Parents frequently ask – especially during the summer – if having a job is a good idea for kids. Of course the answer depends on the kid, but generally speaking, getting and maintaining a job can be an exercise in perseverance, time management, responsibility, budgeting, and independence. Most will need some monitoring, and those report card grades will need to stay high, but the experience can be valuable.
Summertime can be the best time to experiment, to get your toes wet (to use a summertime pool analogy).
Of course, the number one rule is “Know your kid.” A job may not be for every kid, even a relatively easy one just for the summer. Help him to understand ahead of time what skills he’ll need, what routines he’ll need to follow, and what promises he’ll have to keep. Included in those promises is the one where he promises to put his primary energies into his Main Job – School.
Here are a few job ideas to consider if your child is interested in earning a little spending money, in making good use of his or her time, or in seeing just what having a job entails. The ideas can apply to kids of most ages. I’ve picked them up over the years from my own students, from parents, and from what I’ve observed of some pretty resourceful kids. Many of the job ideas are not unusual – what makes them stand out in the crowd, however, is the personal touches, the customer service, and the new slant brought by creative, motivated kids.
- Babysitting. Boys and girls who babysit will need to show they’re responsible, can follow directions, and understand that child safety is their main concern.
- Keeping cool. For a summer job, help people keep cool. Sell bottled water or colorful fans made from construction paper. Be creative.
- Pet care. Again, these kids will need to prove they’re responsible and understand what’s required of dog-walking, pet-grooming, or pet-sitting with lonely Fidos and Kitties whose masters are away.
- Car washing. Kids will need some equipment, but every neighborhood has dusty cars. This is a job that can be done with buddies, but they’ll have to show they’re serious. A couple of shiny cars in the neighborhood can be great advertising.
- Life guarding. Naturally, lifeguards need to be certified, so this is a summer job that first needs to be a goal-to-be-accomplished. Encourage your future lifeguard to learn swimming skills early.
- House cleaning. Again, these kids may need to have some basic tools, but light house cleaning can be a godsend to busy adults.
- Helping with schoolwork. If she’s a math whiz, a budding creative writer, or the best-read kid on the block, she may be able to help younger students keep on track. If she’s a high schooler with a community service requirement, this can be a win-win for her and the kids she helps.
- Making use of special talents. If your children have special talents – drama, singing, painting, bicycling, tennis, saxophone-playing – they’re already a step ahead of their non-talented friends. Why not give lessons? Or, how about this – I’ve seen budding film-makers hire themselves out to take and edit videos of children’s birthday parties. Or future singers, amateur jugglers, and puppet masters entertain at those same parties.
- Household services. Every community has elderly neighbors who need occasional help schlepping the trash to the curb, separating the recyclables, running errands, polishing the silver, vacuuming, cleaning up after pets. Do a good deed, mix the generations, and also get paid a little something for it.
- House sitting. Taking care of a house while the neighbors are away is a pretty responsible job, but there are plenty of teenagers who, with your support, can manage it. They don’t necessarily have to live in the house, but knowing that someone is stopping in a few times a day and checking to make sure all is okay can be a relief for the out-of-town owners.
Help your kids recognize their talents and interests. Help them understand what they’ll need to set up their jobs – a basic plan, neighborhood flyers, personal references, simple business cards (homemade is okay), a discount rate for referrals, maybe even a website.
Then, let them know what they’ll need to keep their jobs – school success. You’re the boss, and bosses can “fire” their employees.
Balancing a job and school can be difficult. Stay alert for signs of stress – declining grades, lack of sleep – and make your expectations clear. Whether it’s a summer job or one that will continue into the school year, your children can benefit greatly.