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How Much Should the Tooth Fairy Give Kids These Days?

Help us answer this important question.

tooth fairy
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My six-year-old believes in the tooth fairy. It’s one of the few weird things he’s embraced entirely, despite his typically skeptical nature. I assume it has something to do with the fact that there’s tangible evidence the tooth fairy exists: You go to bed toothless, and when you wake up — *poof* — there’s money under your pillow. I suppose if I woke up to some surprise cash in my linens, I’d be more amenable to believing in some sort of winged dental deity, too.

But this isn’t about me.

Okay, actually it is. Technically. Since, in this instance, the tooth fairy my six-year-old believes in is me.

The first time he lost a tooth (he was five) my wife and I decided we’d give him a whopping $5 — enough to buy an ice cream cone or hot chocolate — with the caveat that he understand the “tooth fairy” had “told us” to tell him in no uncertain terms that this was a one-time deal for his inaugural lost tooth. And somehow, incredibly, he believed it! All was well in the Schwartz household… until this past week, when he lost a second tooth, and my wife and I realized we’d never actually figured out what our standard tooth payout would be.

This is where things get messy. I suggested that we give him 50 cents, since he’s the sort of kid who’d much rather have a couple of coins jingling in his pocket that he can use in a candy machine or something (assuming those still exist when we’re allowed back into restaurants sometime in the next decade.) While he sort of understands money, he’s still young enough to not really care about paper bills if he can have a few clinking pieces of metal instead.

BUT, when I casually mentioned my plan in the Discourse staff Slack channel, I was immediately vilified for being “miserly” and “a cheapskate” toward my son who — again — doesn’t really care about money to begin with! Still, chastened and ashamed, we finally decided to give him a full dollar bill which, to the best of my knowledge, he has already lost.

So, was I right? Would 50 cents have been better? Did I try to lowball my own son? What’s the going rate on incisors these days, anyway, when you take inflation and the cost of living into account? We put this question to the readers of our Discourse Daily newsletter (subscribe to it here, by the way), and the responses ranged from “anything not paper is an insult” to “$5 for the first tooth and either a Sacagawea or Susan B. Anthony dollar coin for each [subsequent] tooth.” What do you think?

This dude still has like 70 teeth left to lose (idk, I’m not a dentist) so I’m definitely gonna have to do this whole stupid dance all over again. Help me.