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Careless Child

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My six-year-old son is constantly losing things -- toys, money, school supplies, etc. I am at my wit's end. Do you have any suggestions for teaching him in a positive way how to keep track of his things?

A: Try setting up a simple system of rewards for your son for keeping track of things. Pick one thing to begin -- perhaps it could be taking a pencil back and forth to school. On days when your son gets his pencil to school and back home he could earn an extra bedtime story, a bubble bath, or a walk around the block just with you. Two or three good days in a week could earn having a friend over to play on the weekend.

Once your son has mastered carrying the pencil back and forth, add another small thing for which he can be responsible and earn a reward. Go slowly, adding one thing at a time and consistently giving your son the rewards he has earned. Be sure that you praise him when he is successful.

Make sure also that you make it possible for your son to be successful: Give him a bookbag in which to carry his things back and forth to school, a special holder for money and a certain pocket in the bookbag to carry it, and so forth. You need to teach him those basic organizational skills and give him the tools he needs to be successful.

You don't mention any other issues your son is having. Problems with organizational skills can be a characteristic of children with attention problems and you may want to talk with your son's teacher to see if there are other signs of this.

More on: Expert Advice

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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