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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Teaching Children Respect for Belongings, Money

Mrs. A wrote to the Yated with a cry for help. She sees that the generation is a spoiled and wasteful one and wants camps to scale back, teachers to scale back, and children to be taught responsibility. In the style I've come to expect from those who write to the Yated, she calls for everyone else (primarily camps and schools) to take responsibility, but there is hardly a call for parents to take the bull by the horns.

One item she mentioned stands out to me. The letter writer, a teacher in a frum school, mentions that parents are stuck with sizable bills for lost textbooks at the end of the year. Can someone please explain to me why parents are paying the tab for lost textbooks??? I don't recall many lost texbooks during my school days, but then again I can't think of too many students whose parents would have paid that tab.

The road to responsibility and respect for property begins and ends with accountability. Simple as that.

Dear Editor,

I would have preferred to involve the mechanchim of the Chinuch Roundtable in the discussion of this letter, but I have chosen to open up the following topic in this forum so that public interaction can begin.Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger wrote an excellent article in last week’s Yated titled “Not ‘Just’ Pachim Ketanim” about the baal tashchis that goes on at the end of camp. Parents go all out for their children so that they can go to expensive summer camps. The children go to camp loaded with food, accessories, clothing and money. Today’s children have no clue how their parents agonize over paying for several children to attend camp each year at a total cost of at least $2,000 per child (once all extra related expenses are included). When they leave camp, their lack of responsibility is quite evident to the camp administration.

Rabbi Hisiger also mentioned that the same lack of responsibility continues in school. As a teacher in a local high school, I am appalled each year at the amount of money parents have to send in at the September orientation because their children didn’t return all their school textbooks in June. The amounts range from $20 to as much as $175! The children lack responsibility and they have no concept, as Rabbi Hisiger stated, of being “chas on their parents’ money.”

This generation is a spoiled one. They expect just about everything from their parents. They don’t know that everything comes with a price tag. Believe it or not, there is even a mindset among parents that one must not discuss money issues with children because it will cause them unnecessary anxiety. This is the issue that I would love to see discussed by mechanchim and parents.

Anyone who is in touch with reality is quite aware of the state of the world economy. People are losing their homes and their jobs, and others can’t pay their tuition bills. I don’t have to mention that the price of gas and groceries has adversely affected our financial situations. This is no longer a personal issue. It isn’t about Family A or Family B. We’re all in the same boat, regardless of color, race or religion. I think that it is time to enlighten our children that the world economy is in trouble. I think that the schools should address the issue by scaling back the extra curricular expenses and explaining to the students what the reason is. Teachers should scale back the list of school supplies needed, and include only those items that are absolutely necessary. Camps should address this issue by scaling back the types of trips, breakouts and narishkeiten that add to the excitement but subtract from the parents’ wallets. I challenge the camps to budget next summer in a way that will minimize camp expenses and maybe even bring down the price of camp. The baal tashchis that goes on in camps on the administrative level is unacceptable. Children should understand that they cannot expect from their parents what they used to expect automatically.

I have spoken to the menaheles of the high school that I teach in, and she is in total agreement with me. Almost everyone today is feeling the painful pinch of living expenses that have jumped to unaffordable numbers. It is time for our children to be made aware of the situation, so that they can be more sensitive. I believe that children who are old enough to spend money should be taught a sense of real responsibility. They should protect their possessions, assess what they really need for the coming year, and determine what they can do without. If we teach them this concept now, it will give them the tools to be responsible adults later.

I would love to hear feedback from principals, teachers, parents, and, yes, boys and girls as well.

Mrs. A.


Dave said...

How would the children know the value of money?

If money is always found for whatever they desire, then money isn't an issue.

If they never are involved in making choices of one expense versus another, then money isn't an issue.

If the schools teach that certain activities and expenses are "requirements" that simply cannot be avoided, but must always be paid, then money isn't an issue.

And if the children never work for money, they can't put a value to it.

SuperRaizy said...

It is absolutely the parents' responsibility to teach children the value of money. We do our children and ourselves a disservice if we allow them to think that the things that they have (whether necessities or luxuries) come easily.

Chaim said...

Parents SHOULD pay for books their children lose. Books are school property. The students need to return them

SephardiLady said...

Parents should make their children come up with the money to pay this tab. If parents keep paying, kids will keep loosing their books.

Of course schools should be reimbursed for lost and damaged property. In fact, speaking of the latter, some schools are allowing far too much damage to happen under their watch.

rickismom said...

Once I ruined something. May parents paid the school. And I paid back my parents bit by bit, with extra chores, babysitting. Parents are being CRUEL to their kids if they do not teach them the value of money. And that is not only "guard what you have" , but also "you can't have everything."

Chaim said... it. I paid for the one book I lost (albeit gradually) as a kid

Rubu said...

Oh, I see. So making kids pay off lost textbooks is ok, but letting them actually work for a living in a slaughter house is against the law and a chillul Hashem. That makes lots of sense.

Dave said...

Because of course there is no difference between "you have to do the following extra chores for the next month to pay back the cost of the book you lost" and "we're going to put you on the cutting floor of a slaughterhouse illegally".

tdr said...

I never heard of a kid whose well-being was endangered by doing extra chores. Though I suppose my kids might disagree.

SephardiLady said...

Rubu-Ever heard of trimming the bushes, washing the floor, doing some work around a family business?

I don't live in Postville, nor have I commented on the Rubashkin affair on this blog. And, no, if we lived in Postville and my kid lost their textbooks, I would not get them a fake social seurity number so they could work a job they can't work legally. Last I checked, asking a teenager to mow the lawn or trim the shrubs wasn't illegal. Nor is asking a kid to clean the bathroom.

Dave said...

Additionally, if we are talking about a teen who can legally work, I would expect them to have a part time job *anyway*, and I would expect them to pay for things they lost or damaged.

It's all about age-appropriate education and responsibility.

Esther said...

What a fantastic letter - finally someone who says something logical!

I was the office manager for a educational program that met in a bulding owned by a yeshiva high school. The boys used the building for chagim and shabbatons. I was shocked to come in on TWO different occasions to find that the boys had essentially vandalized their own building - trash and open food left everywhere, things torn off the walls, totally disgusting. But what was more shocking was that when I called the yeshiva's principal to alert him, he was totally unconcerned and just told me that he'd send a cleaning lady to take care of it. The boys were not asked to take any responsibility, and then the incident was repeated just a few months later!

Anonymous said...

What does the tuition cover?

Also, it seems so bizarre to me that we have set up a system that requires a "good" Jewish boy/girl to go to a private school, yet the requirements on a family to put said kid through this school is so draining...

SephardiLady said...

Public schools charge for lost textbooks too, as well as for damaged property, lost or damaged musical instruments, lost or damaged sports equipment and uniforms.

I agree with you that the frum private schooling system is beyond draining. But tuition isn't going to cover lost items.

rebecca said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I had read this article last week and though you might be interested in the note that came home in 1st graders bag last night. (paraphrased)
"Dear Parent, -child's name- is missing the following supplies .... Is the supplies are lost due to negligence, please make sure your child's knows that he is responsible for replacing it, not you. I suggest that you find a way to have him pay for the item... "