You Forgot WHAT? Responsibility for Remembering

Jan 18, 2023
You Forgot WHAT? Responsibility for Remembering


With college admission seemingly hinging on every grade, how can we not save our kids from seemingly life-derailing mistakes? A demerit on your high schooler’s “permanent” record feels like the anvil above Wil E. Coyote’s head just waiting to drop and ruin everything. As parents, we react to these circumstances with urgency and resolve, with love and our child’s best interest at heart. But what is in their best interest? If our goal is to transition our students into responsible adulthood, we may have to stop doing things that enable irresponsibility. We must take a step backward to allow them to move forward. If we were to look back at our parents’ generation, we would be hard-pressed to find a parent heading to school mid-day for anything other than to take a student to the emergency room. I don’t remember my mom or dad ever coming to school except for a play or performance. Today it seems commonplace for parents to pop by the school for all sorts of things, including “saving” their student from having forgotten something at home. A project, lunch, notebook, gym or sports uniform, the list is exhausting. In “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” author Wendy Mogel makes a point of listing things that kids learn when they forget their lunch at school. Not only does the child who forgot learn the lesson through the pain, their classmates have the opportunity to learn to share and feel compassion for a friend.

In order for us to stop rescuing our teens from their “I Forgot’s,” we first have to decide that we are going to turn responsibility over to them. Sounds simple, but we have to commit to it wholeheartedly. Second, we need to inform them in a kind but firm way. Whether that is a discussion in the car, a family meeting, or in a written contract both parent and student sign, we need to be sure our intentions are clear. Because even if the intentions are clear, there is a strong chance your teen will claim, “You didn’t tell me you weren’t going to ever bring me anything I forgot.” Or “I know you said that you weren’t going to save me from forgetting anymore, but I didn’t think you were serious.” Third, we have to just do it. To sit on our hands and do nothing, when a simple trip over to school would “fix everything,” takes all our willpower not to jump in the car and go. It is akin to exercise, the first workout is the most painful. Keep going and the pain becomes less and less each time - both for you and your teen. Eventually you are not fazed by the requests for rescue. They come less and less frequently, until they disappear almost entirely, and in their place you find a teen who takes responsibility for her own actions. When we step back, they move forward. Goal achieved. Well done.

Real protection means teaching children to manage risks on their own, not shielding them from every hazard.”

― Wendy Mogel, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children