Kindergarten Racketeers

Every day Tyler carries a small amount of cash to school with him (usually about five dollars.) He has been in the habit of buying a hot pretzel or extra drink from the cafeteria snack bar. The company that provides the school's food does an excellent job of keeping costs down for the kids. All items in the snack bar are under $1 and fit healthy nutritional guidelines. Not a bad deal. Every morning John checks Tyler's wallet to make sure he has enough money and fixes his lunch box too.

But John picked up on something this week and mentioned it to me. Tyler's spending habits suddenly changed and the .75 cents he was spending each day suddenly jumped to $4 or more. Say what???

We asked Tyler what he was spending his money on at school, and Ty got that look on his face. The look that tells us he knows he did something wrong and is afraid to tell us.

We finally got the truth out of him. Turns out there is a couple of boys at school that have been extorting money from him. Pay for play, so to speak. If he agrees to buy these boys something from the snack bar, they agree to hang out with him at play time on the playground.

I can't tell you how much this pained me. Tyler wants friends so badly and is a people pleaser. He is also a bit of a class clown. He likes making his friends laugh. Something like this could get out of hand so quickly and undermine his already fragile self esteem.

We explained to him that real friends don't CHARGE YOU MONEY to play with them. He should try talking to the boys, tell them he won't buy food for them anymore (he can't afford it) but be nice about it. I told him those aren't the kinds of friends he really wants to have. Friendship is free and if a kid really likes you, he'll want to play with you all the time regardless.

We're going to continue to monitor his wallet. If we see this trend continue, I'll notify his teacher and hopefully she will address it in class.

What the heck are these boys' parents teaching them? Do they let them watch reruns of the Sopranos or something?!


jennifer said…
The exact thing happened when my granddaughter was in elementary. And even after it stopped being extortion, she had learned that if she paid for others, they would be nice to her. It was a tough lesson to break.

Now she's in middle school and is completely selfish with her money. I think kids get away with it because the grownups don't find out about the scheme until it's been going on awhile.

I would tell the teacher anyway, so that the little swindlers can be monitored. (Or slapped upside the head. Whichever.)
Donna said…
That really is scary! Kids that young pulling stunts like that? Wow.
Two Write Hands said…
I hate to be too negative, but sometimes kids just come up with these kinds of stunts all on their own--without the aid of parents or older siblings.

Then again, maybe the kid's parents let him WATCH the Sopranos? At any rate, I hope for Tyler's sake the situation gets remedied quickly.
Shari said…
Awe, that makes me so sad. I don't know if you remember that had been happening with Peter too and it was in Kindergarten also. Peter would buy his friends pencils and note pads from the school store. He would tell me he just wanted them to like him. And it broke my heart.
I hope that Tylers teacher addresses the situation in class, and helps those boys understand that what they are doing is wrong.
Anonymous said…
Is your child in Kindergarten? I don't think children that young should be carrying money with them to school. They don't have the emotional maturity or cognitive ability to handle the responsibility. And I don't mean the responsibility of the 'cash value'. As you can see, it has different value/power that can be misused. I'm a kindergarten teacher who has seen children give things (coins, trinkets, their mother's jewelry!)in order to secure friendships.

Often treasured items fall out of pockets, get lost or broken. And you can't expect all children to be able to resist temptation without adult guidance. The actions of other children are beyond your control as a parent. So do what is within your control: give your child age appropriate opportunities and experiences to handle money, etc., while he is with you (on weekends, etc.)
Liz said…
{{{{Becky & Ty}}}} Awwww...I feel so bad for the little guy! I can totally understand how he feels, as I was always a people pleaser too, & desperately wanted people to like me (still like that to an extent). I would agree with Jennifer & mention it to the teacher ~ some monitoring or a good slap upside the head for those kids is in order.

Mara said…
how sad. I would cut him back to $2.00 A day and he will just have to tell his pay for play friends no. It looks like their parents would give them enough for snacks.
Hungry boys have no shame.
Anonymous said…
WOW, Five bucks a day. He gets more than me.

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