Rule #4:
Make Certain That
Your Bring Your Kids'
Lunches and Homework to School
Every Time They "Forget"

Okay! Your children are at school well-rested, well-fed and on time. You have a few thousand things to do today, and you are just about to get started on your to-do list when you see It.

The Forgotten Item.

It could be anything: lunch, homework, project, permission slip, whatever. The point is that It is with you and not at school with your child where It belongs. Or, perhaps you get a frantic phone call begging you to please bring It to school. You have to! Please!

What is a parent to do? Here’s how I see it.

All of us- kids, parents, regular human beings- forget things and make mistakes. We lose our keys. We forget things on the kitchen counter. We leave our homework in the car. And, sure, it is perfectly fine if, once in awhile, a friend or family member comes to our rescue.

So, if you can reasonably manage it, and your child really needs the item, go ahead and bring it. Now, don’t do anything crazy like wake a sleeping baby or miss an important meeting to bring regular spelling homework to school! But, if you’re just tooling along when you realize that your child’s 20-page Amazon report is in the back seat- go ahead, turn around, drop it off.

But be careful!

You’re trying to being helpful, but the next thing you know, it’s “I forgot my -----“ and “Can you bring me?” every time you turn around. You were hoping that your kids would be appreciative and more responsible, but all they seemed to have learned is that you will bring whatever they forget to school. Look at you now, driving in circles taking kids to school in the morning, coming back to drop off their lunches, then picking them up when school is over.

Hey, are you an enabler?

'Enabler' is a newly popular buzzword for those people- usually family members- that help addicts stay addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling- not because they think these things are desirable, but because they just can’t bear to see a loved one suffer. So, the husband calls in sick for his hung-over wife. The mom bails her son out of jail. The sister loans her drug addict brother for “vitamins.” Enablers make it possible for others avoid consequences, so they continue their irresponsible behavior.

Irresponsible behavior includes leaving your homework and lunch at home day after day.

I have had students forget their homework nearly every day. Mom would fly in during a math or reading (never recess or lunch, alas) and make a huge production of dropping off homework and apologizing over and over for interrupting. I have already discussed how these interruptions affect class time and learning, but there is a bigger issue.

The students whose parents kept bringing their homework never get a chance to become responsible. All year long, I had to listen to excuse after excuse: why they didn’t complete an assignment, how it wasn’t their fault that they forget their library book at home, how they meant to help their partner with that project, but, but, but…… These students never seemed to realize that they were responsible for their own assignments, books, projects. It was as if they were waiting for someone to save them. I wonder where they got that idea?

If you keep saving your child, they never have to face the fire, and they will never change their behavior. Why should they? You are teaching them that someone will always be there to save them when the sad truth is, there won’t always be someone there to save them. Sooner or later, our children must learn to handle their own business. This is the real reason why you must stop continually bringing your children’s homework to school.

I am a parent; I understand how hard this is! We want our children to need us! We need them to need us! We feel badly when we don't stop and give them what they need. We imagine our poor babies sitting there all alone, starving and hungry because we won’t bring their forgotten lunch money. We know that everyone pities our child because she doesn’t have her homework. We feel guilty. We feel mean.

It is not that serious! Students charge lunches, borrow money, share a sandwich with a friend. They turn in homework late. The world keeps spinning. Your child will make it through one day of being uncomfortable and/ or embarrassed. Maybe if it is too uncomfortable or embarrassing, THEY WILL LEARN TO REMEMBER THEIR STUFF!

A True Story

When my darling daughter was in the 4th grade, she suddenly began forgetting to bring home the books and materials she needed to complete her homework. Her school was only two blocks away, and I would rush her back there to get her book or whatever it was she had forgotten. Wasn’t I dedicated? Didn’t I do whatever was necessary to help my child succeed in school?

Oh, how I complained! You know what I said. She had to be more responsible, she must remember to check her backpack before she left school. Blah, blah, blah. My daughter would promise to check her backpack every day for the rest of her life. And she did- until the next time she forgot. Then we did our whole dance all over again.

One fine fall day, my daughter forgot her math book. Again. It was late afternoon, and I wasn't sure if her teacher would still be at school. Frantic, I called the office. What luck! Not only was her teacher there, she would be happy to drop the book off on her way home!

Now, let's stop here for a minute. Imagine this from my daughter's point of view. Every couple of days she gets to postpone doing her homework and push her mother's buttons. She gets to hear me sing the Martyr Mother Song (you know it?); she gets escorted back to school; she gets to track down her teacher in the teacher's lounge…what fun! And now her teacher was coming to her house! This was definitely more exciting than math homework.

I was just about to tell the teacher that it wouldn't be necessary, I would come and get the book. Then I had a revelation- a vision, really. I saw my daughter in high school, maybe 17 years old, smacking gum, text messaging some ne'er do well on her cell phone and mumbling, "Can’t do my homework. Forgot my book."

I couldn’t let it happen! This foolishness was going to stop.

I thanked the teacher for her extraordinarily kind offer, and told her that the book could stay in my daughter’s desk. This was becoming a problem, and my daughter needed to remember to become more responsible. I would no longer bring her back to school to get anything.

My daughter was shocked, then embarrassed, then angry. How was she going to do her math homework? She wasn’t going to be able to do her homework, and for one quick second I worried that I was a bad parent. Then, I remembered that it is always harder to the right thing (not get the book) than the wrong thing (get the darn book).

That was the end of my daughter forgetting her books, by the way.

Some lessons you have to learn the hard way. Not turning in your homework (especially when you’ve actually done it), shivering on the playground because you can’t find your coat, missing a field trip because you left the permission slip at home- these are the kinds of lessons we want our children to learn the hard way so that they won’t have to learn the really hard ones later.

The only way our children will grow into confident, capable and responsible adults is if we treat them like capable and responsible children.

And, finally, our kids must respect our time. Yes, we love them more than anything. We want to help them, and we often do. Sometimes, we will drop whatever we are doing for ourselves to do something for them- but not every time. Quiet as it’s kept, we have our own plans. Everybody’s time is valuable- including their very own parents!

So, once in awhile, bring the forgotten item. Just don't make a habit out of it.

The most important thing that parents can teach their children is to get along without them.
- Frank A. Clark

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Go on to Rule #5.

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