In today’s modern world, teenagers are often on the move. A portion of teenagers play multiple sports, are involved in numerous organizations, and maintain an active social life. Some volunteer and others take summer classes or go to camp.
However, the national data suggests that most teens do not work. Down from decades of roughly 50% employment among older teens, the research now shows that only 30-35% of teens seek summer employment. With that, most parents seem accepting of their high schooler being at home all summer and make no requirement for them to take on more responsibility.
This is a bad idea. And here’s why:
Six reasons why your teenager needs a job!
1. Work offers the best classroom for learning the rules of reality/life.
If your teenager is driven from one event to another, hangs out with friends and teammates, then wraps up the day on their phones, what lesson is taught? The lesson is clear: You get everything you want…and no effort is required. This is highly problematic because there is very little resemblance to the rules of reality.
It’s a painful, albeit valuable, lesson when teens later realize that they would have to work a full-time job for three weeks to pay for their broken iPhone. Yet, most teens don’t have to experience this valuable lesson because we too often protect them from this lesson. In other words, we buffer them from reality.
I am a big fan of parenting with reality always in mind. Why? Because reality provides lessons that are best learned from experience, particularly at this age.
For example, some employers are grumpy. Sometimes the job is dirty. Sometimes you get yelled at by customers. Many learn that without skills, their time is not worth much. Skillful or not, teens must learn to get along with peers and customers.
Getting along, accepting others, dealing with adversity, and managing time independently…these are all valuable lessons that a conversation with mom and dad just won’t teach.
2. Work illuminates the value of effort, as well as earned income.
In the real world, we don’t get paid for an A. We don’t get paid for participating in three different soccer leagues. We certainly don’t get paid for hours on end of video games and posting on social media.
In reality, we get paid for effort. For teens, with few marketable skills, they quickly learn that work will reward those who put forth effort. For many of our children, they have never experienced this relationship. They rarely have had the chance to earn life rewards for effort. Now, it gets very real. Work hard and you make money. Don’t work, and you go home with no money.
There is an additional benefit that flows from this effort, and it is a remarkably valuable one. We learn to understand and appreciate what that money now buys us. Research has shown over and over that we simply do not have the same appreciation and attachment to what we are given, as compared to what we have worked for, earned, and claimed as a result of our own hard work and sweat.
Many of you have noticed that your teenagers demonstrate little appreciation and gratitude for your hard work and effort. Equally, they do not have any sense of the true value of a dollar, and what it takes to earn that dollar! This stems (typically) from a lack of experience that teaches this valuable relationship between real-world effort and the reward (i.e., money) that the real world pays for that effort.
It’s about having skin in the game. Work teaches kids about this potent life lesson. You simply cannot do this on your own.
3. A job teaches real-life responsibility and related consequences.
Until your teenager takes on a job, the responsibilities they are given often do not come with real consequences. Certainly, their failure to turn in their homework has a consequence, but it’s not one that many adolescents experience strongly. A failure to lock the door at home simply results in a lecture from mom or dad – and one like they’ve had many times before. In fact, most irresponsible actions, or failures to follow-through, only come with similar lectures to which they are absurdly immune to absorbing.
Adolescents that step into the workplace are often greeted with a different perspective. They are offered responsibilities, and with the responsibilities come reality-based consequences.
This provides great opportunities for your son or daughter to see themselves in very positive ways. They receive input from supervisors, the public, and even their peers. The jobs get changed if they fail to perform. Some teens who struggle academically realize their charm and effort can catapult them to relative fame in their employers’ eyes. Many find esteem building moments daily from exchanges with customers who appreciate their efforts.
4. Kids find career inspiration through work.
Inspiration can come in many forms. Sometimes kids discover they want to be entrepreneurs or find fascination with a career. They decide that this is what I want to do.
At other times, it’s the opposite: they discover that they do NOT want to end up waiting tables for their whole life, and this compels them to work harder in school and in life. Either way, we find work can inspire teens in a direction, and this is good!
5. Kids who work tend to do better in school.
Yes, it’s true. Moderate work experience is correlated with better academic performance!
But not if they continue to work above 15 hours a week after the school year begins. So just keep in mind, that work remains valuable for kids, if kept in check during the school year.
6. Teens who work tend to find jobs faster upon college graduation.
Future employers DO value that history of work, and reward candidates with higher rates of acceptance once they have their degree. We don’t know for certain if this is the case, but we do know that teens who work do find work sooner.
All of this adds up to one conclusion: Real jobs rock! Even if your son or daughter is an academic superstar or an athletic luminary, I encourage you to put them in a position where something must be given up in order to take on some work this summer. This will serve them well.
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit terrificparenting.com.