Get Your Teen on the Job

Contrary to some media sources and popular opinion, many teens and preteens are reliable, responsible and honest. Many would love to earn extra cash by getting a part-time or summer job. Their problem is not laziness, but rather a lack of know-how on how to get a job and where the jobs are.

For preteens, jobs are pretty scarce. But with a little ingenuity, there are a few options available. In addition to babysitting, there’s dog walking, car washing, yard work and mother’s helper. All of these jobs are obtainable with good advertising. Flyers, posters and word-of-mouth are the best ways to make a child’s availability known.

One child I know advertised himself as a mother’s helper since he was too young to be a babysitter. He was hired and did a good job entertaining two young preschoolers for an overworked mom. She was so impressed, she hired him and a friend when she had a college reunion party. The two boys took care of all the children’s needs (food, drink and entertainment) and the parents were able to visit with each other without constant interruption. They were paid $15 each for five hours work. In addition, the hostess put out a tip jar for the boys. The happy, generous parents gave them an extra $12, which they divided. They came home exhausted, but $21 richer. They did such a good job, they’ve been recommended for several more parties. When they go to a prospective client’s house, they bring a reference from the first mom who graciously included her phone number, in case the new clients had any questions. They’ve worked several holiday parties and their summer schedule was full. It’s a terrific way to earn extra income without being tied down to a regular schedule.

Many towns offer jobs for preteens, which include being an umpire for the tee-ball league and being a referee for the beginning soccer league. Does your child have a talent for piano? Maybe she could give very basic lessons to a young child to see if the child likes the instrument enough to continue. Tutoring is also an option if your preteen or teen is particularly good with children.

Advertising isn’t all that’s needed to get a job. When getting a job in the “outside world,” making a good first impression is paramount. According to the manager of a local Burger King, teens should realize the importance of presenting themselves in an acceptable manner. He spoke of the time two young ladies came in for an interview. One was wearing clean jeans and a simple blouse. The other wore thigh-high cut-offs and a midriff-exposing tank top. Guess who got the job?
Another thing for a child to learn is to how to handle an interview. A part-time or summer job is merely a stepping stone for the real thing later in life. So it’s essential for the teen to speak clearly, be polite, make eye contact, shake hands and dress appropriately. One mom role-played with her son to get him comfortable with a potential job interview. She played the part of the manager and interviewed him. After a few practice runs, he felt comfortable enough to apply at a local fast food restaurant. He got the job.

Show Me the Money
Once your child gets a job, how much control should you have on the spending? In an article in Better Homes & Gardens, family psychologist John Rosemond states, “It’s reasonable to restrict purchases that put the child in danger (a motorcycle, for example) or are in direct conflict with the family values.” Rosemond also states that money for college should be the parent’s responsibility. However, there will be unexpected expenditures that your child may need at college that his savings could cover.

Other that those few restrictions, it’s probably best for the child to make his own financial decisions. He’ll be a much better judge on how to spend the money when it’s his own money he’s spending. But there’s no harm in taking a small percentage (anywhere from 10-40 percent, depending on the child’s income and spending needs) to be put into a savings account. There may come a time when your child will want a big-ticket item. The money will be available and it could prove to be a valuable lesson on saving for a rainy day.

Even though it’s sometimes painful to watch, it’s best to let them make a few financial mistakes, even if it means grimacing and looking the other way.

When your child starts working, should he still get an allowance? In the book, “Teach Your Child To Manage Money” by Catherine Crook de Camp and the Editors of U.S. News & Word Report Books, it states, “if the parent’s aim is to teach good attitudes toward money, it is unwise to penalize an industrious child while subsidizing a lazy sibling.” The working child should still be expected to continue his regular chores as well as keep his grades up. And the part-time job is merely for job experience and extra income. Think about it. If you had a chance to pick up a few extra dollars once in a while, wouldn’t you hate it if your regular job deducted you for it?

The lessons learned by taking on a part-time job will be of great value to your children later on. They’ll learn a little about how advertising works and how to present oneself at an interview. They may also discover how hard it is to earn money and how important it is to be prompt and responsible at work, since others are counting on them. They’ll find out, through trial and error, how to best spend their paychecks. Best of all, they’ll be taking a giant leap into adulthood. The sleep-til-noon, sometimes surly heap of hormones that you knew a few months earlier, might end up looking and acting like the responsible adult he’s on the verge of becoming.