Mum asks if it's wrong to make eight-year-old son pay for his own school uniform

Stock image of a traditional school uniform and backpack hanging on a changing room hook
The mum is wondering whether it will teach her son an important lesson. Photo credit: Getty Images

A mum has divided opinions after admitting that she's considering making her eight-year-old child pay for his own school uniform, a move she believes may teach him an important "life lesson".

The parent anonymously shared her predicament to the forum Mumsnet last week, explaining that her son is "very unorganised" and "constantly losing his belongings at school".

"With the cost of living, I can't keep up like this. [His belongings] never get found/returned despite them all being labelled," the mum wrote.

She explained that most recently, her son misplaced his £19 (NZ$36.90) fleece, which has yet to be handed to his school's reception or put in the lost property box.

"He gets pocket money at £2 (NZ$3.90) per week and saves this up to buy something big, so he can cover this," the mum suggested. 

"Me and DH [darling husband] can't agree on whether he should have to pay for the cost of a new one out of pocket money.

"AIBU [am I being unreasonable] to think it would be a good life lesson for him to have to pay for a replacement? Or is he too young to have to pay for his own uniform?"

The mother's quandary has sparked intense debate, with fellow users of the forum sharply divided as to whether her proposition was acceptable. 

Some accused the mum of being "mean" and "harsh" towards her child, with one branding her idea "nasty". Many agreed the child was too young to fork out for his own uniform. 

"That would be a really nasty thing to do to an eight-year-old, and the kind of thing he'll remember into adulthood," one wrote. "I know it's frustrating but he's only eight. If he was 15, fair enough."

Another commented: "If everything is named and never gets returned it sounds like it's being stolen. Stuff doesn't just disappear into thin air. No way would I make him pay."

However, some parents did side with the mother, sharing their own similar anecdotes. Several agreed it would be an important lesson for the boy, and would teach him to be more careful with his belongings as well as the value of money. 

"I did this when my child was about nine," one parent shared.

"He was constantly losing school sweatshirts and in the end I made him pay for a new one. He showed no interest or remorse in losing them and assumed they would just be replaced. I think I took £5 (NZ$9.70) off him and after that, I don't think he lost another one. 

"It was an important lesson for him."

"It's difficult. I think [he's] too young to pay the full cost but maybe a sliding scale; 10 percent of [the] first item lost, 20 percent, etc.," a second suggested.

"Although if he really is losing this much stuff, does he have any SEN [special educational needs] or something that might explain it?"

"We've said something similar but couldn't actually do it. You need to go into school and actively go through the lost property. I used to do this regularly," a third advised.

"I think you need to speak to the school about how they deal with lost property - there should be an accessible place for it which children are encouraged to look in if they've lost something. Not sure I'd make an 8yo pay for their own uniform," a fourth added. 

"Perhaps explain why he needs to be more careful and try a small reward if he can go, e.g., a month without losing anything."