"But Zach and Jennifer don’t have time to work. They’re too busy with sports commitments." I have heard this rebuttal hundreds of times after asking parents if they expect their kids to get a summer job.
I quit inquiring about part-time jobs for kids during the school year because the last time I asked the results were startling. It was about three years ago at a speaking engagement in a Twin Cities suburb when a woman in the audience of 200 parents asked, "Do you think teenagers should have a part-time job?"
"Absolutely" was my quick and emphatic response. I went on to say that part-time work for youth was exponentially more important for their future than playing on multiple sports teams, which, in my opinion, was out of control. Judging by the reaction of the 200 attendees, my response went over like a lead balloon.
Sensing the uneasiness in the crowd, I decided to ask how many of their children had part-time jobs. Of the 200 parents in the room, less than 20 raised their hands. It’s rare that I am at a loss for words, but their response left me wide-eyed and speechless.
Following a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, I had what now seems like a moment of divine intervention. Out of the blue, the perfect follow-up question popped into my head.
"By a show of hands, I’d like to see how many of you had a part-time job when you were in high-school," I asked. You know the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words"? Well, that moment was created for that saying. Almost every parent in attendance raised their hand.
That was a powerful teachable moment. Without saying a word, the point was made.
Somewhere along the way, our cultural priorities for teens shifted from learning invaluable life skills by having a part-time job to participating in an endless stream of extra-curricular activities. It’s time we rebalance the equation.
If you’re on the fence about asking your child to apply for a summer job, consider the essential life skills they will learn as part of the experience.
- Work Ethic: Everything from showing up on time to having a good attitude – day in and day out.
- Gross Pay vs. Net Pay: The first paycheck is a shocker, but also a good time to teach about taxes and other withholdings.
- Financial Independence: Earning their own money is huge for their self-esteem and can be a springboard for developing healthy saving/investing habits.
- Gratitude: Sharing money with an organization instills a sense of gratitude and is a powerful counter-balance to messages of hyper-consumption.