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?!