I started working when I was about 12 years old. Like other girls my age at the time, I babysat younger children in the neighborhood. I also made money by watching neighbors’ pets when they were on vacation, washing cars or weeding people’s yards. During my high school years, I spent many weekends and summers scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins.
Work was never really a choice. My parents paid for things, of course, but they didn’t a lot of extra money so I was never one of those kids who received a weekly allowance. If I wanted cash to spend, I had to make it on my own.
Having a regular job taught me the importance of showing up
on time, being organized so I wouldn’t fall behind in school, and the need for fiscal responsibility (especially when one makes only minimum wage).
I was certainly a responsible teen. But I didn’t play sports or participate in many extracurricular activities at school. Looking back, I’m also not sure if I had a lot of fun.
And now that I’m a parent, I don’t think I want my kids to have to do what I did.
Steve Yoder, who writes a regular column for the Wall Street Journal with his teen-age sons, Levi and Isaac, asked readers earlier this spring if parents should insist that their teens find regular paying jobs. (He was wondering if his 14-year-old son, Levi, needed to work.) Yoder was torn. Having a job teaches young people to develop a work ethic, he wrote. At the same time, he also wanted Levi to focus on school and family activities.
Levi, in his section of the column, didn’t think he needed a job – at least, not yet. “Working might get in the way of track, studies or other obligations,” he wrote. “A regular job would force me to make some hard decisions between things I want to do, such as track practice or hanging out with friends, and things I have to do, such as my homework…. The most important job for me right now is school.”
Fewer teenagers nowadays are actually working or looking for jobs, according to a recent article from the Chicago Tribune. Part of it is the economy. But teens these days also are more likely to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities that they really don't have any time to work. Using figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Tribune pointed out that only 33 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds are employed or looking for work. This is significantly lower compared to 30 years ago, when almost 60 percent of teens were employed.
What do you think? Is it worthwhile for teenagers to find a part-time job? If your teen has a job, what do you do as a parent to make sure she or he doesn’t fall behind with schoolwork and still makes time for family, friends and fun?