Is Your Child’s Lemonade Stand a Charity?

The following is reprinted from the Marketplace Business pages of American Public Media. We love this kiddo’s entrepreneurial spirit. Should he be donating the take??

My son Jake runs a lemonade stand. He’s good at it, adding items like popcorn and cookies to boost the take. Once, when pedestrian traffic was slow on our suburban cul-de-sac, he set up a drive-through option. He earns anywhere between $20 and $35 for a few hours of work, and he puts the money toward everything from Chinese take-out to saving up for concert tickets.

I’m proud of my budding entrepreneur. But some of Jake’s patrons are dissatisfied — and not with the quality of his lemonade. They want him to donate his sales proceeds to charity. Many ask what cause their money is going to as they pay their tab, and are shocked when they hear it’s his own bank account.

“They argue with me,” Jake says. “They keep asking me to give the money to charity.”

What’s going on?

Lemonade stands are an iconic American childhood pastime. I had one. You probably had one. But here’s the thing: We almost always kept the money for ourselves. If you’re wondering, I bought hit singles at the local Sam Goody record store.

Philanthropic lemonade stands are admirable, but they should not be the default for our kids’ summer fun. Lemonade stands teach our children valuable lessons on how to run a small business, an activity as classically American as, well, the lemonade stand. To expect more than that seems as joyless and humorless as much else in modern parenting, where everything, it seems, needs to be for some greater goal.

Let me be clear: Jake is not uncharitable. He raises money every year for a friend with cystic fibrosis. But when he runs a lemonade stand, his goal is supplementing his allowance, not improving the world. And I’m OK with that.

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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