By: Laurie Hurley
Between the ages of 5-8 most children are processing so much information in their young brains that is it often difficult to recall the things they don?t care much about.
Meet Ashley, a darling six-year old; bright, active and full of energy. I met Ashley in her home with her mom and was there to discuss why she didn?t understand her math. I am a tutor broker and was interviewing her so I could find the best tutor for her based on her academic needs, personality and learning style. She could easily tell me her teacher?s name, best friend?s name and where she went to school. However, when I asked her more details about her math teacher and what she didn?t understand, I was stonewalled. Suddenly, she didn?t remember one thing about math.
I moved on in the interview and asked her what she liked best about school. Ashley talked non-stop about recess, lunch, her art class and told me all of her friends? names ? first and last. I went back to the subject of math and got nowhere. Luckily, mom filled me in and we were able to place a professional teacher with her who helped her.
Ashley is so typical of children whose priorities are socially motivated rather than academically or otherwise. As children mature, they do remember more important things but who wants to remember their addition tables when it is so much more meaningful for them to remember how to jump rope or meet a friend at recess?
As frustrating as this syndrome is for a parent, there are ways to combat it and help your children. As the mother of a seven year old who can?t remember what day it is, let alone what she did in school, here are some strategies that work wonders:
1) Write it down for your child.
My daughter conveniently forgets to wash her hands after using the bathroom. I posted a colorful piece of paper on her bathroom mirror outlining all the steps she needs to take to attend to her personal hygiene. I used simple words and asked her to read it to me. Once in a while, I ask her to read it again so I am sure she knows it is important. Now, even when we go out to a restaurant, she does not forget!
2) Ask your child to repeat directions you give them.
Young children often have better auditory skills than you think. If you need your child to remember to bring home their back pack every day, tell them in the morning and ask them to repeat it back to you. Processing issues are much improved when a child has to say something. Think about the ABC?s. Most kindergarteners don?t know how to read, but they all usually know their ABC?s because they repeat it almost every day in school.
3) For repeat offenders, let them experience the natural consequences of their forgetfulness.
If your child repeatedly forgets to empty their garbage can or make their bed, don?t do it for them. If they forget their homework, don?t drive back to school and get it. When it is time to change sheets, leave their bed alone. Don?t empty their garbage, even if it is overflowing. When they realize they forgot, ask them to take care of it ? don?t do it for them. When the teacher asks where the homework is, they will have to face the consequences. Eventually they will catch on that they are responsible for certain tasks and that no one is going to do it for them.
4) If they forget a safety issue ? like answering the door without permission or crossing the street alone without telling you ? take away a privilege that is meaningful to them.
When it comes to a child?s safety, more drastic consequences are in order. Not only does the situation have to be discussed (maybe for the fiftieth time!) but something that means a lot to your child should be removed ? no computer or TV, etc. Tell them again what can happen to children who are not careful and reiterate that as a parent, it is your responsibility to be sure they are safe, but it is their responsibility too and they need to listen and follow directions.
5) Don?t overload your youngster with too much responsibility. That is a sure recipe for disaster.
Gauge your child?s maturity level and assign only tasks that they can handle. A very mature five-year old can handle clearing the dinner dishes, feeding the family pet and several other chores. An immature eight- year old may only be able to handle one or two of those duties. Don?t set your child up for failure.
If your child is consistently forgetting school work, not able to remember grade-level assignments or has chronic forgetfulness, re-evaluate their environment and lifestyle. Too much television and video games or computer time is not good for a child?s development. More exercise and other forms of physical activities that get the endorphins flowing aid in good memory skills. If your child is active and still has a terrible memory problem, seek the advice of your pediatrician to rule out any learning disabilities.
Laurie Hurley is an educational consultant and home-based working mom. She owns her own tutor referral service in Southern California and has founded her second company, Home Tutoring Business, which teaches others how to operate a tutor referral service in their community.
She is also the mom of two daughters, one a very forgetful seven year old. Laurie is available for media interviews and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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