This is my first year having a child in school, so I’ll probably be writing about some of the small, unexpected things that people don’t think to warn you about. I’m a planner, and I’m quickly learning that children and God laugh at plans. So, here’s my heads up to you parents about the “small things” that add to the everyday stress of parenting. In this case, it’s how you will unexpectedly go broke buying all the things that your kinderkiddo loses! See the list of things that I have had to re-purchase this year – sometimes more than once:
- Winter hats -> he rips it off after recess and doesn’t put it in his backpack or in his coat sleeve
- Winter coats -> he leaves it in the after-school coat closet or in the locked classroom
- Parent folder -> he takes it out to do homework in his after-school program and doesn’t… you guessed it… put it back in his backpack
- Show & Tell toys/books -> DITTO backpack no use
- Lunchboxes & Thermoses -> see above -> DITTO backpack no use
- Tupperware -> throws Rubbermaid containers away when he dumps his lunchbox
- Silverware -> DITTO
- MONEY (this is where I knew things had to change) -> I gave him $5 for a $3 chicken biscuit he wanted to buy from the school fundraiser. I told him that he should expect $2 back. He even knew how to do the subtraction. I then said that he needed to put the money back in his backpack. He came home and had NO explanation as to what happened to the change. UGH
And I know what you’re thinking. Put his name on it – doesn’t work! Remind him to bring it home – doesn’t work! For my son, it’s the first time that he has to truly be responsible with his things. So, I took my losses and decided to create Kindergarten lessons in responsibility. This concept was based pretty much in the tough love approach – in other words embarrassment, loss, and a little suffering. Here’s the approach I took:
Step 1: Come to terms with the fact that things will be lost, taken by mistake, and possibly even stolen.
Step 2: Have a serious high level conversation with child about how responsibility and how money works. Let them know that it is their job to keep up with their things and to bring them home. I told my son that losing or accidentally (mindlessly) throwing something away (like silverware or Tupperware containers) is just like throwing away hard earned money. And if mommy had no money, then we can’t have nice things (like his beloved Chick-fil-A).
Step 3: If they lose something, let them go without until they earn it back. e.g. when my son lost his lunchbox, he had to use grocery bags to carry lunch to school & when he lost his coat, he had to endure the low temperatures (just for the short trek from my car to the school doors, but still) and kids/teachers asking him where the heck his coat was
Step 4: If they lose something, give them agency over the situation. Teach them how to retrace their steps and to ask teachers and school staff (this also refines communication skills).
This has worked well for us. My son almost sees not losing his stuff as a personal game/challenge. He even comes home and boasts about how he has returned home with everything he left home with in tow. Every now and then, he will lose something, but NOW he’s mindful and realizes it sooner and has a much greater sense of urgency around finding it. Good luck and buy as much as you can from the Dollar Store Kindergarten year.