One time my 8-year-old son won $2 from his grandpa for a tackle he made at the football field. When he got home, he took off his football equipment and went to play. He left the $2 on the floor. I told him to take his money up to his room. He said okay, kept on playing and forgot. I reminded him 10 minutes later, and he still didn’t do it right away and forgot again. I reminded him a third time and told him that if he had to be reminded again, he would lose the money. Ten minutes later, he lost the money. I was angry and he cried about the money he wasn’t getting back.
He’s eight year old. Cut him some slack, right? What should I expect?
Out of my three older kids, only my 11-year-old son is very organized about his stuff and has been for years. He keeps his allowance money, gift cards, cellphone and valuables in a drawer next to his bed. He knows how much he has of each and whether his phone needs a charge, etc. My daughter is somewhat organized, but when she loses things she’ll say that she clearly remembers specifically putting it in some exact spot and now its not there. My third son–granted he is only 8– has to be constantly told to put things away. I have had to tell him to put away allowance, homework, permission slips, library books from school, and countless other things that have been left on the kitchen table, policed up by an adult, and then lost. I know he’s young, but at some point I expect him to learn how to not lose things.
That’s why when he discovered that he’d lost the $100 gift certificate to Toys R Us that he was given for his birthday a week ago by his very generous grandparents, my first reaction was to be glad. In my mind, he’d finally lost a big ticket item that meant something to him. He had planned to buy a big Star Wars toy but that plan was out the window and he had no one to blame but himself. As tears ran down his face as he fruitlessly looked through his bedroom, I thought this might be the memorable event that he would remember and spur him to change his ways. I was 99% certain the card was in the house somewhere and I was happy for him to experience the pain of loss, at least until the card turned up.
I also felt sorry for the kid. He lost an amount of money that will require him to save his allowance diligently for almost half a year. I guess that this is one of the many gaps in my parenting knowledge. I really have no idea if expecting an 8-year-old to get organized and keep track of valuables is just too much. I am not sure how to teach him other than allowing him to learn the hard way.
UPDATE: Within two hours of this post, I found the gift card. It had been put away by an adult in a safe place that my son would never have put it himself. I had a little talk with him about what he might learn from this. I asked him to reconstruct how the card may have gone from the kitchen table (where he last saw it) to the wallet drawer (where it was found). I had him describe this mindset when he was sent up to his room to get the card, realized he didn’t know where it was, and had to come back down to tell his mother the $100 was lost. “I thought I would get screamed at,” he said. I wanted him to relive the traumatic event in detail, and understand it inside and out. Finally, I had him come up with some ways that the entire episode could have been avoided. And then I asked him the money question: “If someone gives you a gift card for Christmas three months from now, do you think you will take care of it and put it away or do you think that as an eight-year-old, you’ll probably put it aside to play with your new Christmas gifts and someone else will have to pick it up for you and you will lose it.” I asked for an honest answer, and he gave one: “I’ll probably lose it.”