Should teenagers get a summer job?

Dave Dugdale

In 1978 almost seventy-two percent of our teenagers got a summer job. Today, that number is about twenty-eight percent. Different reasons are given for the change. The recession meant that many of the jobs formerly given to teenagers are now taken by adults. The increase in illegal immigration has added to that job deficit as well. But, the major reason teenagers are not looking for summer jobs is simply that they don’t need the money. Today’s parents are providing money for things like cars, dating, and other social activities. Should teenagers be encouraged to get a summer job, and if so, what kinds of jobs should they be looking for?

There are job opportunities available, and employers are seeking teenagers to fill those spots. According to the Family Education Network, the most popular summer jobs for teens are: landscaping and lawn care, camp counselor, lifeguard, odd jobs (babysitting, car washing, easy house painting, pet care, house sitting), concert/event venues/movie theater staff (e.g. ticket sales, reception, concessions stand, parking), food service personnel (e.g. cashier, host, server, bus person, dish washer), tutor, and sports instructor (such as using sports skills to teach other kids).

One can find helpful information on the internet that teaches your teen how to make flyers, create a resume, or conduct an interview. One of the most important benefits of a summer job for teenagers is the actual application process. Teenagers learn how to interview, compete for jobs, and often how to persevere through the process even after experiencing rejection. The application/interview process is important and not something that a teenager is likely to learn in the home or school environments.

Ellie Kay, author of The 60 Minute Money Work Out writes, “Parents fail by not at least encouraging their kids to get a part-time job.” She writes about ways to motivate teens to seek that summer job. Her recommendations:

  • Show kids there is monetary freedom with the money they earn for themselves, as opposed to the money from the bank of Mom and Dad. Kay suggests telling your kids that your love is unconditional, but your money is not.
  • Make sure your teens’ lives are limited by a lack of spending money. If teenagers don’t need money, chances are, they won’t want to work for it. Their fun should be limited to the money they earn and only occasionally benefited by the money you give.
  • Help them understand that the workplace will provide a whole new group of people to interact with and give them a new set of skills that will help them in the future.
  • Only twenty-eight percent of teens get a summer job which means that those who have been employed will have a college application and future resume that will stand out from most of the others in the stack.

As a mom, I always thought it was important for my teenagers to have summer jobs. It wasn’t always a popular idea, but I think both of my sons would say they learned a great deal because they had to get up and go to work, even when most of their friends did not. Their jobs weren’t glamorous and sometimes they worked with people they didn’t enjoy or did tasks they grew weary of. They worked outside in the heat and inside a boring cubicle, in jobs that required both heart and character. My sons worked for the money that gave them some freedom to choose.

One of the reasons they went to work when they were fifteen or sixteen was because they were motivated to get a car. My husband and I matched their dollars when they wanted to buy their first cars. We told them if they wanted to drive a clunker they wouldn’t have to work as hard. If they wanted to drive a nicer car, they would need to work harder and save longer. It wasn’t an exact science, but that motivation worked. Before long, they were driving a car they had earned and had learned the value of working—and working hard.

Teenagers need to learn the lessons that only a job can teach. Everyone learns those lessons eventually, but your teens will be ahead of the game if they get summer jobs. Sometimes parents need to be convinced it is a good idea. Let’s face it, it is nice to have those older kids around to babysit, drive, and help around the house. But, what is best for their future? Their summer job might have an impact on your family vacation or your personal choices, but working might be the best use of their time.

Pray about it and then help them do what is best for their future. You want to have a great kid, but it is important to raise a successful adult. Those summer jobs will help them grow, and help them grow up. And maybe when they graduate from college . . . they won’t have to move back in with you!

Janet Denison

JanetDenison
Janet Croswhite Denison grew up in California and moved to Texas during her college years. She is a graduate of Houston Baptist University where she majored in Elementary Education and English. Janet met her husband, Jim, at HBU and they married in 1980. They have two sons, Ryan and Craig. Ryan married Candice Williams in…
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