We all have our hard lines as parents. For me, one of them was that my teen had to get a job. This was not negotiable.
Getting a job as a teen is one of those rites of passage that bridges the gap between childhood and adulthood. When I was 15, I remember being told that I had to go get a job. I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter then and I remember feeling like this was unfair. But I ultimately ended up enjoying some financial freedom and the independence it gave me.
I got my first job as soon as I was of legal age to work. Like many teens, I started up at a fast-food chain slinging fries and refilling soda, before I even truly understood money. I was raised by a single parent, so I knew that money didn’t come easily, however, nothing really taught me the value of hard work and money like earning it myself. My shifts were exhausting, dealing with people and their complaints, surrounded by hot fryers and other workers rushing around to fulfill orders. But it was good for me. It built character and while it was only a fast food job, it prepared for the real world. Sometimes the real world can be unpleasant and stressful and …not fun. And to a teen, that just…sucks.
When I had my own kids, I knew that I would make them work when they were able to as well. Not only is it a great experience for them to learn about money and work, but it’s also somewhat necessary in tough economic times when I simply cannot give them all the things that they want. Covering needs is one thing, sure, but when it comes to “wants” and trying to keep up with all the trends and gadgets that teens seem to care about so much, I’m simply not able to swing it financially. Having a job means that my teen needs to learn to budget for those things, and hopefully, appreciate them more. And it also makes him appreciate the things he buys for himself more. Sure, it would be nice if I bought him a new phone or earbuds, but you better believe that he treats the things he buys for himself ten times better than if I had bought them.
My son took after me and was also unhappy to be told that he needed to work. Many of his friends weren’t being told to get jobs, and so he felt as if he was being punished somehow. This was a great opportunity to have the chance to talk with him about the fact that all families are different – their values, their lifestyle choices, and their ability to financially support teens when it came to non-essentials.
In the end, My son did end up getting a job, and beyond the obvious benefits of having more money and a place to learn how to work (because he certainly wasn’t taking many directions from us when it came to chores), he also found new friends and a sense of pride in doing a good job. These were all added benefits to working, which is why having a job as a teen is such a huge part of growing up. Our parents can only teach us so much, especially when we simply won’t learn something unless we learn it for ourselves.
My son will be going off to college soon and he may have to get a job there as well. But he will have an edge over the other kids who are looking for jobs as well because he will have a job history and experience to speak of. Heck, he may even thank me one day for making him work as a teen. Maybe.