Tipping is something your kid will see you do on a regular basis, and eventually, he’ll wonder not only why you do it, but how. These are the four core concepts you should emphasize as you educate him on tipping protocol.
Core Concept #1: Tipping isn’t required everywhere.
Most parents try to reinforce financial and other lessons by making a practice habitual. Under this model, one of the toughest things for your child to understand about tipping is that it doesn’t apply to every service provider. It can help your child to write out a simple reference list of providers that you always should tip, such as your hairdresser. A simple rule he can follow is that, if someone goes out of his way to give you a good experience, such as if your housekeeper cooks you a meal because you’re frazzled and in a rush, a tip is appropriate, even if the provider normally wouldn’t get one.
Core Concept #2: Tipping can be attached to either the amount or quality of the work.
In many cases, tipping is based on how much work someone does, such as the number of bags a porter handles. In others, it’s based at least partially on how well the person does the job, such as if your waiter is prompt, friendly and attentive instead of slow, grumpy and in his own world. If you know you and your child will encounter the first type of situation, have him calculate in advance how much the minimum tip will be. If you run into the second, explain what the minimum standard of service is. Then talk for a moment about whether the provider went above that—this is a little more advanced because it involves analysis. Set some tiers as you do this. For younger kids, you can use dollar amounts, such as $5 for meeting the standard, $7 for above-average service, and $10 if your child thinks what the provider did was exceptional. For older kids use percentages instead of dollar amounts if appropriate to get him used to instances where the tip normally is based on a portion of the total bill.
Core Concept #3: Discretion matters.
Kids are notorious for sharing more than they should when it comes to information, so one nuance of tipping that you’ll need to practice is how to give the money to the provider subtly. In some places this is easy to do. In a restaurant, for example, you often can leave the tip on the table or add it to your bill slip when you go to pay. Other situations require more finesse, such as if you need to hand the tip to your delivery person physically. Have your child practice some basic scripts he can use for these times, such as “Thank you—I appreciate your work” or “Please accept this for your effort/time/quality service.” Act out the exchange of bills and coins.
Core Concept #4: Not everyone can accept a tip.
Some providers are strictly prohibited by company rules from taking additional compensation. In fact, people have lost their jobs from taking tips when they weren’t allowed to. For this reason, it’s a good idea to teach your child to ask if the provider can take the money if he isn’t sure. A good script for this is “I’d like to give you something extra for your effort/time/quality service—does your company let you accept tips?” You might change the end of this to a simpler “Can you accept a tip?” in acknowledgment that, even when companies have no prohibitions, some people might not want the money for philosophical or religious reasons.
Tipping is a financial task that even adults still often have trouble with, but with tips expected from so many different service providers, your kid will need know how to do it. Focus on getting him to recognize who to tip first, emphasizing that a provider who does something special usually should get a little extra. Role playing can help him go through the tipping process discretely and avoid extending compensation to people who can’t accept it. He’ll need to grasp tipping based on perceived value and standard value, as well. The more you practice with him, the more comfortable he’ll feel with the process.