BrightSide and I work hard to help the kids make sense of money and its place in the world. You’d think everyone would be striving for this understanding, but we’re finding it surprisingly difficult given the mixed messages they get from their friends and the culture in general.

  • “James” doesn’t do chores, and when he wants something he simply asks his parents for the cash.  T-man and Bear are expected to do daily chores because our house is their house.  They receive a monthly allowance to teach them finance management, only a portion of which is considered spending money.
  • “Brooke” gets paid for every A on her report card.  T-man and Bear have to be satisfied with a heartfelt well done and the Honor Roll.
  • “Ava” begs for a new iPod for Christmas.  She’s ecstatic when it’s under the tree but promptly loses it on a trip.  Her parents buy her another.  When something similar happened to T-man, it was a very long time before we even considered the possibility of replacing it.
  • “Michael” walks through the store with his mother, begging for items on every aisle: pencils, a new lunch box, Pop Tarts, cookies, his favorite cereal, ice cream, potato chips, and gum in the checkout line.  It all gets dropped into their cart.  T-man and Bear also ask for goodies while shopping.  1% of the time they’re pleasantly surprised; the other 99% of the time they’re told we’re sticking to the list.  It works for me.

So we’re pretty much throwing a big old “Welcome to the real world, kid” philosophy at them. As in money doesn’t grow on trees and all that jazz.

Part of their financial education is making money decisions.  We’ve set the amounts that go into Saving, Spending, and Donations, but they make the final choices when it comes to who they donate to and the items they buy.  It’s what happens while making these purchases that brings me to today’s post.

We’ve had a wide range of experiences when it comes to T-man and Bear buying items at the store.  Specifically, I’ve found that adults fall into one of two categories: 1) patiently understanding while the kids fumble around, or 2) pain in the ass grownups who act like we’re derailing their day by taking an extra sixty seconds to pay.

Let’s say the kids have spent a good thirty minutes (or more) in the toy section, comparing Nerf gun choices and estimating tax, debating whether a selection is worth their hard-earned money.  They finally settle on a purchase and head for the checkout, wallet in hand, showing the tiniest bit of anxiety as they reach the line.  I know it’s not over whether they’ll have enough because I’ve helped them do the math, so I can only assume it’s the unpredictable nature of the people they’ll encounter up front.

Sometimes the adults in line behind us smile kindly as T-man opens his wallet or Bear opens her purse, looking for the correct bills after the cashier announces their total.  They almost look like they’re cheering the kids on for their responsible behavior.

On the other hand, sometimes we have customers behind us who seem to feel like their entire day has been ruined by the extra time it takes my kids to handle a financial transaction.  They sigh heavily…shift their weight impatiently…even shoot glances at me that scream “Why don’t you just pay so we can get on with it?!”

Side note:  People who behave this way while my children are practicing their money skills often find that T-man and Bear are not the slowest ones in my family.  It’s funny how long it can take me to collect my things and move along if you’re being a douche.

Likewise, we’ve encountered some absolutely lovely cashiers.  These people are kind, tolerant, and understanding when the kids pull out the wrong bills or try to use change while they pay. They treat them respectfully, like children who are giving up their own money for something they really want.  These are the cashiers I secretly want to hug for making my kids feel smart and capable.

But we’ve also run into cashiers from the flip side.  The ones who glance up at me when T-man or Bear pulls out their money with a “You’ve got to be kidding me” look of martyrdom. Employees who hold out their hand and keep it hanging there in the air while my kid flounders around, flustered and trying to find the right amount.  The ones who barely acknowledge T-man or Bear, brusquely passing them through the line like a pest you can’t wait to get rid of.

Side note #2:  There’s usually a very large part of me that wants to remind these people that while my kids may be pint-sized, they are actually CUSTOMERS.  They’ve brought money into this particular store to exchange for goods.  And while they may not move with the efficiency of a credit card swipe, cash is still considered legal tender in America and will add to your company’s profits. So suck it up and BEHAVE.

I know that everyone has off days now and then, but we’ve encountered a few too many of these Negative Nellies to write it off as bad luck.  Maybe a cashier sensitivity training course for handling children would be a good business move.  If I found a store that consistently treated my children with respect and dignity when they came to shop, you can bet they’d have my loyalty.