Dear Kid Whisperer,
I am so tired of taking things to my kids after they forget them at home. So far I have delivered a cheerleading outfit, homework folders, and yesterday, I delivered basketball shoes. No matter how much I remind them, they still forget everything. I can’t let my kids not have these things. They need them so they can participate in activities, school, and sports. I also don’t want to keep driving 15 minutes one way to school three times a week because they can’t remember anything. Please help.
-Beth, Des Moines, Iowa
You have some profound and potentially devastating misunderstandings about the differences between what constitutes a need and a want, and what your job is as a parent.
Here are your kids’ needs, in no particular order: air, food, water, shelter, and love.
Did you notice that the words “cheerleading outfit” and “basketball shoes” never appeared in the list of needs? It is your responsibility to provide for your kids’ needs. It is your kids’ responsibility to have and maintain their own wants.
You are tricking your kids, and yourself, into thinking that their homework and sports equipment is your responsibility. Never nag again. Apologize for nagging in the past. Let them know that you will never nag again, and that you will never bring them ANYTHING that they forget. If you happen to notice your kid about to leave without something they want to have at school or at an activity, ONLY say the following ONE TIME AT MOST: “What are you forgetting?” If they forget, great! They will learn by the natural consequences of forgetting something befalling them. Namely, they won’t have what they forgot. This is how I would handle the call from school about your kid not having her cheerleading outfit for the big game:
Kid Whisperer answers his cell phone.
Kid: Oh, thank goodness! I forgot my cheerleading outfit. It’s in the bag by the door. Just drop it off with my secretary, I mean the school secretary. Come right now. I won’t be able to concentrate until I have it. While you’re at it, stop off at the store and get me a beverage of my liking.
Kid Whisperer: Oh, dear. I only drive to the school once to drop you off and once to pick you up per day. How are you going to solve your problem?
Kid: I’m calling you! You can solve my problem!
Kid Whisperer: Oh, dear. I only solve my own problems.
Kid: So you’re not going to bring my outfit?
Kid Whisperer: Nope. I’m watching my stories. Beau is finding out that Rebecca has been cheating on him this whole time with Lance, and Lance doesn’t even know about…
Kid: What in the world are you talking about?
Kid Whisperer: My stories.
Kid: My cheerleading coach is here and says you have to bring my outfit or I can’t cheer today!!!
Kid Whisperer: Did you tell her about my stories?
Kid: WE DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR STORIES!! ARE YOU BRINGING MY OUTFIT OR NOT?
Kid: Oh, dear. No. I love you though. Feel free to solve your problem in any way that is safe, legal, and honest. I really do love you, and I know you can figure this out.
Notice that I fulfilled her need for love, but not her want for cheerleading uniform delivery? I love kids enough to teach them about responsibility through consequences and not through warnings or lectures.*
*If you don’t have the heart to do this, fine. Simply charge your kid twenty dollars per delivery! That way your kid can still learn the lessons about their wants being their problem, while not suffering so horribly by not being able to cheer at the big game. Also, you can make some quick cash. Pick whichever consequence works for you!