that needs a list full of reminders stapled to her shirt. But you also need to remember... your six year old is ONLY SIX. He's still learning. It takes time for habits to develop, sometimes years. They don't just automatically know.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Since you say that Dad drives him to school, then make Dad responsible for taking the items it with the child. Put a sticky note on the steering wheel if necessary or call right when you think he is pulling into school. At 6 that seems aweful young to have to remember things. I know my 6 and 7 y.o. still forget to take things to the car. I usually start a pile by the door of things that need to go to the car and carry everything in my pile out at once this way I know I have everything. The kids never take anything out with them unless it is something they want to play with in the car.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Redding on

I'm a single mother who worked full time when my kids were little.
We went over everything at night to make sure they had everything.
We also have a metal door so we used magnets to put reminders on it. It was the last thing we saw as we went out the door.
BACKPACK was always at the top of the list.
It might say

Sometimes I would make a joke and add

It takes practice.
It was a half hour drive for me to get to work and another half hour drive back. If they forgot something, there was no possible way whatsoever I could leave work and rush home to deliver it to them. It just wasn't going to happen. If they forgot something, they were just going to have to do without it for the day. Knowing that really helped them pay more attention and remember things.
If dad takes them to school, have your son put his book bag, his show and tell item, etc in the car the night before. Mornings can be rushed so we liked doing things in the evenings as we were thinking about them.
Just establish a routine.
My kids certainy survived without me being able to take them the things they forgot and they learned good habits about keeping their stuff organized.

Best wishes.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Checklists! My grandfather swore by them. He said you have no idea how many planes would just fall out of the sky if it weren't for checklists. (He was a crew chief in the Air Force.)

I suggest you make a list that has each day of the week and what items need to be packed for each day. Laminate it and tape a dry erase marker with on a string to it. This goes on the front door. Before Dad and son walk out, they check off all the items and make sure they're in the bag. Dad doesn't let son out of the car without the bag.

I swear, it will help.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fargo on

I have a very forgetful son too and at some point you do have to say, "that's too bad, what can you do to remember next time?"

Can you have a small basket in the car that he can put the items in the night before? And your husband can get in the habit of asking, "Do you have the items from your basket?" before your son gets out of the car.

Good luck! It's hard to see them so sad over something that's forgotten, but at some point (and only you and your husband know when that is) you do have to say, too bad. It's part of teaching personal responsibility.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Make a simple check list for him...

What my GF does for her daughter who is ADD (bad) she has clothes pins on a hanger - each clothes pin has a chore or an item she is supposed to do...she can ONLY change the pin around to the other side - stating done - when the project is done..

With my boys - we have a white board near the garage door. They each have to check and double check their items....this happened when we went to day care as well - during the summer - if they missed out on swimming because they failed to do their check list - that was their only took them once in forgetting it..

For school projects? While I truly don't like poor grades - I will NOT run to school with their projects (and I'm now a SAHM)...they have to suffer those consequences and THEY KNOW IT...

Soooo.....try either the white board by the door or the clothes pins on a hanger and let him be responsible for himself...I know it's hard and it does break my heart - but I do know that if it's important to my boys - they will NOT forget it and say to themselves - that's okay - mommy will bring it...




answers from Dallas on

Get things ready the night before. Check folder for letters for items that they may need the next day and pack it right then. If the letter is for future needs put it on the fridge and a to do list to remind you. For things of consistency like swim lessons that should be fairly easy. You know what days the lessons are on just pack the towel and swim trunks the night before. All of my kids have "bad memories" too but this really helps them. My 7th grader is just now getting more reliable and reminds me she needs things the night before.



answers from San Francisco on

Not now.

I think by about 4th or 5th grade they need to start being responsible. Until then, I went out of my way to make sure they had it, or brought it to their school when I could. They are still babies at 6. You will notice a HUGE difference in 5th grade. 5th grade is the next big leap. Then 8th grade. Then senior year.



answers from Dallas on

idk, i'm very organized, and my children have proven to be as well, thank goodness :) i can only remember one occassion forgetting something, and that was this past school year in pre-k we completely forgot it was share day one day, totally my fault for not looking at the class calendar, so i did run home and get his item - but other than that, i don't think we've forgotten anything(my kiddos are 8, 5, and 2 - so we've been lucky!). i did have a friend whose child(maybe in kinder or 1st grade) kept leaving his lunchbox at school, she found a princess one on clearance, bought it and told him he'd have to carry that if he forgot it again lol - he never forgot it after that :)



answers from Bloomington on

I have not read all the answers. But I would create an every day check list and help your son pack his bag the night before. The stuff that doesn't happen every day, you'll know about and can simply say 'oh yes, you'll need this tomorrow'. Once the bag is packed, once the bag is packed, it stays by the door (no one messes with it), or in the coat closet by his coat. Make sure when he and daddy leave for the car, they have the bag.

Have daddy put the bag in the passenger seat up front, or even tie it to his arm. When he drops the child off to school, all he has to do is hand off the bag. Your son won't have taken anything out of the bag, so the ONLY thing to forget is the entire bag.

Put a note on the steering wheel, asking if the bookbag is with the child.. It might help.

But I do think you need to work with both of them on remembering things. Your son is still young and can't be expected to remember everything, but if it's repeated EVERY day, it will help. As for your husband, if he remembers how to drive and remembers to drop your son off at school... I would hope he could remember the book bag.

Good Luck!

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