Ah, another school year is almost over. Here I thought that I made it through the whole year without hearing my son say, “Mom, I need some money. I lost a library book and have to pay for it.” Every year it’s the annual losing of the book. My son comes home (it’s always towards the end of the year, when they take stock of what’s missing) and says he has absolutely no idea what happened. There’s a library book, book his teacher loaned him or some other book that he’s managed to misplace – and the school wants their $10 for it. Last year he found the “lost book” before school ended. As it turns out, he had actual found someone else’s lost book. We still had to pay the fine. Oh yeah, and by we I mean me.
In strolls my seventh grader today, having just run home from a day if school. “Mom! I need $5!” Usually when he asks me for money he doesn’t really mean cash. He wants to use my credit card to buy a new game on Xbox Live. “For what?” I asked. “Well, I kind of lost this library book in December.” In December? “And, why am I just hearing about it now? And how did you lose it?” He said that he forgot to tell me (of course) and that he had just put it down – and magically it disappeared.
It’s funny how things magically disappear around my son. It’s not just books. It’s pencils, pens, markers, notebooks, socks and just about anything that’s not permanently tied or nailed down. Now, I know that my son is hardly unique when it comes to loosing things. When I talk to his friends’ moms they admit that their sons are also kings at losing everything from books to backpacks. So, what’s a mom (or dad) to do? Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve tried to get my son’s organizational skills on point and stop him from losing so much stuff. He still loses some things, but the amount of what is going missing has certainly gone down.
1. Make a list. Every day. This may seem like a lot of work, but it can drastically reduce the number of things that your child loses, misplaces or plain old forgets. Hang the list by the door (whichever one you leave out of in the morning). The first list should include everything that your child needs for school. Check it off with a marker or cross each item out. Doing this allows you to say, “See, you did bring your gym shorts to school this morning” when he comes home and insists he never had them.
2. Unpack the backpack immediately after school. It will be much easier for your child, tween or teen to remember where he left his library book if he’s if it’s closer to when he misplaced it. If you wait a few hours (or until the next morning) he will have completely forgotten.
3. Make him pay the fines himself. I’m not talking about large dollar amounts. But, if he has a $5 fine, have him do some extra chores around the house. Just handing over the cash only teaches him that mommy will fix his mistakes. If he’s old enough to have his own after-school job, he can subtract the cash from his paycheck.
4. Don’t overload him. Does he really need 12 pencils, 15 pens, 2 sets of markers and 4 notebooks? Probably not. Instead of expecting him to keep track of a small stock room of products, give him a manageable amount of stuff to take with him to school. He’ll be less likely to lose things if he doesn’t feel like he has to constantly take inventory if his own private Office Depot.
5. Label it! If every boy in his seventh grade class has almost identical blue basketball shorts for gym class, label the inside with your son’s name. This will help him to pick his out of the pile of lost items.