I had the privilege of taking my daughter and classmate on a Going Out to the zoo for a research project. They were given $10 for incidentals, should they need it. The only instruction was to bring back a receipt.
Walking back to the car, the one who had been carrying the money announced, “The money isn’t in my pocket.” It was nowhere to be found – not the pocket, not the car, not the school.
Upon returning to school, actually I believe it was the next morning, their teacher asked them what they should do about the lost money. They came up with two options: 1. Apologize to Mr. Fred (the school administrator) and ask the loan to be forgiven. 2. Repay the money.
The girls chose to repay the money. The teacher thanked them for taking responsibility and said she would leave it up to them to discuss with their parents – would the child or the parents be responsible for the money?
My daughter debriefed me on the matter and asked me the question, “Should I use my money or your money?”
I responded with, “Hmmm…what do you think?” Silence followed.
My mommy instinct kicked in and I wanted to bail her out of her moral dilemma, so I asked, “Should we split it?”
“No mom, you didn’t lose it!”
(OMG!) Yes, yes, yes! She gets it. She understands responsibility. If she gets it at age 6, at age 26 or 36 or 46, she won’t think mom (or the government or anyone else) should bail her out! When she can take responsibility for the little things in life, it will be easier to take responsibility for the big things.
I am so glad they lost the money. It was the best lesson of the day. It gave them the opportunity to practice their executive function. And note to self, “Don’t be in such a hurry to bail my children out of a tough situation. It is now that they are learning their place in society and the habits they will carry through life.”