Should your teen have a part time or summer job?

Written by Laurie Lafortune

Most kids will have earned some money by babysitting, cutting the lawn, or doing some major chore that you may pay them for. But a huge milestone in life is the first job.  This usually happens at or after age 16 and is part time. In some parts of North America, kids can get a part time job at an even younger age.

Parents have differing views on whether or not their teenager should work outside the home either part time or in a summer job.  If the parents can provide for all their teen’s needs and wants, parents may see no point to part time work, concerned that studies or athletics will suffer. Others believe, and I would agree, that the lessons learned at a part time job far outweigh any disadvantages.  These benefits are much broader than just earning more spending money. So much is learned about the real world and the expectations that come with adulthood and a full time career.  For the first time, a teen will experience being under the authority and supervision of an adult other than their parent or teacher.  They learn about rules that apply to every employee, and they are treated as an adult, just like any other employee.

They get paid for what they do, they learn new skills, and they interact with people of diverse ages and backgrounds. They learn to get along with others and about different behaviour expectations. In a customer service job, they learn to be polite to everyone, even difficult people, modifying their reactions and language. They have to follow instructions, complete tasks within a time frame set by others, and do some unpleasant tasks that they might not want to do. It can be quite an eye opener for teens to realize the tasks that many adults do in order to earn a living.

They feel like an adult and feel proud of their accomplishments. The part time wage to most teens, seems like a lot of money.  Earning a regular wage encourages short and long term goal planning. Some teens save toward a special trip, a car, sporting equipment, or help the family if family income needs a boost. Teens have a real sense of pride when they earn money independently.

Things might not always go smoothly for your teen. Some kids get reprimanded, even fired-which may not be such a bad thing if it was a natural consequence of their own behavior in not meeting the expectations of the company.  Some teens who don’t want to follow a dress code, find it difficult to be on time, don’t show up when they have a leisure activity or event they don’t want to miss, may end up being fired. It’s a good life lesson when a teen learns that a work schedule means that you will not always be able to attend every leisure activity you want to. It’s another great lesson if a teen realizes that having a supervisor or manager means they have to follow their direction, even if they disagree. Teens learn that their value to the company or employer is based on their productivity, attitude and how well they do the job and that they can be replaced and will be, if they don’t perform to a certain standard.

Another benefit of a teen job is exploring areas of work with an eye to the future. Your teen may realize that they have a particular interest in a certain employment sector, or on the other hand realize that they don’t want to do that kind of work all their life.  They can then think about their career goals and what training or education will be needed in order to work in the full time job they want as an adult.

So if you believe that your parent role includes helping your children to be ready for adult responsibilities, a part time job is one of the most helpful experiences of all.