Beyond Name Labels – When Kids Keep Losing Stuff

Doctor G, my 7 year old son has lost his winter coat already this year. Twice!! Should I replace it or should I make him earn the money to replace it?  It’s really concerning me.

A Mamavation Mom, in (state not provided)

I totally understand your frustration. All I have to do is picture the look on my mom’s face when I had to admit to losing a school book. Or a coat. Or one shoe! Even I had no idea how it was possible to not know where one of my two shoes was.

Kids lose stuff.

As a matter of fact, it is rare – sleep-through-the-night-from-3-months-old rare – if you have raised a kid who does not lose stuff in early to middle elementary school. Some kids keep on doing it for more years than that.

Medical note: If your child loses stuff more than you think is normal, and is scattered or distractible in other ways, this could be a sign of ADHD.

Anyway, what to do here. There are things you can do to make your point about keeping track of his belongings that are more developmentally appropriate than making him wait for a winter coat until he has earned the $20-50 that a new coat could cost.

How about:

  • Having him spend some quality time going through every item in the school Lost & Found.
  • Cancelling a fun weekend activity and teaching him to label ALL his clothes and outerwear.
  • Get him a new coat but have him earn the money to buy a second and donate it to a child who doesn’t have one.

All of these will teach the lesson you want him to learn about being more responsible with his belongings. And there are some great life skills in there.

  1. When you lose something, be stubborn about looking for it. As my Dad used to say, “If it’s not where it’s supposed to be, you have to look where it’s NOT supposed to be!”
  2. Knowing that you lose stuff, label it all so you have a better chance of getting it back!
  3. Remember that we are lucky to have stuff to lose, and that we have the resources to replace it. Not everybody does.

Lastly, you might want to make it clear what the consequence will be if he does lose a third coat. I’m picturing a 7 year old layered up in all kinds of sweatshirts and windbreakers while he collects newspapers trying to earn that $18 for a coat at Walmart!


Parents, what have YOU tried to get your kids to take more responsibility for their belongings?

Please comment!

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