Skipping lunch and/or hoarding lunch money

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by gcvmom, Dec 20, 2009.

  1. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    difficult child 1 takes his lunch most days and will buy lunch at school once a week on average.

    Lately, despite reducing his Daytrana patch dosage, I've found that he isn't eating the lunch he brings, and on days I give him lunch money, he's not buying lunch either. He doesn't return the money either.

    Now I can work around the not eating part... usually he eats a substantial snack when he gets home, especially before going to lacrosse practice.

    But I'm a little peeved about the money.

    He asked me to buy something for him online today and offered up about $20 in bills and coins to repay me for it. I know full well that this had to be lunch money saved up because he hasn't been getting an allowance since last summer because of husband's unemployment during the last 6 months, and difficult child 1 has only earned a little bit of spending money here and there from doing odd jobs around the house, and he's promptly spent it on things.

    I didn't buy him the online item by the way.

    I'm tempted to just keep this money, to tell you the truth since it wasn't used for the reason I gave it.
  2. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    At my kid's school, they have accounts available. I give money to the cafeteria manager who deposits $$ to their account. When they go through the lunch line they input their account number and it withdraws it from their account. Perhaps your school has a similar set up?

    This allows me to avoid the constant "Mom I need lunch money" routine since I put in enough money to last for several weeks at a time by sending or taking in a check that goes directly to the cafeteria manager. And, if needed, it allows a certain insight into whether the child is eating lunch.

    Our manager is very helpful with things like this. When I called to ask about the balance in difficult child#2's account and there was exactly the amount I'd put in after 8 weeks of school...well we already knew he wasn't eating at school but that was very helpful proof of the fact.

    Then she promptly transferred the $$ to his sister's account for me and we left $5 on his, just in case.
  3. wakeupcall

    wakeupcall Well-Known Member

    Boy, can I relate to this. difficult child also has the ability to have an account in the lunchroom. TWICE I've had to empty it and give it up. It's like a free charge card for him...he was buying food and dumping it, or buying all of his friends food. It was HORRIBLE. One day alone he spent fourteen dollars on school lunch. Now we give him EXACTLY the same amount every single day in cash to put in his pocket. It's like having a four year old rather than a fourteen year old. He wouldn't pack a lunch and I refuse to do it at his age. I also can monitor what he eats at lunch and that's scary, too. He eats the same thing every day. No way can he manage an account.....if he could, it's the answer.
  4. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    Cafeteria Managers are a great resource... I actually put a hold on Duckie's account that she can only buy snacks (cookies, chips and ice cream) if she pays cash. She had $10 in her account on day 1 of school and didn't buy her lunch until mid-October due to her shellfish allergy testing, yet, I got a notice that her account was low. It turns out she was buying a snack from the line most days. I can even desiginate whether she receives change back from her snack purchase or it is applied to her account.
  5. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    This is a pretty normal thing for a kid to do. Or to at least try. Have you ever told him that lunch money is for lunch and if it isn't spent it is to be given back?

    I can easily see making him give it back as it was given to him for a specific purpose and was diverted to pay for things he wants. This would probably be my choice if we were having hunger related crankiness, attitude, etc... or he was having hunger headaches.

    Have you asked him WHY he isn't eating lunch? If he seems concerned about his weight or whatever, this is an age where boys can start to show eating disorders, esp if they have to be in certain weight classes for sports. His answer to the question would play a BIG role in whether he kept the money or I kept it.

    He may have seen this as a way to be able to buy things he wants with-o pestering you because the money is tight. Rather than asking for a new CD or game, or money for a dance, he goes with-o lunch and then uses his lunch $$ for the wanted item.

    Haven't many of us made that same choice when we worked all day out of the house, or when we wanted to save up for something? When I worked in a bank I often skipped lunch so that I could buy something we needed or the kids wanted.

    However you look at it, this could be a great teachable moment. Sit down with him and let him tell you why he isn't eating and why he didn't give the money back. Tell him what the rules about this will be - must give money back to mom? Money only on the lunch card? Cash for him to spend using his best judgment? etc...

    Maybe even praise his ingenuity for skipping lunch to buy a want rather than asking you or his dad for it when money is tight.

    Be aware if he has to spend it or give you the money back he will likely not go back to eating the regular lunch. He will fill up on junk or buy junk for his friends. I think most kids would do this.

    Just be SURE to contact the cafeteria mgr and have her limit how much junk he can buy each day. (Our kids have to show student ID before they pay if they have cash. This is because so many kids with food allergies were binging on stuff that made them sick either as a treat or to get out of a test. For lunch cards money is actually tied right into the student ID and there is no separate lunch card.) In many schools money on a lunch card can only be used for the hot lunch, not for the junk food snacks, at least in our state.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2009
  6. recovering doormat

    recovering doormat Lapsed CDer

    I'm going through this with my easy child. She's stubborn as a rock wall. I used to give her lunch money, then I'd find out that she either didn't buy lunch or at best, bought a drink (Snapple type) and a bag of chips. I refuse to pack her lunch at 13, she should be able to do it herself, and sometimes she does. But most of the time she either skips lunch altogether and then demands an enormous snack when she gets home at 2 p.m.

    It's not the hill I want to die on, but it frustrates me nonetheless. I can't imagine going from 7 am to 2 p.m. without a bite to eat. I know they tend to share lunches at this age, so it could be that she's nibbling on her friends' handouts. She's got a beautiful figure for a kid her age (vigorous cheerleading practices) and she's not a huge junk food eater or emotional eater, but I don't know how you can concentrate on school when your stomach is empty.

    Talking to her is just futile. I keep the fridge stocked with stuff she likes: kosher dill pickels, salad greens, Italian dressing, genoa salami, chicken tenders. I hope it's a phase. The past lunch money she hoarded went to movies, snack food at the mall, etc.
  7. emotionallybankrupt

    emotionallybankrupt New Member

    It appears that technology is advancing little by little to close some of these loopholes. We were told in my school system that sometime this year, we would be able to manage our child's cafeteria account online. It hasn't happened yet (perhaps your district is ahead of mine), but we are told we will be able to deposit money, restrict its usage as we see fit, and also see on the screen exactly how it is being spent. As others have already said, most or all of these capabilities are already available in many places by contacting the school directly. It will be a great tool when all is available online though, so that you can make changes as needed on your own. I'm sure SOME states already have this. Ours is not exactly known for being a leader in technological advances.
  8. ML

    ML Guest

    I would point out that it's good that he can deny instant gratification for a higher goal. Many kids can't do that :)
  9. DazedandConfused

    DazedandConfused Active Member

    This is not unusual at all. I never returned money unless my parents specifically asked for the change back. Ironically, knowing this, I ALWAYS request my change back from the difficult children.

    Son has an account at school and I can put money into it via paypal. A couple of years ago, when it first started, I noticed that he was buying a Gatorade with each lunch. I flipped when I saw the price ($1.50) for each little bottle. I would prefer just to buy them at the store and send one with him. I told him to ixnay buying the Gatorade at school and he surprisingly didn't hassle me about it. Then, I found out that I can restrict his buying habits to the school lunch ONLY. Anything else needs cash.

    Bringing a lunch is very difficult because the school district eliminated lockers over a decade ago; everything must be carried with them at all times. Lunches tend to be flattened in a backpack and lunch containers do not fit in them very well.
  10. flutterby

    flutterby Fly away!

    We've been on the debit system for school lunches for 10 years or so. Initially, you sent in money or a check with the kid and it was put on the account. Now you can do it online. Regardless, they never give the students change. If a student comes in with cash, it is put on their debit account. Period.

    I did have the problem with easy child buying lunch for his friends using his card (they have a student ID card that they swipe - it's also used to check out books in the library and for the computer lab). I had to nip that in the bud. I wouldn't have had a problem if they paid him (me) back or reciprocated, but that never happened. And there were the $1.50 gatorades, as well.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    A few thoughs here from an alien in your midst.

    First - purely from the difficult child point of view, you understand. But he could be thinking, "She gave me money which is to be used to feed me. This money is for my needs. But I have control over what I eat and when, so if I can budget, go without if I can, cut back or scrounge elsewhere, then I can save this money OF MINE and use it for something else."

    In his mind, since the money was given to him to cover the cost of his meals, then it's money in his belly. Or in his wallet - same thing, in his mind.

    I'm not saying this is right. But it is how a difficult child (ald a lot of PCs) would tihnk.

    However, as pointed out - it does show an interesting and effective learning approach to saving.

    My moter had a similar approach with me when I was in high school. She send me with a packed lunch and would give me enough money each week to cover my bus fares, with a very small amount left over. That small amount was just enough (if I spent nothing else) to buy one budget ice cream a week. She wanted me to manage my weekly expenses and learn to manage my money.

    I learned alright. I learned to dodge bus fares and train fares (she never gave me my train fare anyway - she was fighting the government which she argued should have paid for my free travel like it did for most other kids) so I could hoard even more. If there was a bus inspector, other kids would tip me off and I'd buy a ticket. I also used to cash in drink bottles (which would pay back a few cents in deposit). I never had much money but I was able to get by. But I did hate the constant anxious feeling of worrying about ticket inspectors! I soon took to forging train tickets, I got really good. I even sold a few of my creations (for half the ticket price). Can't do that these days, our tickets have a computer strip on them.

    On the subject of school lunches - have you seen how they do this in India? Very civilised... they have tiffin boxes, these are packs of round metal containers that fit together in a stack. In stack you would have rice (in one container) with another contianer of a hot dish such as a curry (meat or vegetable) and yet another container with, say, naan bread, poppadoms, fruit - anything. These are packed, hot, in late morning. They are colour-coded according to which school or business they are for, and a delivery service collects them (the "tiffin wallah") and bikes them (or some other easy, fast courier means) to their destination. The tiffin boxes are handed out (to the schoolkids to whom they belong, or the businessmen) so each person gets the meal prepared with the loving hands of their mother (or wife). After lunch the tiffin wallah collects the tiffin boxes and takes them back home again. All done with brilliant efficiency. It means that people get THEIR meal, delivered hot, a healthy nourishing meal.
    We can buy tiffin boxes here in Australia. I haven't bought one but I was tempted - they are a really neat way of carrying a hot meal to a picnic. Now, that's maybe something I can put on my Christmas list from easy child - the tiffin boxes can be bought in her favourite Asian supply store in Canberra, I saw them when we were last there. But I think I would prefer to choose my own, I want to decide on exactly what shape of container, size etc. They are metal and therefore fairly robust. They're also fairly leak-proof although the tiffin wallahs carry them upright, often slung over poles by their carry handle.


    Maybe this could be a cash-free alternative to the school canteen?