You’d love for your teen to get an after-school job, but some kids struggle with schoolwork, others have a busy social life, and yet others throw themselves into extracurricular activities or sports. A job may seem like the last thing your kid needs, but it’s worth it. In fact, teen behavior expert and motivational speaker Josh Shipp says it’s a must for every single teen.
“Parenting teens is about training them to thrive in the real world,” says Shipp. “Physical maturity just happens naturally, but emotional maturity must be developed. An after-school job gives teens an opportunity to mature and gain priceless life skills that will serve them in the future.” See what your child can get out of a job … besides the paycheck:
- Handling stress. A job can be stressful for a teen at first—which is good, Shipp says. Every new phase in life entails some stress. The skills your child gains in the process will come in handy throughout the rest of her life. And when life really gets stressful, your child will have some experience dealing with the emotional and practical baggage that stress brings.
- Keeping a schedule. When your teen realizes that she has to miss a party because it interferes with her work hours, she’s learning about scheduling her time responsibly. Teens usually have a lifestyle that is already scheduled for them. Those who learn to keep a schedule have a head-start on their peers.
- Dealing with people. When your teen has to learn how to serve an unsatisfied customer, she’s learning a social skill that she can use forever. And many teens learn to come “out of their shell” at customer service jobs, initiating communication with customers and coworkers instead of their circle of friends.
- Contact with adults. If you think that it’s your job as a parent to directly help your child develop her maturity, you could be overestimating your influence. “Even if you're the world’s greatest parent, when your kid becomes a teen, there's only a certain amount of influence you have,” Shipp says. “So, teachers and bosses and mentors and coaches and others help you train your kid for success.”
- Learning from mistakes. When your child messes up at work, as teen workers (and all workers!) will do, she’s learning that her actions have consequences. This is better learned in the safe environment of a part-time teen job than when it can have a more severe effect on her career during adulthood.
- Facing personal weaknesses. Don’t hold back your child from attempting a part-time job because she’s struggling in school or rebelling against the system. “Some of the at-risk teens I've worked with have eventually thrived because of their job experience,” says Shipp. This is probably because children are forced to face the root of their weaknesses and have a chance to improve.
Are you convinced yet? Good. Now, you just need to convince your child—no easy task. But remember, if your child doesn’t seem interested in a part-time job, that doesn’t mean she’s not ready for one. What can a parent do? “Easy,” says Shipp. “Stop giving them money. That’s a sure motivator for employment. You’re teaching personal responsibility and fighting against entitlement, which is a learned behavior.” Here are some tips for parents who want their teens to get the most out of the experience:
- Give clear expectations. Sit down with your teen and plan out what an average week will look like. Make sure she allots time for hanging out with friends, completing schoolwork, spending time with family and attending to her job responsibilities.
- Know when to back off. Give your child a chance to take responsibility for her own reputation at work. “As a parent, your role is that of a coach,” says Shipp. “Prepare your athlete before and after—but don't step on the field.” That means holding yourself back from swooping in to save your child if she acts irresponsibly or is struggling to make the right decision. The struggle and the failure are both important experiences.
- Take pride. By working at a young age, your child is learning lessons she’ll need to know for the future. Better to learn them now, when the repercussions are small, than to learn them in a big way after your kid leaves your home.