"Teach Your Children Well" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (FranciscanMom.com)

Teach Your Children Well: Life Skills 101

That rite of passage: getting to go to Dunkin’ Donuts with your friends and buy a sugary iced coffee. (And I’m not knocking sugary iced coffee, BTW…Dunkin’s iced coffee with caramel and cream is a favorite of mine.)

I stopped at Dunkin’ yesterday to get a hot coffee (it was 50 degrees and rainy. Not iced-coffee weather.) I’d no sooner walked into the store than I heard a crash.

Everyone stopped talking and turned in the direction of the three teenage girls standing in front of the register, iced coffees in hand, a shattered glass coffee cup on the floor at their feet. They’d knocked something off a display shelf. The sudden silence was broken by the sound of those three girls giggling. After a couple of minutes of that, someone behind the counter handed a broom to the store manager, who was mopping the floor in the front of the store.

One of the girls did manage to choke out, “Sorry…” in the middle of that giggle fit.

And then they left. They just walked out. They didn’t offer to help clean up or pay for the glass. Instead, still laughing, they got into a car with someone’s mom and drove off.

There are things you make sure to teach your children before you let them go into stores or restaurants alone.

  • Be polite
  • Speak clearly when you place an order
  • Count your change
  • If you’re going to a restaurant, leave a good tip. 20% or better, if a server has to deal with multiple teenagers and multiple checks.

But did you ever think to brainstorm with your children what they’d do if they broke something?

If your child is old enough to go to a store with her friends, she’s old enough to pay for the glass item she drops and breaks while waiting for her food order. Giggling, then leaving the store while the owner sweeps up the mess is not the way to handle it.

I’m just hoping that the mom who picked up the girls in question circled back to the store and made them do the right thing once she heard about it. My friends on Facebook weren’t optimistic about that.

Dunkin office
My Dunkin’ office. Hot coffee and a big table where I can spread out.

I felt bad for the store manager, who I think was hoping for someone to do the right thing. I used that Dunkin’ as a mobile office a few times this summer, when TheKid was at theatre camp. I’d buy a coffee and a donut and use the WiFi to check work emails while I enjoyed my food. That manager worked hard. He knew the name of almost every customer who came in on the mornings I sat there.

I felt like I should have offered to pay for the broken cup–and I had barely set foot in the store when it happened.

I felt like I should have followed those girls out the door and said, “You should offer to pay for that cup.” I didn’t, because I fear confrontation. But I’m kicking myself.

And you can bet I’ll make sure to let TheKid know what he should do if he or his friends breaks something when they’re in a store.


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