How do I not kill my son? :)
December 21, 2007 2:20 PM   Subscribe

MeFi Parenting filter: What are appropriate consequences for an 8-year-old who has a history of carelessness with belongings, and has lost his $250 glasses?

Today, my son phoned from school at the end of the day, quite upset, to say he was going to be late, because he couldn't find his glasses. He's usually pretty responsible with them, and they stay at school all the time normally, but today being the last day of school, we thought he might want them at home.

And I'm kinda at my wit's end with him and losing or leaving his belongings behind.

He frequently loses, forgets, or misplaces his belongings at school, be they notes home, jackets, books, homework, etc. We're not ogre-like parents, and have tried to encourage him to keep track of his stuff better, with little success. After several incidents, we decided we needed to start instituting consequences for leaving things at school that he needs for the evening, and told him that he would lose Xbox privileges for a day (which is fairly significant, since he's only allowed 2-3 sessions of 1.5-2 hours a week). After a few lost days, he seemed to begin to grasp the situation, with mixed results.

The issue around the glasses for me is that, we've now cranked it up a (financial) notch. Forgotten homework is one thing, lost $40 jacket is another, but we're talking a significantly larger number now. I'm frustrated, which is why I haven't issued any consequences yet, but I'm looking for some suggestions. Asking him to pay is absurd since his only source of income is allowance, and it would take him a year to pay it off, which in my book is not only unfair, but also unrealistic.

I don't want to *punish* him, but I want him to recognize the significance, and get a sense, of the consequences of his actions. I want him to at least learn something from this situation, especially if it winds up costing me $250.

So......any suggestions? Lines? Beatings? Water boarding? Nothing? I'm all ears.

Thanks for the advice.
posted by liquado to Human Relations (60 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I used to be this kid. I ended up with really ugly glasses.
posted by crickets at 2:21 PM on December 21, 2007 [15 favorites]

Yeah, I would just replace the glasses with the cheapest, crappiest ones you can find for a while and explain to him that the reason he has to wear these is because he can't be trusted to keep track of nice things.
posted by youcancallmeal at 2:23 PM on December 21, 2007

i lost and misplaced things all the time as a kid. my parents wouldn't spend a lot of money on things that had a good chance of disappearing due to my forgetfulness.
posted by violetk at 2:24 PM on December 21, 2007

( I am wearing my gorgeous $8 glasses right now).
posted by tristeza at 2:26 PM on December 21, 2007 [10 favorites]

Natural consequences would be either that he can't see until he finds them, or he has to pay for a new pair (of cheaper glasses, because he doesn't have the money for the more expensive pair). Those would be the consequences of his actions.
posted by occhiblu at 2:28 PM on December 21, 2007

Do what youcancallmeal says, and then make him EARN a replacement pair equivalent in quality and appearance with the prior. Since it's a little unfair to make an 8 year old earn $250 (at that age, $20 seemed like a million bucks to me), I wouldn't hold him to it dollar for dollar, but....

Assign points to various tasks - special or additional chores, better than average grades on homework, daily chores, etc. Points get added for completion, and taken away for the loss or forgetting of things at school. When he gets to the magic number of points, he can have new (non embarassing) glasses. Assign different point levels for different grades of importance of the item.

Is there any way you can make him a quick list to check before leaving school for the day? My husband is an adult and he'd never remember everything if I didn't leave him a nice list, or if he didn't make one for himself at work. He seems to understand the importance of remembering things, just having trouble executing the task. Help make it more manageable.
posted by bunnycup at 2:29 PM on December 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

Maybe make him come up with three possible systems that would help him not forget things. Then you can talk about these ideas and see if any are actually workable.

It seems like he may not know _how_ to remember things like these; I can relate.
posted by amtho at 2:30 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Mathowie posted something to 43 Folders about the steps involved in getting cheapo eyeglasses. You might want to get the kid five pairs of cheap decent glasses.
posted by jessamyn at 2:30 PM on December 21, 2007 [7 favorites]

Seconding crickets.

I apologize in advance for this, but I think there should also be consequences for parents who buy kids $250.00 glasses and then expect the kid to suffer the consequences of mishandling them. Kids ruin stuff. Plan for it ahead of time.

On preview: seconding jessamyn.
posted by notyou at 2:32 PM on December 21, 2007 [15 favorites]

Growing up, my brother would sometimes forget to put his bike in the garage after riding it. Every time he forgot to do so, my mom would make him ride around the block and then put it in the garage, say, 20 times. So, ride around the block, put bike in the garage, get it out again, repeat. Do this twenty times in a row, and you've both endured an annoying punishment and gotten a bit more into the habit of putting the bike away.

I'm not sure what your son's relationship with his glasses is (does he keep them in a case most of the time? Does he just occasionally take them off?), but maybe a similar sort of repetition of the desired behavior could work. "Take glasses off, put them in case, put case in backpack. Get them out again, put them back on, repeat."
posted by Ms. Saint at 2:35 PM on December 21, 2007

I am starting to think that my parenting philosophies differ by vast margins from the rest of the MeFi Hordes.

I think: he's eight years old. I think if you have an eight-year-old who loses things, what you do is buy him cheaper things that won't bother you much when he loses them. I think, if he worries about it, you say "You know, this is something you'll grow out of. I wouldn't worry about it too much." I think you reward him for not losing things by calling attention to it and praising him "Hey look, an entire week of gold stars on the "Mikey brought home everything he left with" chart! What say we get some ice cream after dinner?" I think you help him learn, through example, little checklists: "We're leaving the house. Who has their jacket? Who has their bag? Who has their keys? Who has their glasses?" Perhaps your family could make up a little rhyme to help him remember?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:38 PM on December 21, 2007 [27 favorites]

Response by poster: crickets: thanks for totally changing my mood with a laugh. The problem is, he's kinda like George McFly -- he probably wouldn't even notice the ugliness.

tristeza: I'm checking out their site as we speak.

bunnycup: we did try a list for a while, but the habit got lost in the busyness of the morning routine. I think this incident points to us needing to restart it. Thanks.

notyou: clarification -- the glasses were $100, not $250, I've just been informed (I don't wear glasses and was not involved in the purchase process, so have no concept of what is cheap/expensive, and mixed up the price of my wife's glasses with my son's). I'm feeling much less frustrated about the $$, but am totally grooving on some of the suggestions for forgetfulness. Unfortunately, being in a small town, $100 is about the cheapest we could get them for, apparently.
posted by liquado at 2:42 PM on December 21, 2007

Someone mentioned recently here that, as a kid they had to wear a strap on their glasses because they couldn't afford to lose them, and found it embarassing. If a rule is in effect that when not wearing the glasses they must be on the strap on his neck, when and if he loses them again it is a case of wilful disobedience and not simply absentmindedness. You might also need to designate a specific place he puts them for gym class, like a glass case in the pocket of his backpack.

In general I would look for ways you can help him cope with forgetfulness, systems like the above he can put in place to work around his inability to remember. If he's anything like the absentminded kid I was, the punishments are best saved for deliberate disobedience.
posted by Manjusri at 2:42 PM on December 21, 2007

A check list is very helpful if he can remember the checklist. What about printing it on an index card and pinning it to his jacket? Could you email a friendly teacher (who, I'm sure, I equally bothered by the forgetfulness factor) and have her print it out for him at school to leave in his desk or magnetted to his locker?
posted by santojulieta at 2:43 PM on December 21, 2007

thehmsbeagle, I think you can do both. Rewarding good behavior and letting there be natural consequences for bad behavior are not mutually exclusive. (But I do think you're right that rewarding good behavior is likely more effective than punishing bad behavior.)
posted by occhiblu at 2:43 PM on December 21, 2007

Not answering your question, but it might be orth looking into as well is whether the stuff is getting forgotten or getting taken. If he doesn't bring his glasses home, do you know for sure that someone didn't stomp on them weeks ago?
posted by Iteki at 2:45 PM on December 21, 2007

But, thehmsbeagle, you want to establish that not losing things is the norm, not something that deserves particular praise. The fact that the frames lost were worth $250 and not $20 is entirely the parents' problem, though.
posted by matthewr at 2:45 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was a kid who lost things, too. I'm very grateful that my parents just wouldn't trust me with nice things (and also that my eyes were so bad that there was no question my glasses would be anywhere but my face). If he's anything like I was he's trying his best to keep track of things and STILL losing them, which is immensely frustrating. No doubt you talked to him about how his glasses are expensive and he said he'd take care of them, so he should have some consequences for losing them (I like bunnycup's idea), but you may also need to accept that he's going to lose things and not get him the most expensive or irreplaceable kind of anything. Who knows? Maybe once he doesn't have a really cool jacket to wear to school he'll be more motivated to keep track of his stuff.
posted by smartyboots at 2:45 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

My 8-year-old kid loses her stuff - backpacks, homework, folders, jackets, etc. - a lot.

So what we do every morning is go through the routine: "Is the homework in the folder? Is the folder in the backpack? Is the backpack on the jacket? Is the jacket on the back?" We try to have a little fun with it.

I do the same routine when I pick her up. I will burn it into her brain rather than pin it to a jacket.

Of course, she lost her jacket yesterday. Her brand new $40 jacket. So, she will not get allowance until it is paid off.
posted by Gucky at 3:04 PM on December 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

I struggled with this. I could never keep up with anything, I lost inhalers, jackets, retainers. Whenever I lost something I would get sick with worry, throwing up in the bathroom and stuff because I didn't want to upset my parents. They tried everything, as I got older, I tried everything. Nothing worked. My dad bought me cheap glasses once and I promise you, if they look awful (which these did) school will be absolutely miserable. I was terrorized by bullies. My mother went and got me decent glasses.

Later as an adult I started taking ADD meds and now I am much better.
posted by stormygrey at 3:09 PM on December 21, 2007 [3 favorites]

The worst punishment at his age is probably being "in trouble." Totally agree with your consequences for lost notes, books, homework, etc. It's going to take awhile to stick.

But yeah, at eight years old he needs cheaper glasses. If he doesn't have glasses, his grades are going to suffer -- it's not like losing a favorite ballcap.

Is he forgetting them, or have they been broken for weeks? Did he break them, or is he getting bullied?
posted by desuetude at 3:13 PM on December 21, 2007

I was like your son, I used to lose things all the time - the more expensive the item, the likelier I was to lose it. I remember one set of earrings - one of them fell out the first day I wore them, and I didn't notice. My mom would get very upset with me, punish me, what have you. I eventually asked her to please not buy me expensive things because they stressed me out.

I don't mean to suggest that you should just give up on him and expect him to lose everything. Even after I asked my mom to give me less expensive things, I still knew I had to take care of my belongings. But I agree with the above that a less expensive pair might be the ticket. He may either not care, in which case, great, cheap glasses, or he may care, in which case it will be a reminder to him of the importance of keeping track of things. Regardless of the cost, he will benefit from his parents showing him how to be more careful with his belongings, but if he does mess up, the level of stress and frustration on both ends would be more manageable. I think more than a punishment, a clear message of "we will be getting you cheaper, less-cool glasses because we just don't think you are ready for better ones" is a strong message. I know that when I was told I wasn't ready for something, it motivated me to *be* ready.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 3:15 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I had the same problem as a kid. I'd lose my glasses and jackets regularly. I gotta tell you, the only thing that stopped that habit was I stopped wearing jackets and got contacts. Seriously, I am 25 now and I still won't wear a jacket because I will lose it (the last jacket I had I lost).

Punishing someone for being naturally absent minded doesnt make sense to me, it's the same thing as punishing them for not being good at crossword puzzles. Some people just have a hard time with that.

I'd say buy cheaper glasses if possible and just try to encourage him to think of where his stuff is every time he leaves one place and goes to another (I personally always make sure I touch my phone, keys, wallet and watch before I leave any seat). I feel bad for this kid, tell him to make sure he gets that $5 a month insurance on his cell phone, it'll come in handy more times than he thinks. Also he should deal primarily in debit/credit cards with 0 liability, and he needs to keep an extra copy of all his keys somewhere because it'll cost a whole lot more to make duplicates when you don't have any originals to duplicate.

I could keep going for hours about the lessons my absent mindedness has taught me...
posted by ZackTM at 3:15 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I grew up from a forgetful kid into a forgetful adult. The good part about this is that I don't find owning nice things terribly important. The bad part about this is I don't own too many nice things. Nice things that are portable, anyway.

Not to say you shouldn't instill good habits into him, but recognize his limits, and reward him for his efforts. Instead of concentrating on losing or not losing things, let him know he's doing a good job if he remembers to double-check everything before leaving. If he's making an effort and losing stuff anyway, try not to make him feel any worse than you have to. Put up with this for a few more years and get him contacts. I have never ever lost my contacts except that one time, but there was an ocean involved.
posted by reebear at 3:17 PM on December 21, 2007

Punishing someone for being naturally absent minded doesnt make sense to me, it's the same thing as punishing them for not being good at crossword puzzles.

Unfortunately it's not. The kid is going to HAVE to remember homework, consequences in the form of falling grades will make it a non-negotiable issue. He'll have a REALLY hard life if he loses cell phones, keys, wallets, and other essential items. Work will be a nightmare if he can't remember to get it together for projects, or prep for meetings. This could cause him lifelong stress and anxiety. I don't know anyone who has failed a college class or lost a job for poor crossword skills; I know plenty who have faced these consequences for forgetfulness.

I really truly think the issue that concerns Liquado is not just THESE glasses, but how to encourage better memory overall, in anticipation of some of those lifelong issues.

It's fair though to say that everyone is different and needs different strategies. Write a list on an index card, laminate the card, and sew it to the inside flap of his backpack so he can review it when he's packing for the day. Short and sweet: "Homework. Jacket. Glasses." and so forth.
posted by bunnycup at 3:22 PM on December 21, 2007

I agree with thehmsbeagle about not going crazy with the punishments and with everybody who said that you should get the kid several pairs of cheap glasses from the internet. I disagree with everyone who said to get him really ugly glasses as a punishment - I mean, seriously? He's a kid. Kids lose things. He probably already feels horrible about losing the glasses to begin with.

I think that instead of taking away privileges, you should make him do chores and work around the house to "repay you" for the glasses or whatever else he lost. That way he realizes that to get new things you have to work. Or something.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 3:47 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I understand where you're coming from with the punishment, but you're basically telling him "what you're doing is really wrong. Don't be so careless." Problem is, he likely knows that. You can add to that anxiety he's already feeling (you said he was "quite upset"), but that doesn't really help him not lose things again in the future.

So you're putting the burden on him to just figure out how to do it. This is fine for some people, but an 8-year-old, maybe not. Same for many adults, like me. I had to figure it out the hard way. Don't make him figure it out the hard way.

I suggest you teach him what I do: I don't put *anything* down unless it's in a spot where I absolutely know I can find it later. This has many practical illustrations and implications, some of which I've written before:

1. My textbook example is that on my older car with a non-attached gas cap, I can't put it down. If it's not in my hand, it's screwed on the car. If I put it down, it's going to be history when I drive off and forget I put it down.

2. Everything in my pockets gets put back in my pockets, always in the same spots. Never set your wallet down, anywhere. If you have to put it in your pocket to keep your hands free just to take it out again, fine. I suggest not putting it away until you get your card back. (obviously credit cards are probably not an issue for your son).

3. His home/room/work area ideally needs to be rigorously organized, with everything in its particular place. Remember, if you set it down, if it's not in its "spot", its as good as gone. At home at least you have a chance of finding it again. Out and about, not so much.

In his particular situation as a student, I suggest that his backpack be his "hub". Everything that he's likely to forget gets put in there. Glasses come off? Put 'em in the backpack (in a case). Jacket comes off? Same thing. Homework is either being worked on or in the backpack. Notes--same thing. Checklists can help, but manipulating the actual physical objects in question is better.

Now, you're probably thinking "What if he's not by his backpack?" This approach may of course necessitate some behavior modification. If he doesn't carry the backpack all the time, maybe he should start. Or if that's impossible, simply don't take off the glasses until you're by the backpack. Or if you must, take them off but *don't set them down*. Wearing a jacket (seated) away from the backpack and you're just too hot? Take it off, but put it in your lap so that when you get up to leave it falls off and reminds you as it tangles you up a bit when you're getting up. Or maybe you're in your house and you need to take something with you when you leave--set it in the doorway that you will traverse, or better yet put it in the car, NOW!

The best way to not lose things is to never put them in a place where they can get lost. Later you can work on "whenever I leave a space/activity, check for everything I had when I arrived". This helps too but it's nowhere near as effective because A) You don't remember everything you had when you arrived, and B) It's easier to forget to check when you're leaving; your mind is on the "next thing".

Anyone with this problem needs to have just one simple thing ingrained: whenever you set something down, you have to consciously think of maximizing the chances of not forgetting it.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 3:55 PM on December 21, 2007 [10 favorites]

Buy some neoprene sports straps for his glasses. He'll look like a surfer.
posted by Carol Anne at 3:55 PM on December 21, 2007

Seconding bunnycup. As a naturally absent-minded person who still loses keys, important papers, etc. I agree that punishment/reward is not the answer. What he needs is a strategy for not losing things. Checklists are the way to go. When I leave my office, I have to mentally go through my pockets to check for the items I must bring home (phone--wallet--car keys--etc.) because it simply isn't in my brain to 'just keep track' of things.
posted by underwater at 3:57 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Can you get him to just not take them off? I put my glasses on in the morning and take them off when I go to bed. It also might be better for his eyes.
posted by wafaa at 4:13 PM on December 21, 2007

There may be consequences for failure, but is anyone teaching him the skills for succeeding? I can't tell from your question whether you are or not. Organizational skills don't come naturally to a lot of adult people, so it's really tough for an 8 year old. I had a Dad who was very organized and a mom who wasn't. They had a traditional arrangement of Dad being the bread winner and mom keeping house. The result is that my desk at work is extremely organized, and my home is a disaster, because I learned the behaviour that was modelled for me.

Or, on a less abstract note, get him a glasses case with a swivel clip on it, so he can hang it from his belt or his backpack.
posted by happyturtle at 4:15 PM on December 21, 2007

I'm also naturally absent minded and agree that what you need here is a system. I still lose my glasses around the house occasionally, they're easy to forget and harder to find than anything else because I can't bloody see what I'm doing. The system RikiTikiTavi outlined is how I live my life (with the addition that whenever I stand up to go somewhere I stop and look back first, every. single. time.). It's not a plan or an idea, it's a full on lifestyle choice. Can't trust the short term memory so treat it as untrustworthy.

You need to find a system for your son that will do the same thing. This won't come about by punishment, he knows that the current system isn't working for him, and may take a few tries with you guys to sort it out. But routine and lists and planning ahead will the backbone of whatever system you come up with so those are the elements to think of.

And please please don't make your kid go without glasses. You're screwing up so many things by doing that, he needs to be able to see to think and learn and play. It could even hurt him physically depending on why he wears them, eyestrain headaches are horrible. No matter what you decide on, punishment or otherwise, fast replacement should be a total given and utterly non-negotiable. Mine were often covered under my parents contents insurance and now I'm an adult I make sure to have a small amount of money set aside somewhere so I can replace mine if I need to.
posted by shelleycat at 4:30 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was your little boy (okay, I was me, but I displayed similar characteristics). I was often at least as miserable about losing things as my parents were, and was incredibly guilty and ashamed over my difficulties stemming from ADD. I'm not sure what else was going on in my life that caused this, but when I was 9 or 10 I would have horrible stomach cramps, be unable to sleep (pacing the floor for hours going over all the bad things I'd done) and when I did fall asleep would apparently occasionally scream in my sleep. I had nightmares constantly.

So it's possible he doesn't need further punishment. If he does have ADD, the world is pretty scary and freaking him the heck out.

He isn't doing this to mess with you. He isn't doing this because he doesn't care. He isn't doing this to get attention. He isn't doing this to test you.

It took a while for my parents to take this in, and you will have to take this in too.

Of course it is important to stress for him the importance of keeping tracking of his things, but a breakthrough will not happen until it is ready to happen, and this may be a while. I've been able to hold onto most of my belongings in the last few years, but over the past 6 months I have lost my apartment keys 2 or three times (not counting the countless times I've had to ask the super to let me back into my apt when I've forgotten my keys inside). It may very well be a constant struggle for him. What your son desperately needs now is to know that despite his behavior, which you find frustrating, that you love him very much and that he is a good person even though his actions upset you. It's so easy for human beings, and children in particular, to feel that their worth derives 100% from their actions, so he is probably feeling like he is a horrible person right now. Please do whatever you can to help him so that he doesn't feel this way.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:59 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

At the age of 8, he just might not have the cognitive resources to handle this yet. More than rewards or punishments, your son needs a crutch: a system. It may take some trial and error to determine what that is. Is he a visual learner? Draw pictures of what it looks like when he has all his stuff. Is he more of an auditory person? Make up some rhymes. Kinetic? Have him do a pat-down of himself. Natural consequences are fine so far as they go, but he needs your support - and perhaps some support from his classroom teacher - to succeed here.
posted by expialidocious at 5:10 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

My oldest son is also 8, and also has expensive glasses. He hasn't lost them yet, but he did let his little brother get a hold of them once, and luckily it was covered by a warranty. He was so upset by the destruction of his glasses that is was not necessary to punish him. I wasn't upset so much as fretful about having to spend money on a new pair, as it sounds like you are. This is not my son's burden; it's mine. I assumed this burden when he was conceived. I cannot expect my son to know the value of something like this if he has never had to work for wages. He is 8. I prefer to let him act like it while he still can.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:14 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh and: Unfortunately it's not. The kid is going to HAVE to remember...Work will be a nightmare if he can't remember to get it together for projects, or prep for meetings. This could cause him lifelong stress and anxiety. I don't know anyone who has failed a college class or lost a job for poor crossword skills; I know plenty who have faced these consequences for forgetfulness.

The analogy of the crossword puzzle was bad. How about this one: what if a father punished his child for "failing to see clearly without glasses" or "having difficulties getting around without his wheelchair". It's so run of the mill to identify obvious physical problems as not being the child's fault, but when it comes to problems of the brain everyone assumes that that person can change the problems somehow (this is a huge pet peeve of mine). And notice the difficulty of the situation: the child with poor vision can get glasses; the child who can't walk can get the wheelchair. What exactly is there available for the child who is unable to stay organized? Or who finds it impossible to sit still? Or who is always late? Or can't seem to grasp what is going on around them?
posted by Deathalicious at 5:19 PM on December 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

You are approaching this incident as your son having wronged you in some way.

Why not approach it as a problem you both want to resolve, together, playing for the same team?

It sounds like your son is already upset about losing his glasses. Why make it worse?
posted by qvtqht at 5:21 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why do the glasses stay at school, anyway? Unless they're reading-only glasses, which is really unusual for an 8 year old, they should be on all the time. Forcing the eye to adapt back and forth twice a day isn't the best way.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:48 PM on December 21, 2007

Here's a great tip for remembering to take everything home that should work very well for a youngster.

Instead of remembering a list of particular items you have to bring home, remember the total number of items. This works especially well for routine comings and goings, where the items you have to remember don't really vary.

Say I'm an 8yo leaving school. I need to bring home my backpack, my jacket, my lunch box, my homework and my glasses. That's 5 things. So if I pause before leaving school (or home, in the a.m.), and think: "Do I have 5 things with me?" and my count comes up short, well, I know I've forgotten something. A quick survey should reveal what's missing.

This works even on those days when it's cold in the morning and warm in the afternoon when a kid is most prone to forget their jacket. It works if the kid doesn't need to have their glasses actually on their face in order to get home. It works less well when different materials (books, notebooks, worksheets) are needed for homework on different days, but one hurdle at a time, I guess.

I realize this doesn't answer the question you asked, but you've gotten many great answers above. I hope this tip helps you (and your son) going forward. (I was the same as him, and I wish someone had taught me some "remembering" strategies and saved everyone some grief.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:55 PM on December 21, 2007

I don't know. I get the consequences thing but in this case, either he actually hates his glasses and is consciously or unconsciously trying to ditch them (worth exploring at some point when no one is frustrated) or else he just made an honest mistake. If I were you, I'd tell him that if it ever happens again he'll have to pay for the next pair of (ugly) glasses by doing some household chore or something. But I'd let this one go.

-mom of two
posted by serazin at 6:03 PM on December 21, 2007

Seconding looking into ADD if you haven't already. Of course, there are lots of forgetful kids who don't have ADD, but losing things is a telltale symptom of the "inattentive" subtype, which is easier to miss for people who are only familiar with the fidgety mile-a-minute "hyperactive" subtype. (People can be either or both.) Here's some basic info.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 6:11 PM on December 21, 2007

Wow, your son sounds like me at that age, although I have gotten slightly better about it as I've gotten older.

I think since you said that he already feels terrible about it, then any further punishment serves no purpose. He is probably trying as hard as he can to not forget things, and it's not because he is cavalier about losing things that he loses them (since he feels bad about it).

When he loses things, it's because he either doesn't have the organizational tools that many posters have mentioned, or he's just naturally forgetful, as Deathalicious pointed out.

I think the way to approach this would be to try to give him more organization tools, but if he messes up and loses things, to just remember that he's trying as hard as he can. If his forgetfulness is not due to a lack of organizational tools, then his condition is really no different with a kid that has a physical handicap.
posted by I like to eat meat at 6:45 PM on December 21, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed -- well-meaning but ultimately unrealistic answers (boot camp, wait) are not really good answers to the question
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:17 PM on December 21, 2007

Why the heck would you do something like put an 8 year old in $250 glasses?! I mean, are you meaning $250 counting eye exam and astigmatism test and the whole thing, or just a frame and lenses for $250?

I don't think that punishment is appropriate. I think that teaching him about routines like "Testicles, spectactles, wallet, cigar" are good. Well, minus the testicles and cigar part. Help him make a routine (admit it, as adults we have them. I pat my butt before I leave my wallet there? jingle my keys "are they in the pocket?, etc.)

AND help him learn the critical thinking skills necessary to figure out WHERE he left it:

Have them for art class? YES! Recess? YES! Locker? YES! Walking home from school? NO! Ok, time to check the locker in the morning.

Working with kids for almost 10 years, it never ceases to amaze me what gets left behind at any event. Jackets, gloves, hats, underwear, socks, whatever. These things don't get up and walk away, and they're not things we wear every moment of the day. Tracking them down really shouldn't be all that hard.
posted by TomMelee at 7:31 PM on December 21, 2007

He's 8. They lose stuff.

YOU should learn the lesson, not him.
posted by unSane at 8:04 PM on December 21, 2007

First, I doubt your son lost his glasses the last day before vacation. SInce he leaves them at school, I would bet he lost them in the last week or so and it came to a head today. If he truly could not find them today for the first time, I bet they will show up after vacation. I certainly would delay any serious punishment until then.

Don't get him ugly glasses. He will lose them on purpose. I am not sure why he would have $100 glasses, but I would show him what $100 of value means in something he can relate to such as take him to the store and fill an empty shopping cart with $100 worth of junk food so he can get a sense of what he lost.

Then, rather than ounish him, I would set a a reward system for not forgetting them.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:12 PM on December 21, 2007

I forgot to mention the most important part.

If my kid can go a full month without losing anything, she gets the cellphone she so desperately wants. The countdown method of reward coupled with a mild punishment seems to work really well, in comparison to one or the other.
posted by Gucky at 8:38 PM on December 21, 2007

"How do I not kill my son? :)"
posted by liquado to human relations

[a few comments removed -- well-meaning but ultimately unrealistic answers (boot camp, wait) are not really good answers to the question ]
posted by jessamyn at 10:17 PM

Mine was one, if not the only, of the comments removed by jessamyn, as, perhaps, "well-meaning but ultimately unrealistic answers." Let me see if I can speak to you and your son's needs, as the father of 2 boys, and grandfather, through them, of 4, in some way that doesn't challenge her delicate sensibilities, as a moderator.

An 8 year old boy, even one with a clinical diagnosis of ADD, is someone who expects his family to have expectations of him. If you excuse him in this loss, if you suggest painless ways for him to replace the glasses, you deny his expectation that you should have expectations of him.

Don't do this.

It's better by far, that you hold him to account, and he fail in that account, and suffer consequences, than you fail in holding him to account. He can't rise to standards, if you never hold standards for him, and he will feel their lack, in the long run, much more than he feels your temporary disapproval, for his failure in meeting reasonable standards you have for him.

Hold standards for him. Have the courage, for him, not to accept failure, when he fails. And make sure he understands the difference.

You don't get a lot of chances at this. Whatever you do (and I had some direct suggestions in my deleted comment), make sure that they're memorable.

The boy is going to be on his own, more and more, as he grows.
posted by paulsc at 9:01 PM on December 21, 2007

An 8-year-old should not be responsible for a $250 anything. If he really needed the glasses, they should have been stapled to his head.

Having been that kid (my bete noir was bus passes, which allowed NYC kids to ride public transportation for free. But you got one per month. If 'something happened', you were suddenly full fare).

Get into the habit of, whenever you stand up, TURN AROUND AND LOOK.
An amazing number of items just seem to leap off one's person when one is seated.

I have not lost my keys in at least 35 years. There is a lathe-cutter on them that I got in 1973. It's still there. The keys have made many attempts to escape. My wallet has been unlosable too. But I did manage to lose two driver's licences within four months a few years ago.
posted by hexatron at 9:36 PM on December 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

In terms of consequences, one option is to say that some things are big enough that is just no reasonable consequence, you just have to try your very best not too let it happen again. Assuming that you feel your son does feel guilty, making an exception to your usual pattern of consequences may make a bigger impression than anything else. (Caution: if he is prone to high levels of guilt, you need make it very clear that the way he can make the situation right is by not losing the next pair at all for the next two years - otherwise, he get upset that you didn't give him a way to get rid of the guilt.) Then go on to ask him how you can help him not lose the glasses.

There are a lot of tips for parents who have children with trouble getting organized. Try googling on "'organization skills' children". Some may be written for children with ADD but they will work just as well with normal but forgetful kids. Bottom line seems to be a combination of checklists and habits. As you know, it takes an effort on your part to find a system that makes sense and then keeping it up over time but eventually it does become habit. Do some research and then sit down with your son and brainstorm some ideas that might help. Best is if he can suggest things that might work but at least he should be part of the discussion and agree with whatever you are going to try. My rule when brainstorming with the kids that anything at all can go on the list but we will only pick ideas that we both can live with or at least are willing to give a try.
posted by metahawk at 11:15 PM on December 21, 2007

For those of us who have memory glitches (I think the technical term is "brain farts") this sort of thing happens no matter how hard we try.

When we moved, I specifically put my passport in a place where it wouldn't get lost in the move. I never saw it again, and that was a year and a half ago.

All I can say is, work with the kid to give him strategies and habits to make losing things less likely. But please be aware that brain farts happen, and stress makes them worse and more frequent. It is okay to let him deal with natural consequences, but don't punish him further unless you know for a fact he is losing things deliberately.
posted by konolia at 12:38 AM on December 22, 2007

Why the heck would you do something like put an 8 year old in $250 glasses?! I mean, are you meaning $250 counting eye exam and astigmatism test and the whole thing, or just a frame and lenses for $250?

Have you bought a pair of glasses at an optometrist's recently? I buy kid frames (as an adult) and the frames are not cheap; many easily more than $100. Add in polycarbonate lenses (because you don't really want an 8-year-old in glass lenses, for a variety of reasons), plus other stuff (anti-glare coating's supposed to make it easier to see, extra charge for high power prescriptions (although it doesn't sound like that's the case for this kid, or he wouldn't be leaving his glasses at school ever!)), and you could easily get to $250. Even lenscrafter's isn't going to make all that much of a difference.

You don't get a discount just because you're buying glasses for a kid.

Glasses are just expensive (I'm looking forward to trying out zennioptical, though!)
posted by leahwrenn at 6:37 AM on December 22, 2007

I have an 8-year-old who has a history of carelessness
This is normal
Asking him to pay is absurd… but also unrealistic.
Oh yes… now you've getting it.
I don't want to *punish* him
Good on'ya
I want him to recognize the significance, and get a sense, of the consequences of his actions
This really rankles, are you not a team?
especially if it winds up costing me $250
'Us' not 'me'. You may well 'bring home the bacon' but the money is not yours. To all intents and purposes the money is a family pool. You need to recognise that you are not the boss of all the money. If you make a mistake are you penalised or is it excused because you are the provider?
You could kill your son (but it could be costly - more than $250, call me).
posted by tellurian at 6:55 AM on December 22, 2007

He's only 8 years old. It's not his fault the glasses cost $250. That's a function of your vanity or stupidity: buy cheaper ones. He's only 8 years old. He didn't do it on purpose. Have you never lost anything? He's only 8 years old. He'll probably do it again, and again, and again. What are you going to do then, take him to court? He's only 8 years old. He's your little boy. The idea he's gonna grow up a failure cause you don't din into him now that it's a crime to lose your specs is absurd. He knows perfectly well he did bad. Don't make him feel worse. Keep paying for the glasses as he continues to lose them. Love him and encourage him in what he does well. Count yourself lucky you have him.
posted by londongeezer at 8:23 AM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

if you suggest painless ways for him to replace the glasses, you deny his expectation that you should have expectations of him.

I'm going to speak for at least a portion of the responders here and clarify that the point of getting him cheaper glasses is not so that it doesn't matter if he loses them. But while liquado and his wife are teaching their little boy how to take better responsibility for his possessions, it'll be less stressful (both on them and their bank account) to be able to replace the glasses more easily.
posted by desuetude at 10:50 AM on December 22, 2007

As a mother of three young boys myself, I understand the temptation to make him wear ugly glasses to teach him a lesson, but don't do it. The embarrassment he'll suffer is far worse punishment than fits this crime. Make him work off the money you'll have to spend in the form of extra chores, find an age-appropriate system that will help him be less forgetful, hell -- even get with Books for the Blind and have him read/record some kids books for them. But for the love of Pete, don't embarrass him. Peer relationships are hard enough already.
posted by _Mona_ at 1:19 PM on December 22, 2007

I think it's normal that a 8 year-old kid looses his glasses.

I find the parent guilty for buying $250 glasses in the first place. You can have one pair at Costco for less than half that. They will look about the same, the lenses will be the same, so stop pointing to your kid for being a kid!
posted by Ervin at 9:00 AM on December 23, 2007

Sorry, it's "loses", not "looses".
posted by Ervin at 9:01 AM on December 23, 2007

Everyone who's been talking about the inadvisability of getting $250 glasses for an 8 year old -- I think the OP clarified that the glasses actually cost $100 not $250.
I had very similar problems to this 8 year old and lost and/or broke several pairs of glasses. I was never punished and glasses were promptly replaced. However I was usually bought the cheapest possible pair with ugly plastic rims rather than the wire ones I wanted and had to suffer the embarrassment of my mother telling the optician to get me the cheapest possible pair. When I stopped doing this regularly, I was bought more expensive pairs of glasses.
I agree with everyone above who says that what is needed is a system for not losing things. When I stopped living with my parents and not losing things became more imperative, the one thing I found that worked for me was to have a bag in which I kept all my important belongings, each in a particular place. I found myself periodically checking that each item was in its appointed place and while I occasionally left the bag somewhere accidentally, I definitely lost far fewer things than ever before.
Please, just be patient with your son. I think some people just aren't very good at keeping track of their belongings, even if they are quite in earnest about doing so.
posted by peacheater at 11:48 AM on December 23, 2007

I was that kid until I realized that I always lost things in school because I'd just walk out of the room without them. I made a habit of looking back at my chair every time I left a room. A good fraction of the time I'd see the valuable things I'd left behind.
posted by Sockpuppet The First at 7:19 PM on December 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

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