We are three-days deep into the new school year, and this conversation has already taken place:
Me: “Where’s the ice pack I put in your lunch this morning?”
Child: “What ice pack? You didn’t put an ice pack in my lunch.”
Me: “Yes, I did. I put it in there to keep your berries cold because we know how you feel about mushy berries. It was that rectangular one, about an inch thick, with blue-colored gel in it, and a little screw top lid?”
Child: “Oh. That one. I wondered who that belonged to.”
Me: “What do you mean, you ‘wondered’?”
Child: “Well, after we all packed up our lunch boxes, it was left on the table.”
Me: “So what did you do with it?”
Child: “I left it there. Because I didn’t know it was mine.”
Me: “How could you not know it was yours if you pulled it out of your lunch box?”
Child: “I don’t know.”
For the love.
I was speechless.
And if you know me at all, then you know this phenomenon occurs with the regularity of a 100-year flood.
How long will we be here? In “that” place? Where our kids think that money (and ice packs apparently) grow on trees, so we can just go pick them from our back yard?
I don’t know about you, but this part of parenting wears me out.
Thankfully, though, there’s a new regime at our house. I just hadn’t thought to take it all the way down to the ice packs.
Because I learned a valuable lesson last summer about why children lose their things.
They lose their things because they don’t pay for them. And when they don’t pay for them, they have no vested interest in them. And when they have no vested interest in them, they don’t take care of them. And when they don’t take care of them? They lose them.
It’s pretty simple.
And I know it’s true because it played out exactly this way in our family.
A while back, I wrote a post about our daughter and her gift of losing goggles. She is on the recreational swim team, and during her first summer of competition, she lost six pair.
Six pair, people. At $20 each. You can imagine this caused a wee bit of tension in our home.
But then I wised up. I made her start paying for them, and miraculously, she stopped losing them.
Isn’t that interesting?
So this summer, we started off on the right foot.
I bought her first pair of goggles. And I told her that any pair thereafter (unless they broke) would be on her dime.
She never lost the first pair. Which is pretty impressive because there are lots of little things to keep up with on a swim team.
So when school rolled around again, and it was time to order backpacks, lunch bags, reusable food containers, water bottles, spirit wear, and SOCKS (where in the world do these things migrate to?), I told the kids that the first purchase was on us. But after that, they’d be purchasing their own replacements.
And on day three, we lost an ice pack.
When I told our daughter that she would be replacing the ice pack, she asked me how much it would cost. So I looked it up on Amazon, where I found a four-pack for $7.99.
And she said:
“I’m only paying for one, so that’s $2.”
And I said:
“I’m glad they’re teaching you something in math, but I’m sorry to inform you that it doesn’t work that way. You see, I wouldn’t be buying these ice packs at all if it wasn’t for your gift of losing things, so the 4-pack is on you.”
Silence. A frustrated exhale. And a quick stage left exit.
What happened next, though, was amazing.
With regard to buying lunches at school, we have a once-per-week rule. Because it gets expensive if we let them buy any more often. So when I picked the kids up from school on the day our daughter lost the ice pack, she asked me if she could buy her lunch on the following day. Knowing that it was a short week (we started school on Wednesday), and remembering that we had already eaten out the day before school started, I told her “no,” unless she paid for it herself.
She decided to pay for it herself.
Until she had to buy four ice packs.
She decided to take her lunch to school.
Friends, I don’t believe Kory and I could have paid for a better lesson!
How do you feel about making your kids contribute financially to their expenses? Do you have any tips and tricks that you’ve discovered along the way? If so, we’d love to hear from you!