Forgetting Homework and Bottle Games

By Catherine Pearlman

March 25, 2017 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: I just found out that my 10-year-old daughter has been forgetting to complete or submit school assignments. She does well on assignments when she does them. But she often gets sidetracked in her imagination or just forgets to turn in completed work. How can I help her get organized and stay focused before missing assignments derail her? — Lost Parents

Dear Parents: Your daughter's issue has nothing to do with ability. It has everything to do with executive function and attention to detail. Executive skills relate to being able to plan, organize and remember to follow through with tasks. She may also have difficulty breaking complex tasks into steps, causing her to stop doing an activity when she gets overwhelmed. She may even come up with alternative assignments to avoid doing what was assigned.

Difficulty with executive function is common with kids who have ADHD. Not all kids with ADHD are hyper, and it's those kids who tend to go unnoticed. I'd recommend talking to the teacher to ask whether she thinks an evaluation might be warranted.

There are ways you can help your daughter become more organized and focused. Set up two checklists. One is for home. It should lay out the steps for getting homework out, checking her planner, completing assignments and then returning work to a dedicated location in her backpack. The other checklist should be created with the help of the teacher. It should provide the steps your daughter will take to ensure she retrieves the homework from her bag and places it in the appropriate location in the classroom. The use of a binder instead of a composition notebook would also help keep her papers organized.

Your daughter might also benefit using earplugs when completing assignments to reduce distraction. With practice, these strategies should become habits to last a lifetime.

Dear Family Coach: My son is 15 months old and has already figured out how to drive us crazy. We give him his bottle, and then he throws it on the floor. As soon as we give it back, he throws it again. He is underweight, so we stress about him getting enough milk. How can we teach him that we aren't playing and get him to drink his milk? — Newbies

Dear Newbies: Isn't it amazing how quickly kids learn how to push our buttons? Your son knows quite well that you will fetch that bottle every time he drops it. Remember: He is barely a year old. He can't do or say much. But suddenly, he has the power to make you get up from your seat, retrieve his bottle and hand it back to him. That sounds fun, even to me.

When your son drops his bottle, give him one warning. If he does it again, take the milk away. He will likely whine and beg for the milk at that point. Don't give it to him, or you will just encourage his games. Put the milk back in the refrigerator, and offer it again in 30 minutes.

Your son's nutrition is important. But you will not get him to drink more milk by continuing this game. Consult with your doctor about alternative ways to increase his caloric intake, such as adding olive oil, butter or whole milk to his food. Also, consider the times when you give him his milk. If you feed him dinner and then immediately give him a bottle, he isn't likely to drink it. He's probably full from the meal. Try spreading out his drinks and meals. A good time for the milk is immediately after a nap.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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