High on the list of what to expect as the mom of a teen is the day your child comes home saying she wants to flip burgers at the nearby fast-food joint or take on a sales job at the mall. That's good news, agree many Circle of Moms members. But how do you guide your teen to make the right job choice so that she can manage school, activities, friends, and a job?
Here, Circle of Moms members share their thoughts about part-time jobs for teens and the factors you should consider when your teen tells you she wants to go out and earn some money.
1. Is Your Teen Mature Enough?
Many Circle of Moms members set limits around their teen’s work lives from the get-go. Barbara J. and Debbie S. both only allowed their teens to work when they felt their kids were mature enough and that the jobs they chose were appropriate. As Barbara explains, "Depends on his maturity level and the location of the part-time job and hours that would be worked," and Debbie adds, “I would let a mature child get a part time job around the age of 14, depending on what kind of job it was. My oldest son began doing yard work for a lady at church, once a week. I would drive him to her house, drop him off for two hours, then pick him up. It was great experience for him and it was a blessing to her. I think the type of job and the maturity of the child need to be a complete match-up to be successful.”
Becky F. points out that a job can help an immature teen become more responsible: "I definitely think that kids should learn responsibility and good money management before they graduate from high school. And I think that starts even before they hit their teens, with doing chores around the home and getting an allowance, though adds that "school comes first. If they can juggle it all, great. If they're not turning in assignments, falling asleep in class, getting poor grades for their ability - or, if I notice they've lost their social life and interests because all they do is school and work - then the job goes."
2. Which Limits Should You Set?
Many Circle of Moms members agree with Becky that most high school-aged kids are too young to be taking on part-time jobs and prefer to encourage their kids to focus on school. As Kelly puts it, "I feel school and school activities are so important and worry a job may take away from that." She held jobs during her own high school years and "found it difficult to keep up with my studies." For her own daughter, a part-time summer job is the limit: "She'll be able to earn some money and learn how to manage it, and still have time to be a kid."
Rachael O. suggests a different way of limiting a teen's work. She's okay with occasional jobs like yard work for a neighbor, but prohibits jobs "where they would have set days to work or a set amount of hours," arguing that school comes first, and that we should "let a kid be a kid."
And Jodi S. recommends having teens gradually work up to a part-time job, proving they can take on more responsibility without jeopardizing school as they go. "My step-daughter is 18 and has been working part-time jobs (mostly on weekends) since she was about 16. Prior to that, she sometimes worked in our businesses for us and was paid for it. My 13-year-old will probably start 'officially' doing some weekend work in our business in about 12 or 18 months. He already does some extra work around the house and also helps me with some of my work to earn his money to pay for some of his extras (including his iPod Touch and mobile phone, plus movie outings with his friends). So I guess starting slowly and setting limits is the way to go."
3. How Do You Teach the Value of Money?
In most states, kids need to be 16 to have a part-time job, but some Circle of Moms members feel it's important to start teaching their kids about “responsible working” even earlier. Meagan P. encouraged her kids to start earning their spending money at age 12 by doing odd jobs like mowing lawns and babysitting. "I really want to avoid that whole ‘entitlement’ attitude that so many children get. I want her to value what she has, and learn how money works. A family is a team, and everyone should help out. A teen/tween getting their own job and earning their own money to help buy their ‘wants’ is a great way to contribute."
Several Circle of Moms members suggest talking to your teen about why it is important to work. As Rebecca A. advises, “I want my kids to understand that what we have was from the hard work we ourselves put in. If they want anything beyond the necessities and our once-in-a-while surprises or gifts from celebrations, they will work for them."
Susan M. adds that when it comes time for a teen to start working, she'll also need guidance on how to handle the money she earns. She suggests "a forced savings plan," where you take a percentage of their paycheck and at the end of each month put it into mutual funds or an IRA. If garnishing wages causes resentment, she suggests explaining to your teen that you are showing your child "how to become a millionaire."
Do you let your teen work?
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