Mom or Footman? Disorganization and Today’s Teens

A few followers have asked…why so long between posts?

It’s simple, actually.

I’m too busy reacting to my kids’ inability to stay organized.

You see, kids today do not understand how to manage their lives. Other than staying on top of normal homework (i.e. assignments that don’t require specialty items such as foam core boards or specific books), the concept of responsibility eludes them.

We spend inordinate amounts of time searching for wayward knee pads, phone chargers and scrambling to accommodate last minute requests for field trip deposit checks and rides to forgotten activities…all because our kids cannot think more than five minutes into the future.

This is expected with youngsters, you know…KINDERGARTNERS. But a 17 year-old? A 15 year-old? Middle school-aged kids? Come on! Their failure is our spike in blood pressure. Some examples just in the past week:

“The printer doesn’t work and I need to print something for school”…Monday morning, 6:55am, 5 minutes before it’s time to leave for school


“I don’t have any socks”…Monday morning, 6:45am, 15 minutes before it’s time to leave for school


“Oh whoops…I forgot I have to read 75 pages”…Sunday night 8:45pm (due date for reading? Monday morning, first period).


“My [several-hundred-dollar] school housing deposit is due” our college-bound son

“When?” his father

“Tomorrow at 7am” our college-bound son


These are but a few high notes in the relentless, rapid-fire current of constant need and last-minute scrambling that goes on in our house.

What’s a parent to do? The options are few but vastly different in terms of the result. I am guilty of oversimplifying. It’s so easy to hear a friend complain about this sort of thing and react with a casual, “Well, stop doing things for them. If they can’t give you X days’ notice, tough luck.” This is much harder to pull off in real life, when grades and college housing availability are at stake.

Honestly? I think we blew it. We missed the window of opportunity for instilling basic responsibility into our kids. It has to start at a much younger age…maybe even with a generational shift that can’t happen until this wave of kids is up and out of the house, because we’ve conditioned them to rely on us for everything.

This is the end result of our entitlement approach to parenting…kids that are completely unable to manage their lives, and worse, kids that EXPECT their parents to run around behind them cleaning it all up. Their biggest concern on any given day is their social calendar, their wants and their priorities, none of which include even a passing thought for the future. The scariest part is that we are slowly unleashing these grossly unprepared soon-to-be-adults into a society where employment is hard to come by, and common sense is evaporating in favor of misguided allegiances to ’causes’ that advocate for a slacker culture (i.e. Occupy Wall Street).

Tomorrows leaders: a group of unprepared children with a nasty case of arrested development, whose preferred method of communication is a text, Tweet or Facebook post; who on any given day will be forced to turn their dirty underwear inside out and re-use because they forgot to do laundry; who will run out of gas on the freeway at least once a month; whose $300/month Smartphones will alert them when their checking accounts are overdrawn; who will gladly live with their parents well into their mid-20s (and complain if said parents ask for rent); whose “C gets a degree” mentality will promote mediocrity, thus forcing a socialist government to take over and make the big decisions, because they simply don’t have the tools.

OK, maybe that last part is a bit dramatic, but you get my drift.

Mark my words – we are spiraling, people. Every time they forget their backpacks at school or neglect to plan ahead for events, it may seem innocuous. In fact, it’s a symptom of the larger problem: a generation of kids that do not understand consequences which, if left unchecked, is going to be a death blow to our society…maybe not in 10 years or even 50 years, but it’s coming.

We need to stop behaving like a bucket of joint compound, filling in the holes of their mistakes and missteps. If they forget an assignment, they get an F. If that’s all they’re capable of, then who are we to artificially inflate their abilities by walking them through it or coming to their rescue? Ditto with all aspects of their lives. Forgotten knee pads? I guess your knees will be sore after volleyball. Forgot to tell us about the camp deposit that’s due? No, I won’t drive to your school at the last minute and drop off the check for you. I guess you don’t get to go to camp.

My advice? Start early. The consequences are not as serious when your kid forgets her lunch and you refuse to bring it to her. Break the cycle we’ve created – we’re counting on you!

About oneburnedoutmama

Ever so slightly burned out mama. Love kids. Not so much on a few of the parents. Hate folding laundry. Love long stretches of silence. Prefer rain over sun and football over HGTV.
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2 Responses to Mom or Footman? Disorganization and Today’s Teens

  1. Leslie says:

    I hear you! I too struggle with helping them learn to be organized on their own, as it’s clear that some kids naturally do better than others in this department. I have come to the conclusion that frequently they need to be taught little things that seem obvious to us…. like “when you see the message on the printer that says ink low, YOU need to do something, don’t assume someone else will… otherwise we will ALL run out of ink!” Some things that have slightly improved the last minute problems (that become my problem, like the “we are out of printer ink”) is that I bought a series of small whiteboards that are mounted in the kitchen… One says “Mom, we need….” and people are supposed to write on it when they finish the milk, notice the printer is warning that ink is low, or other “supplies” that are soon to be needed. I’ll have to say, this has been fairly successful, especially since it is near the frig. The other one says “Mom, please don’t forget…” and this might be “I need a report cover for Wednesday” or “I am low on lunch money, need a check” or “need to shop for Suzie’s birthday gift before Saturday”, etc. Doesn’t always happen, but it catches probably half of the last minute stuff before it becomes last minute. So, I’ve considered those baby steps towards teaching them the idea that we have to communicate to be organized. Next, our family google calendar. Colored coded by person, and everyone has access on his/her computer and/or other mobile electronic device. Want to know if you are free on Friday night… look at your calendar. Going to Lauren’s party on Friday night, put it on the calendar yourself, and include address and phone number! (note- this does not constitute permission to go, still need to ask!) Even for Chris, don’t call and ask me where soccer is and if you’ll be picking up, you sit at your computer all day, look at the google calendar… the location of soccer is there! Look on the calendar and see we are going to such and such on Sunday evening, so do you homework BEFORE that! Sammy is the one who forgets stuff at school, and I give her one free pass a semester for an assignment or instrument… otherwise she’s out of luck. She did beg for a math assignment after her “one freebie” and I told her there was a $5 delivery fee… she’s a miser when it comes to $ so that’s been the last deliver I’ve made for her…. finally found what made her remember her stuff. Finally, I agree, there are things that they screw up and you just have to drop everything and do (like the college housing…. the repercussions are too severe for saying “sorry, you should have asked earlier.”) I have recently tried a “compensation” type of strategy for that… basically saying, “I had to drop everything, reorganize my schedule to help with your whatever, so now you owe me x amount of time to do something I need done on MY schedule (which very well could infringe on a fun activity they had planned… sure, you can still go to dinner with your friends, but you need to wash the dog right now, before you go…. that has to be done RIGHT NOW!)” I agree, if I knew what their lives would look like as teens, I’d have been working on this training since preschool!

  2. ansuyo says:

    So true! And scary! This quote has helped me a great deal. It was taught to me by a high school teacher (who was teaching one of my irresponsible children). ” Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”. It also helped me realize I had been doing this for adults too. I felt obligated to pull people’s behinds out of the fire for some reason. Now I think before I respond. As you say, it is definitely easier said than done! Great post.

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