Here's how to help them get started.
Children love to feel important and a part of your everyday activities. Empowering your preteen with simple tasks will, in turn, cultivate a feeling of responsibility and a sense of accomplishment. Regular chores, during the preteen and teen years, can help foster your child’s sense of competence and self-esteem, as well as, reinforce the idea that he/she’s a valuable member of the family. When you do assign chores, remember that giving an adolescent challenging jobs keeps him/her more engaged and demonstrates your trust. One way to do this is to respect your child’s need for autonomy by allotting his/her complete responsibility for a certain task whenever possible. Appropriate chores might include:
Planting, watering, and weeding one part of your garden.
Keeping one or more rooms clean (besides her own)
Doing the laundry (including folding and ironing) once or twice a week.
Planning, help cooking and cleaning up after one dinner each week.
Painting a room (possibly their bedroom)
Mowing the lawn.
Having total responsibility for the care of a pet.
Organize the pantry, playroom shelves, or the garage. Have a meeting to discuss the style of organization you want and let your teen do the work.
Babysitting younger siblings one night a week so you can enjoy an evening out.
Managing the family’s recycling efforts (sorting various categories, and taking the bins or bags out to the curb on collection day.)
“Should I pay my child for doing chores?”
Some parents feel that allowance shouldn’t be used as compensation for routine household chores because they should be done for the sake of helping the family. Even if this is your family’s belief, at times you may want to pay your preteen for doing extra work around the house, maybe beyond the chores assigned. This builds responsibility in another area—money management. Teens can also make money by doing household chores and yard work for neighbors and seeking employment. This can be helpful during the long summer months. Yet, some tweens/teens prefer part-time jobs versus paid chores.
Let’s face it—teens love beautiful cars, name-brand clothing, the latest sports equipment, stereos, computers and cell phones. Maybe this sounds like the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” to you, but to many teens in the 21st century, these are the things they must have. Since these items are on the expensive list, many teens feel that having a part-time job is not so bad; it will pay for their expensive lifestyle.
The Benefits and Drawbacks
Part-time jobs after school or on weekends teach kids the value of punctuality, professionalism, time management and putting forth one’s best effort. Jobs can also provide experience that may help teens get into college or even plant the seeds for a future career. On the other hand, too much work can cause fatigue, as well as cut into time for extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs and socializing with friends, which is a critical marker of a well-rounded student. Most of all, jobs can detract from a child’s most important mission at this time in his life; doing well in school. Jobs that require more than 13 -20 hours per week are too much.
Work skills prepare adolescents for adulthood. With on-the-job training, the child develops a sense of responsibility and self-confidence.
Another benefit of tweens/teens working is having some adult supervision during those crucial afternoon hours when parents are both working outside the home. All in all, the right job or jobs may expose your child to new work possibilities and set him/her on the path to a lifetime career.
Depending where your child works, the merger of older co-workers with young teens enables them to view bad habits (or behaviors) that may lead your teen astray. Make sure you have viewed the workplace and met with your child’s supervisor before allowing your adolescent to work at a specific job.
Children under the age of 14 are restricted to delivering newspapers, babysitting, doing minor domestic chores in a private home, performing on stage, screen or radio, and working in a non-hazardous business owned by a parent.
Fourteen is the minimum age for employment and hours are limited for adolescents under the age of 16, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Working hours for teens ages 14-15 is between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school year and until 9 p.m. during the summer months. Still at this age, teens may work at non-hazardous jobs for three hours on school days, eight hours on non-school days, 18 hours during a school week and 40 hours during a non-school week.
Teens must be 16 years or older to participate in any types of hazardous work says the FLSA. Hazardous work consists of operating power driven equipment, driving, excavation, construction, agricultural work, and so on. Each state has laws that overlap with the FLSA to protect minors who work. These teens may work any number of hours. Since some states impose stiffer restrictions—check with the labor department in your area.
Good Jobs and Bad Jobs for Minors
Here are a few ideas of appropriate jobs your teen may pursue:
Counselor at a summer camp or daycare facility.
Working in a bakery, ice cream shop or bus boy at restaurants.
Retail work—clothing and sports equipment are enticing to teens.
Working in animal shelters, veterinary offices, nursing homes, or hospitals.
Babysitting or working in local daycare centers.
Stocking shelves or packing bags at a grocery store.
According to the National Consumers League, these are the worst jobs for young teens:
Delivery and other driving; including forklifts and other motorized equipment.
Working alone in cash-based businesses such as convenience stores, gas stations and fast-food establishments.
Traveling with youth crews; selling candy, magazine subscriptions and other consumer goods on street corners or to homes in strange neighborhoods.
Cooking—exposure to hot oil, hot water and steam.
Construction—including work at heights and contact with electrical power.
Outside groundskeeper and landscapers
Harvesting crops in agriculture
How Can Parents Offer Guidance?
Talk about what your child wants from the job. Is it career preparation? A venue for socialization? Or is it just for money? Discuss the importance of maintaining good grades, continuing extracurricular activities and keeping up a social life. Find a balance between school and work. Emphasize that being a well-rounded person is necessary for college admissions these days. As time goes on, help your teen look for better jobs. Explore jobs that relate to career interests or exposure to a wider range of career options.
Talk about preparing a budget that includes savings as well as spending. Teens love to spend their earnings on material items, however having some savings for the future is a good investment. Show them how you handle the household budget, as children always learn by example.
Be supportive, but also watch for signs that your child may be overdoing it; a drop in grades, fatigue, irritability (beyond the usual teen moodiness) and no time for family and friends. Your child may be fast approaching adulthood, but still needs your guidance from time to time.
The Bottom Line
According to the authors of Parenting Teens With Love & Logic, “part-time employment by teens can still be a good experience for them. Many teens learn valuable lessons about life and responsibility by working, not to mention reaping the monetary rewards of their labors. But parents and teens need to keep the lines of communication open so the responsibility of a job does not become an arena of conflict.”
article by Tania Cowling