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Ask the Experts

My Fourth-Grader Is Forgetful

By Dr. Lisa Hunter, Child Psychologist

Question:

My fourth-grader is so forgetful. He will either forget to bring his homework home or forget to turn it in. I found homework over a week old in his backpack after he specifically told me he turned it in. What am I going to do with him?

Answer:

It sounds like your son needs extra assistance from both you and his teacher to remember his homework assignments. Here's how you can help him:

  • Review his homework with him every day after school,
  • Remind him to put completed assignments in a homework folder in his backpack
  • Check before he goes to school to make sure that he has his homework.

It is important that you consistently engage in this "Review, Remind, and Check" process with your son to help him develop a routine for remembering, completing and handing in homework assignments.

At first, it may seem that you're doing a lot of work to help him. But with time he should be able to remember and turn in his homework with less assistance from you.

As you help your son with his forgetfulness, don't forget to praise him whenever he does remember his homework. It may be helpful to set up a reward system that will enable him to earn points every time he remembers his homework. These points can then be traded in for a reward at the end of the week.

Your son will also need extra help from his teacher to remember his homework. His teacher can help him by making sure assignments are posted, and personally reminding him to bring homework home and turn it in. She could also set up a reward system for him.

If you do not notice any improvement in your son's forgetfulness regarding homework after a month of consistent help from both you and his teacher, I would recommend an evaluation by a psychologist to make sure his forgetfulness is not a symptom of broader attention difficulties.


Dr. Lisa Hunter is an assistant professor in the department of child psychiatry at Columbia University and the director of school-based mental health programs at Columbia University's Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of school-based mental health and prevention programs. In addition she is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in cognitive behavioral treatment for children and adolescents.

 

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

11/12/2008:
"My son is very forgetful and with just about anything. However he is also ADHD with learning disabilities. He has an IEP and in that it states these things. At the meetings I make it noted that if his teacher does not directly ask him if he has anything to turn in. And then he will do so. It has helped him with his self-esteem because he doesn't feel as bad when he realizes that he has not turned something in all week. "
08/13/2008:
"My daughter is the same way, she forgets and loses everything. I have made her lists, made signs for the bathroom door, her bedroom door, and for the front door. They are little check lists and reminders, but there still hasn't been a noticiable improvement. I have add, and I know it runs in the family, so I discussed this with her doctor. The form I filled out showed she has it and the one her teacher filled said she showned almost no signs of it. When I talked to her teacher about it she says that there are so many other kids much worse than her. I think because she doesn't have hyperactivity symptoms and doesn't exhibit behaviorial problems the teacher won't agree. I don't know what else to do, she is 9 and she won't remember to brush her teeth if I don't remind her. Any suggestions?"
07/14/2008:
"I am a boy of 13 years. I have forgotten some things such as throwing out the garbage, and it has been going on a little while. What are some causes of this? Is it puberty? Why and how does this happen? Thank you for taking your time to answer this!"
01/23/2008:
"I sure hope this suggestions works for someone. I tried it and have seen no improvement at all."
08/9/2007:
"thanks for this question and answer. My 9 year-old is also very forgetful. I just found a check for the lunch lady from last year in a pants pocket. I will work on the reminder methods."
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