WWYD? – kids

Kids can be very enterprising, and I like to encourage that in my sons. However, a scenario opened itself up before me and I am wondering how to proceed.

We go through hot chocolate in this house very fast, especially in the winter. I buy the large canisters of the chocolate powder. I generally have to replace it every 10 days to 2 weeks. So whenever I go shopping I pick up another one.

It came to my attention that a half finished canister was taken to school, another one opened to fill its space on the shelf. Now, sometimes they ask permission to take a box of cereal to school and sometimes even hot chocolate. Permission was not sought till much later. It was also brought to my attention (I hate when siblings tattle on each other, but sometimes it’s necessary) that the child who took it to school is charging his classmates a dollar a spoonful so they can have hot cocoa with their breakfast.

Now, part of me is proud of him – he identified a need, is filling it and making a profit. Quite a large profit. But he practically stole the cocoa. He did eventually tell me that he took it to school. He didn’t say it was for personal use, but he didn’t tell me he was selling it.

What do I do? His brother did the right thing by telling me, but the kid would know in an instant who told on him. I want the child to understand that if he had asked me we might have been able to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. Does the money he made belong to him or to me? Do I make him give me all his profits? How would you handle it?

Just to note – I am not angry, not at all, I just want the right lesson to be learned from this.

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21 Comments

  1. AshleyRoz says:

    maybe make him buy you a replacement box and from then on he has to buy his own to sell at school with the profits.

  2. AshleyRoz says:

    and of course, this could also be a good opportunity for him to put 10% to charity.

  3. Mark says:

    Explain to him the basic principles of business. Next time you go shopping, bring him with you and have him purchase a tin of cocoa (his “expense”) and use that one to sell to his classmates. Also give him a sheet of paper and have him work out how much profit he will earn (add some assumptions, like him giving certain favored friends a discount, siblings free, his own consumption. etc), and his profit margin, etc. It will be a good lesson.

    And tell him that if he ever takes the “family” cocoa again, all the profits plus a penalty will go to the family instead of to him!

  4. batya from NJ says:

    yeah, he should def replace the canister he “took for personal use” & pay with his profits for future canisters & why not allow him to keep the $ (& perhaps like ashley suggested give aside some for tzedakah) but make it clear like mark said that if he takes the family cocoa again, there will be financial consequences as outlined above.

  5. hadassahsabo says:

    OK – great ideas, but how do I stop him from beating up his brother for ratting him out?

    • Mark says:

      You lie to him and say that you found out from someone else :-)

    • Mark says:

      Also don’t present it as a punishment, but instead as a positive learning experience. You might want to compliment him on his enterprise and his enviable profit margin (after he calculates it himself).

    • Rainy says:

      I’d just let him know in no uncertain terms that there WILL be negative repercussions if he gives his brother a very hard time, and he does not want to go there. I don’t play that card with my kids very often b/c I don’t want to wear it out, but every once in a while fixing one or the other with a hard stare and making it very. crystal. clear. about what isn’t going to be accepted does work. Sure there may be some residual hard feelings, but you can’t keep that from happening. He just needs to keep from dumping them on his brother!

  6. Duvii says:

    Ask him if he knows what happened to the box. I’m sure he will tell you.

  7. tesyaa says:

    From day 1 when my 4 year olds ask to make a lemonade stand (they all do), I explain that lemons cost money, sugar costs money, and paper cups cost money, and someone has to pay for the inputs. I’m not sure why your kid didn’t think you would realize what was going on.

  8. The rule I have for my kids is, tattling is only on if someone is getting hurt, or something dangerous is happening. Otherwise, I don’t listen, and won’t use the information.

  9. Lady Lock and Load says:

    Watch the levals of the booze in your bottles, in case that gets sold in school too!

  10. kami says:

    im a kid, so i might understand how it would feel as a kid.
    you could bring him grocery shopping and when picking up the cocoa, casually “suggest” to him that if he brought the cocoa to school, maybe he could sell them to his classmates for 50cents a spoonful? (with some touch of humour and smiling at him of course). and if he admits, you can then tell him that he should have come clean to you earlier or anything you want to tell him.
    if he doesn’t admit, he might be shocked that you could read his mind!

  11. Rebecca says:

    I see this a little differently. I do not see it as being businesslike, but see it as being devious. Especially, since your son knows your morals. The first thing I would do is take him to the store and have him buy a replacement box of hot choco. I then would have him take the money and give it for tzadakah. If he wants to do this again for profit, he must a) ask you for the hot chocolate and b) buy another box and keep the remainder of the money for himself. If he is selling the hot choco. to children who do without, then I would have him give the $ back and do a good deed for a child who does not get to drink hot choco. What would bother me the most is that he did thing behind my back and your other son knew you how you would react and this made this son feel guilty, which a child should not have to do, that is why he told. Just my humble opinion.

  12. Rainy says:

    If it were one of my kids, I’d do two things.

    1. I would sit him down and explain that when I buy food, it is a family resource. It is for everyone. Taking food without asking is taking food from the family, and it throws off my mental ‘list’ of what we’ve got and what other people might expect to have available to them. Living in a community means taking stuff like that into consideration, and the family is a community of which he is a member.

    2. Then I’d point out that if he wants to run a business, that is laudable and clever, but he cannot use family resources to do so. That isn’t fair because the profits are not something the family is benefiting from.

    At this point, I’d offer him two choices. Either borrow money for a tin of cocoa, to be repaid with interest, to continue his enterprise. This would be a good time to teach him about markups and fair pricing and how to calculate the cost of doing business. A good life lesson! That, or, the family will continue to furnish the cocoa, but he has to split his profits with the family, fifty fifty. Maybe put them in a kitty and everyone gets to sit down together and decide what to do or buy – something for everyone with a little left over for tzedaka?

    My oldest daughter had a vegan cupcake business last summer and we went through this very issue. In the end, I fronted her the cash to buy her own initial supplies, she paid me back and then was responsible for maintaining her inventory and supplies, and pricing her wares so that she could do so. It was a GREAT lesson on a lot of levels for her, community, fair use of resources on a big and small level, fair rates of interest when borrowing, and how to price out running her business.

    How lucky you are to have such an enterprising and resourceful son! This is a great quality that will serve him well and you’ve got a great opportunity to teach him to channel that.

  13. Rainy says:

    Oh… and either way, he should replace the cocoa he took, because his family has the right to expect that cocoa will be there for them, and you did buy it for the family. :-) But I think you can totally frame it as a positive lesson all round.

  14. J says:

    If he is selling it to friends in school you might easily have heard about it from them or their parents and not necessarily from his brother.

  15. Lady Lock and Load says:

    I like what Rainy wrote. So on the mark. Teaching the child a lesson for his future, what is expected, without putting him down, making a whole big thing out of it. Just perfect! Wondering what you did in the end….

  16. Rebecca says:

    To J: Yes he could have heard about it from someone at school, but what about his brother? He knew his brother was doing something that Mom should know about but he did want to tattle? Even suggesting that Mom heard it from someone from school is a LIE, pure and simple, and while brother is someone from school it is stretching it and brother still knows.

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