To learn about and manage money well, it’s extraordinarily helpful to have a reliable income. For young kids, that income might come from an allowance or doing chores around the house. Once your kids are older, however, a regular job might be more advantageous. These questions can help you and your child to determine whether it’s time to look for a job.
1) What kind of financial responsibilities does your child face?
As young people mature, the financial demands they face typically increase. For instance, they might need a basic scientific calculator for math in middle school but need a more expensive graphing calculator for high school courses. If their legitimate expenses are consistently outweighing the amount they’re given or earn at home and you don’t want or can’t afford to increase the money you provide, a job is probably a good idea.
2) How much time can your child dedicate to work?
In most cases, children spend the majority of the day in school, and afterward, they often have several hours of homework to finish. Many kids also take part in extracurricular activities, which aren’t always just for fun—college admissions offices look closely at applicants’ interests and involvement in the community. Subsequently, your child might be limited to weekend or summer work, which might not fit the current needs of employers who are hiring. The issue gets even more complex when you consider that they might need to coordinate their work schedule with yours to accommodate transportation. In any case, the job plus other responsibilities should not leave your child mentally, emotionally or physically drained. Remember, every child has different tolerances in terms of what is too much.
3) What sort of goals does your child have?
Lofty goals are laudable at any age, but truth be told, the bigger your child dreams, the more money they’ll likely have to put forward. For instance, if your child wants to make a national sports team, they’ll probably need to spend more money on equipment and training than if they just wanted to make varsity at their school. A job might be the answer if your child has the drive to achieve but just needs adequate resources.
4) What is your child’s attitude like?
Many parents encourage their kids to get jobs not because the children need the cash, but because their attitude stinks. They hope that the experience of having a boss will show their kids just how important respect and other soft skills are for success. Parents also want their kids to have jobs so that the children won’t take what they have so for granted. In this regard, a job might help your child “shape up” a bit. That said, most employers are increasingly intolerant of insubordination or other problems like repeated tardiness. Your child has the best chance of having steady work and earning a good reference if they already can work well with others and follow instructions without unwarranted complaint. If they’re not there yet, you might want to try additional techniques to address their behavior first, as it does them little good to earn a reputation as a bad hire.
5) Does your child meet current legal requirements?
Depending on where you live, your child might have significant restrictions on what they can do because of their age. For example, in the United States, with some exceptions, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) limits the hours a person age 16 and under can work and names some occupations considered too hazardous for them to hold. It also indicates that a child must be at least 14 to be employed. If they do not meet the current requirements, regardless of their maturity and aspirations, they might need to earn funds through work that doesn’t require formal employment, such as doing yard work, dog walking or selling baked goods.
Jobs can help kids get a leg up, teaching valuable skills they can apply to both the home and their careers. Still, not every child is ready for employment at the same time. What is right for your child depends on a mix of factors, so make sure they take the time to fully understand what would be involved and gained or lost.
- United States Department of Labor (2015). Youth and Labor. http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/youthlabor/
- Nolo (2014). Ways Kids Can Make Money.