I ‘Forgot’


Question: My 10-year-old son seems to have a bad memory, but only where I’m concerned. If I ask, “Please take out the trash,” a half hour later he says, “I forgot.” If I ask, “Why aren’t the dishes dried yet?” again I get, “I forgot.” He only seems to forget what he doesn’t want to do. What should I do?

Your son's problem is similar to another common childhood affliction: Selective Hearing Loss. Its main symptom is deafness to any words the child doesn't want to hear. The treatment: Make Giles repeat to you every request or directive, thus making it impossible for him to truthfully claim he didn't hear you. If he still persists in ignoring you, place consequences upon his behavior. In other words, put a cost on tuning you out.

For most kids this medicine will also cure the related disorder, Juvenile Memory Deficit. Whereas SHL (you know a disease has arrived when you can call it by its initials) is deafness to unwanted words, JMD is forgetting unwanted words. To get some idea of how badly your son suffers from JMD, try this diagnostic test. "Earhard, I promise I'll give you $5, one month from now. All you have to do to get it is to remember the exact place and. time — to the second — that I made this promise. I'll ask you about it next month."

Some JMD kids actually have photographic memories, but only at select times. Kermit forgot to feed the turtle two minutes after being reminded for the third time, yet he can describe exactly how his brother didn't do what he was told to do on Friday morning at 7: 10 a.m. three weeks ago. Even the worst case of JMD doesn't hamper a child's ability to remember your every transgression or "inequity" as a parent.

Once you've diagnosed JMD, you can apply the necessary medicine. The first dose is similar to that used for Selective Hearing Loss: Require your son to look you in the eye and repeat what you just said. While this is strong medicine for SHL since kids can't claim they didn't hear what they themselves said — not legitimately anyway — it's not foolproof for JMD. Faith can still claim she "forgot 'what both you and she said.

Therefore, you may need more potent medicine. One experimental procedure has shown promise in clinical trials: Treat poor memory with poor memory. For example, if your son forgets that dime hours ago he was asked to take out the trash, you will forget what you asked. Was it to dry the dishes or take out the trash? Since you can't recall, he'll now do both, just to cover all the bases. If he has memory lapses — and he's young and healthy — how can he expect his mother, whose brain cells are part petrified, to remember everything?

At this point most kids instantly recall exactly what you asked. (It's a miracle!) Nevertheless, it's too late. This time around there are added duties or consequences for ignoring mom. As your son is held accountable for his forgetfulness, his memory skills should improve radically.

What if your son truly forgets? Sometimes he will. It's a psychological axiom that humans — little and big — often forget what they don't want to remember. Nevertheless, your intent is to teach your son to remember his responsibilities, whether he wants to or not.

It's possible that this column may never be read by anybody. You see, my editor gave me a deadline, and I don't recall when it was.



Dr Ray Guarendi. "I Forgot." National Catholic Register. (January 28-February 3, 2001).

Reprinted by permission of the National Catholic Register. To subscribe to the National Catholic Register call 1-800-421-3230.


Raymond N. Guarendi, aka Dr. Ray, is a practicing clinical psychologist and authority on parenting and behavioral issues active in the Catholic niche media. Guarendi is an advocate of common sense approaches to child rearing and discipline issues. Guarendi received his B.A. and M.A. at Case Western Reserve University in 1974, and his Ph.D. at Kent State University in 1978. He is the author of You're a better parent than you think!: a guide to common-sense parenting, Good Discipline, Great Teens, Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It; Straight Answers to Hearfelt Questions, Discipline that lasts a lifetime: the best gift you can give your kids, and Back to the Family.

Copyright © 2010 Ray Guarendi

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