Thursday, June 9, 2011

Teen jobs?

Since I work primarily with students and their families, I thought I would share something that comes up often - teenagers and work.

Often parents will proudly assert that their child is going to learn responsibility and hard work and the value of money with their new-found job.  I'll be honest, the chances are more likely that they are going to learn what life looks like through the eyes of a twenty-something crew chief whose chief ambition in life is to get  the high score in some violent video game . . . while high on drugs.

I hate to say it, but jobs are much different animals these days.  The kinds of people that your children will be spending 6-8 hours a day with are not exactly life coaches.  I remember when I was a kid and the guy who was over me spent 45 minutes talking about really deviant things that I don't want to mention here . . . and that was him quoting the boss!

Now of course your kids are going to have to encounter the real world at some point, but do you really think that 15 is the right age for background chatter to include the how-to's of hiding your 'stash?'

I put it like this - many people I know spend more time considering where to plant their rose bushes or summer tomatoes than they do considering what environment their kid will be in all summer long.  You are a parent - it is a verb - that means to prune, weed, cultivate.  You would no sooner put a tomato plant in a garbage heap.  No, you consider where the sun will be, you till the soil, you weed, and you water.  And by all means, if you found out that it was an area that had fungus or some other nasty element, you WOULD MOVE IT.

So when you hear your child interested in working somewhere, check it out.  Spend 3-4 hours, bring the laptop and the bills and listen to the conversations happening behind the counter at Taco Bell.  See who else is on the grounds crew.  Talk to parents whose children work at the clothing store.  Get to know supervisors.  If they have tattoos that say "spank it," you probably want to pass.  If they are looking at you with half-lit expressions and don't speak what you would recognize as English, I vote no.  These are people that will be your child's teacher for several hours a day.

This is coming from a person who at 13 watched his boss give another employee a hickey . . . on his back . . . in the kitchen of a restaurant.  Trust me, you don't want this for your child.

Or how about the pizza place in which the owner found out that I wanted to be a pastor.  For the rest of the time that I knew him, he kept joking about how Mary really wasn't a virgin.  The joke was kinda gross . . . I'll spare you.  By the way, he wound up being shot and killed.

That is probably why I wound up having a very lucrative landscaping business.  I was my own boss.  Maybe that is what it takes for your son or daughter - start their own business babysitting or cutting lawns.  Let them encounter the unsavory sorts when they aren't so impressionable.

So here is what I recommend:

1.  Talk with your child about what they want to work for.  Having money so they can buy gas so they can get to work so they can buy gas . . . perhaps there is something greater they can work for.  You can sponsor a child in Haiti or Guatemala for $30 a month with World Vision.  And there is always college.

2.  Come up with some ideas TOGETHER.  Veto ideas that are garbage heaps.

3.  Settle on a few and then check them out.  This is your job as a parent - see where they will be.  Hang out there for a few hours.  If it is unhealthy . . . veto.

4.  Get to know the 'boss' at work, let them know you are an involved parent.  Knowing there is a parent involved will make them reluctant when they are thinking of closing the doors early and sharing a case of beer.

5.  Talk to your kid - continue to eat dinner together and listen to the stories being shared.

In the end, it might take more effort, but you may have less to worry about when they turn 18 . . .


  1. This is interesting. I never worked outside of churches and private homes as a teen, and I always wish my parents had forced me to work more. (I basically did church and home-based childcare.) But, perhaps I was spared. Lord knows I was having a hard enough time with the influences I had.

    I'm not sure it would be a bad thing for every kid (some might handle that environment with grace), but this has been good food for thought. I don't know what I'll do with it, as a non-parent. But, thanks nonetheless.

  2. Our boys are 2 and 4 and I really really like this advice!