Should Your Teen Work Or Not?

High school, friends, pimples, dating are all part of the teen experience, but should having a job also be part of the package? For most teens, the answer is a qualified yes. In many ways, a first job can be a continuation of a high school education, teaching a young person responsibility, how to live up to commitments, how to manage their time, and the value of money.

A job is especially important for a teen that seems to have too much free time on his hands to just “hang out,” especially if a parent has witnessed any signs of possible drinking or drug involvement among the child’s peers or from the child himself. Not only will the job keep a teen busier, but it also provides a built-in excuse for a teen who may actually want to avoid, say, a party. “Wish I could be there, but I’ve got work tonight, and if I don’t show up, they’ll fire me,” is a convenient excuse for a kid who really doesn’t want to go to a keg party, but doesn’t want to look uncool by admitting it.

A parent should also encourage a teen to work if the child is constantly asking for high-priced items and/or losing or breaking such items and just expecting replacements. Once a child sees how much time she has to put in to earn expensive items, she may finally learn to value and take care of them or want things that are less costly. Of course, there is the biggest ticket item of all for a teen, a car. If a teen expects to own a car, then she should, if at all possible, work enough hours to at least put gas in her vehicle, if not also help with payments and/or insurance. A side benefit to having a teen earn her own gas money is that she will be less likely to joy ride aimlessly or play taxi for all her friends.

There are, of course, situations where a teen shouldn’t hold a job. If a child is already highly overcommitted with college level classes and/or sports, especially high school sports, which usually have daily commitments, the parent and teen should really discuss whether or not he can keep his grades up if he were to take on a job, as well. Some teens intent on getting a car, for instance, will insist they can handle both a job and a stressful course load, so a parent may have to have some long and thoughtful conversations with their teen before allowing or not allowing him to work.

Another situation in which a teen should probably not get a job is if the child won’t have a reliable means of getting to and from work. For some parents, especially single working parents with other children, having to figure out rides for a teen to get to and from a job that may end at 9:00 p.m. or can make life very stressful.

Also, on a related note, a parent should also set a limit as to what time a child can work till on a weeknight. Some establishments will expect even high schoolers to work up until midnight, but that type of schedule on top of school can crush a student’s ability to keep up their grades.

Overall, though, if the teen has the time and his homework won’t suffer, a part-time job will not only help him develop a stronger sense of responsibility, but also give him a sense of self-worth and an appreciation for other members of the workforce. Don’t be surprised if your son or daughter suddenly emphasizes with a salesclerk who is being insulted or ask you to tip a waitress better for her work.