Every week Good Morning America’s parenting contributer Anne Pleshette Murphy answers e-mail questions from GMA viewers. Read on for solutions to everyday parental problems.
Q U E S T I O N: My 11-year-old daughter seems to lose things quite often. She just recently entered middle school and since then has lost a calculator, nice watch, rings, soccer ball, basketball, team visor, etc.
The visor and soccer ball have since been retrieved. In addition, she often forgets to complete tasks at home like her chores. We do give her an allowance for the minimal amount of chores she needs to complete (less than 5 minutes per day).
Some say we don't give her enough. She has a 7-year-old brother who also gets his fair share of chores. The losing and forgetting is getting worse.
We have tried everything from taking certain freedoms away to rewarding the good behaviors.
She is an excellent student. Her midterms currently reflect "A's" in all of her subjects. So, we know she is intelligent.
I work part time, my husband works about 60 hours per week. Lauren is involved in fast-pitch softball and soccer right now.
I need help. Not only does it boggle my mind she can be like this, it is getting rather expensive. We bought her the watch and calculator, the basketball and soccer ball. I need help and advice. I hope you can help.
— Karen in Pittsburgh
A N S W E R: Before you single out your daughter as a "loser," check out her school's lost-and-found. Chances are it's overflowing with the belongings of her fellow middle school students.
That's often because kids her age are in the throes of several big transitions — to a bigger, more-demanding school; to more peer pressure and an intensified social scene; and to changes in their own bodies, which can be pretty overwhelming. As you point out, she's doing really well in school, and she has a full load of after-school activities. She's a busy kid.
Lots of activities goes hand in hand with lots of transitional times — and it's during those change-overs from one event to another that items disappear. I would go over your daughter's schedule with her and help her come up with a plan for remembering what she needs to bring.
Does she pack a list in her gym bag? A homework planner that could include a list of tools she needs; e.g., a calculator or a ruler. Does she have a place for items like rings and watches in her bookbag, so when she changes or showers, she puts them in the same place each time?
Sit down with her and try to come up with ideas together. Encourage your daughter to come up with some kind of mnemonic device for transitional times: "As soon as the bell rings, count to ten, and then figure out what you need to bring home." The more she feels invested in these plans, the better.
You might also call her teacher or coach to find out how transitional times are handled. Do the kids get a warning to collect their belongings after practice? Do they have times during the day to go over what's needed and what can be left in their lockers?
Along with building cues into her daily routines, assign a specific place for her things. If the rings and watch always go into the side pocket of the bookbag, which always goes in the locker at school or next to the front door at home, they're less likely to get lost.
At the same time, there's nothing wrong with letting her know that if she loses another watch or calculator that you're not investing in the same items again. Explain that she'll have to do extra chores to earn the money to pay for lost items or she'll just have to go without.
Finally, if the losing streak persists or if her concentration seems to be suffering in other areas, and is affecting her grades, don't hesitate to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician. But given her high grades and overall success in school and in sports, you also need to keep this behavior in perspective and make sure you praise her accomplishments (especially those times when she remembers her stuff.)
— Ann Murphy