Forgotten school items and responsibility: my take

Three drawn faces depicting varying levels of happiness.

Last year I wrote a post about learning to let my kids make mistakes so they can learn from them. It’s a learning curve that I’m very much still on and it’s far from easy.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to debate a related topic on national radio. If you follow BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake on Twitter, you’ll know all about it already.

If not, his son forgot to take his homework folder to school and Nihal wasn’t sure whether to take it in for him or let him learn the hard way.

This question of responsibility inspired so much online conversation that it accounted for the first hour of yesterday’s show.

I joined Sasha who blogs at The Goddess Lounge as well as several callers and there were so many interesting points raised by everyone involved. The general consensus seemed to be that children need to learn themselves and I agree with that.

My older two are both at primary school and have both forgotten homework, reading records and PE kits more than once.

So far, I’ve taken things in for them and will continue to do so, albeit with a caveat. Once they’re at secondary school, they’re on their own!

At eight and six, they’re still very young, so letting them get in trouble at this stage doesn’t seem fair.

I think younger children are already under enough pressure as it is these days. The fact that they have homework in primary school, for example, is ridiculous.

All this said, we’re already attempting to instil some responsibility. Both boys know that they need to check that everything is in their bags at the start of each day. Hopefully, by the time they go to secondary school, they’ll be well drilled.

They’ll need to be as I won’t be able to bail them out! I don’t drive and all the local secondary schools are slightly further afield than their primary. But even if I could drive, my feeling is that I wouldn’t.

We all need to learn about responsibility, otherwise, we grow up assuming that life owes us a living. Furthermore, people who’ve had everything done for them in life are clueless. Just look at most cabinet ministers!

As one caller also pointed out, it’s important that we learn awkward lessons like these as children because it builds resilience.

Realising that a forgotten homework assignment isn’t the end of the world is a key¬†part of learning responsibility.

As parents, we have to be more than just safety nets. It’s up to us to play our parts in teaching our children difficult lessons.

Naturally, the thought of my kids being upset or embarrassed saddens me, but knowing that experiences like this will ultimately help them is the important thing.

In fact, it’s good for teaching us resilience as parents too.

What do you think? Do you take forgotten items in for your children or is it up to them to remember?


  1. Ian

    I love this! I am well and truly in your camp on this one. I have two at primary and one at high school. I do take forgotten homework/PE kits etc for the younger two. My eldest is learning by his mistakes.

    1. Post

      Thanks, Ian. Yes, I think that’s the best approach – we should help those who are too young to get it but they have to learn at some point so, once they get older, my lot are on their own!

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  3. Emma T

    I’m in the let them take responsibility camp. Mine has always been pretty good, although in KS1 I have had to return to school for him to pick up school shoes ahead of a concert elsewhere, and for his friend to pick up his trainers which he’d forgotten ahead of tennis coaching. Luckily we’re only 2 min drive from school. When younger I’d drill into him a checklist of what he has in his bag, we’d prepare it the night before. Now he does his own checklist (he’s Year 6) and drives me mad going over and over it again to check. It’s rare he forgets something anyway, but he has to learn ahead of secondary when it’ll all be his responsbility. His school have always worked towards children being independent by the time they’re in class 4 anyway. It amazes me how useless many of his class mates are. Each week without fail, there’s someone’s mum asking for the spellings from 2 days ago – they have 2 days worth of homework based on spellings – why on the Monday didn’t they realise, go back into school on the Tues, and ask a friend or the teacher before going home and realising! It’s poor of the parents to have not got their child into the habit, or if they know their child is rubbish at it, check for them on the Monday night. They’ve had the same homework days/subjects since year 3, so there’s no excuse in Y6. Thankfully my son’s more like me and is a people please who doesn’t want to lose his breaktime for not remembering to do homework, or missing outdoor play for not having a coat or sunhat. It’s important to set them up for life with basic skills and responsibility so when they have kids they can teach them basic life skills needed in having a job and turning up with the essentials they need.

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