By Gordon Beinstein
Everyday, on the desk in the main office, there sits a growing pile of brown bag lunches, musical instruments, homework, gym clothes, permission slips, and so on, that the students were supposed to bring to school, but did not. So, if the students did not bring these items to the building, how did they get here? Were they beamed here? Did Amazon deliver? Did they arrive by carrier pigeon? No, in most cases the well-meaning parent came in to save the day, probably breaking speed limits and ignoring red lights so that a child could have his/her lunch, homework, or athletic gear on time. While intentions are understandable and even admirable, this is not a parent’s responsibility. By providing the child what they should have themselves remembered, a parent might very well be contributing to the decrease in ownership that we are trying to instill in our children. What message are we unwittingly sending when there is no consequence for forgetfulness? I would consider this a low-cost/high-reward opportunity. The cost of forgetting one’s homework or lunch is minimal. We will still feed them, and a few points off on a homework assignment isn’t going to keep anyone out of Harvard. On the flip side, the sooner children learn that they alone are responsible for their work and that there are natural consequences for being irresponsible, the sooner they will become more independent.
It will likely surprise none of you that we have numerous repeat offenders. Children learn quickly what you will and will not tolerate. I tell my staff that “what they expect becomes their standard,” and it is no different with parenting. If you deliver an item every time your child forgets, where is the incentive to remember? Not to mention the inherent inequality that exists when one child can avoid a late penalty by having his homework delivered by an available parent, and another cannot. So, the next time you get the frantic call (from the cell phone they are not supposed to be using) to deliver the forgotten item, resist the urge to do so. Short term: they might be upset with you. I’m sure it won’t be the last time. Long term: you have a well-adjusted, responsible young adult ready to move out of your house. You do want them to move out someday, don’t you? Together, we can get rid of the “enable table.”