Teaching your kids about work is a critical function of a great parent. And having a job is a big part of that. Let’s talk about the elements of jobs and kids.
WHEN should a child work?
Money chores can start at age 5 — just make them age-appropriate. Make them real and valuable. Kids are smart. They know if they’re getting away with doing not a whole lot and getting paid too much.
By about age 10, other opportunities begin. The kids can do petsitting and housesitting which is easy. Have them make a flyer and distribute it through the whole neighborhood. They can walk dogs and do odd jobs.
Working for others
At age 11, have the kids take a babysitting course if they are able. Before your child is allowed to babysit, have them pass that course along with the first aid and basic CPR information that you teach them.
From ages 11 to 16, the kids can do a variety of things to earn money:
Yardwork — mowing, weeding, trimming
Walk dogs, children, turtles?
Mother’s helper — during parties, rough weeks, etc.
Computer work and typing
Shovel snow or rake leaves
Help the elderly or disabled — they can so use a capable pair of helpful hands!
Filing in an office
Making items to sell — jewelry, baked goods, crafts
Kids get very creative. It is incredible what they can come up with. Advertising is key. It is wonderful experience for them to learn to put together a flyer and to contact people. They learn such confidence and verbal skills. Great experiences.
Getting the first “real” job
At about 16, most kids want a “real” job. There are numerous opportunities out there. Some ground rules apply. Set a minimum standard for grades and if they slip below that, no work. If your religion prohibits Sunday work, make sure that is honored. Make sure the job is a safe and positive environment for your child.
Should parents get involved? It’s fine to help your child find a job but wait until the child comes to you for help. That is key. Do NOT weigh in there at the beginning. Sometimes it’s very difficult to get that first real job. If you were looking for a job, you would network with others, wouldn’t you? So it’s OK for them to network with you. Again, wait until it is their idea.
Our son Brennan had spent three months applying all over the place to get a job and hadn’t gotten hired. It was the middle of an economic slump and jobs were hard to find. Finally, he said to me, “Mom, I need help getting a job and I really want one at the grocery store.”
I asked, “Do you really want me to help you?” He said he did and I said I’d be happy to. Now over the past 14 years I’m sure I’ve paid for several remodels of this store due to the amount of food consumed by my four sons. Older brother had worked there for a couple of years. I knew the manager very well from shopping there so long. So in we walked and asked to see the manager.
Tom came walking up and said, “Hi, Merrilee!” I said hello and introduced my son. I said, “This is my son Brennan and he’s 16.” And Tom says, “I’ll take care of it.” I said, “He’s a good boy and works very hard. He’s been working since he was 11.”
Brennan piped up, “Sir, I have already filled out an application and it’s on file.” Tom was impressed. “OK, I’ll have my manager call you this afternoon to set it up.” That’s it. Bingo. The kid has a job. As we walked through the store, he was in an absolute daze. Everybody had been trying to get a job there.
But we also had a rather frank discussion. “Son, did you see how fast that was?” “Yeah, Mom, that was incredible!” “Yes it was. That is what it means to have a good reputation. My reputation just got you that job. Now on this job you have to not only live up to your own reputation, but you have to live up to mine. I hope you will respect that, son.” “Yeah Mom. Absolutely.” Now he worked incredibly hard and they all loved him over there. He has been a credit to the family.
So should we as parents get involved? Yes, to a certain point. Helping get them there when they ASK you can be great.
They are responsible for their job
Remember not to bail them out if they make mistakes, remind them to get ready to go, orchestrate their schedule, etc. None of that. This is their job. Let them have it. And let them learn from it.
Working for the family or the family business is good experience but don’t limit them to that. Let them go out and get work with others. Having a boss is such a great experience for a child. Now someone else has high standards they have to uphold.
Having our children work and have jobs is great training for becoming an independent adult. As parents we can encourage this learning process for our kids. It can be an enormous blessing to them for the rest of their lives.