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When your child loses his coat
(or shoes, or backpack or lunchbox…)

By Shari Steelsmith          Send a link to a friend 

[APRIL 30, 2005]  Tip: Let the loss of significant items belong more to your child than to you.

It's the end of April. How many coats has your child lost this year? I remember, as a child, my brother losing at least two coats a year. My mother was very frustrated. When a child is serially careless with his or her personal items it can be inconvenient, expensive and increasingly irritating.

One mom told me that her son is always losing something -- his coat, his notebook, his basketball shoes, you name it. "It's getting so I'm always reminding him to check to make sure he has all his stuff," she said. "But I think I'm just training him to rely on me to remember it all."

She has a good point. How can we teach our children to keep track of their own belongings?


I have a few suggestions to help the chronically careless. First, look at this issue as a life skill you are teaching your child. He won't always have his mom and dad to check his stuff, run back to the school to pick up his coat or remind him to leave his belongings in a safe place. He needs to learn to do this for himself.

Expect some mistakes. Keeping track of his belongings is a habit your child must establish, and no one acquires new habits quickly.

Have a talk with him about which items he must remember. Ask him for his ideas on how he can keep track of them better. He might come up with such suggestions as:

  • Always put his coat in the same place.
  • Put a list in his gym bag so he can check it before leaving.

Make a habit of noticing when he does remember his coat, and comment on it: "Good job, you remembered your coat."

Refrain from reminding or scolding -- and don't rescue him by replacing lost items. Let him be responsible for coping with the loss. It's his problem, not yours.

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If your child simply doesn't care about keeping track of her things and doesn't mind inconveniencing you, then a consequence is in order. Here are a few ideas for logical consequences, drawn from my book, "Go to Your Room!: Consequences That Teach."

  • Whenever possible, don't replace the item. Let your child experience the loss of a favorite or useful item.
  • If you must replace the item (it's too cold to go without a coat), then require your child to pay for it. If she doesn't have money, sell something of hers to pay for a replacement (maybe two video games or something like that). This consequence can be very effective for a repeat offender.
  • If the item is retrievable, the child must pay for the gas it takes to get it.
  • Consider withholding an outing that calls for a coat.

This material has been adapted from "Go to Your Room!: Consequences That Teach" by Shari Steelsmith.

Copyright Parenting Press, Republished by permission.


Life Sentence, No Parole

If we tried to invent the cruelest punishment for dogs, we probably couldn't come up with anything worse than "solitary confinement" on a chain or in a kennel.

Dogs are pack animals who crave the companionship of others.  Scratches behind the ears, games of fetch, or even just walks around the block mean the world to them.  Curling up at your feet while you watch TV is their idea of heaven.

Many dogs left to fend for themselves at the end of a chain fall prey to attacks by other animals or cruel people, and many others are injured or hanged or choke as a result of getting entangled or caught in their tether.

If you have a backyard dog, please, bring him or her inside.  They don't want much--just you.

A public service announcement from Lincoln Daily News and


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