Some parents worry about the double edged sword of teens and work. On the one hand, there is some research that suggests teens who work might get lower grades. On the other hand, a teenager who works will probably learn some important life skills. Should your teen work? What is more important – grades or life skills? Which will serve them better in the long run? I believe teens should work while in school.
Photo by hyperscholar via Flickr.
Possible Negative Results if a Teenager Works:
There are three possible negatives associated with teenagers working:
- Sacrifice social life
- Less time for other extracurricular events
My response to the “social life sacrifice”position: These are possible negatives, but they are also only recent inventions of our generation. We think teenagers need time to relax and play. While I think there is some value to that, it can be carried to unhealthy extremes. Think about a generation or two ago. Grandpa and Grandma’s social life was the family. Their extracurricular events were called chores. I can only speak from my experience, but my grandparents turned out alright. One of the fallacies of our generation is that we believe for kids to be happy they need to be able to do whatever they wish.
My response to the “less time for extracurricular events” position: The main consideration is balance – some work, some play, and some school. Focus on allowing your children to experience different activities, but don’t define their childhood based solely on participation in extracurricular events.
My response to the “fatigue” position: Most teens I know are fatigued from staying up late with friends going out to Taco Bell in the middle of the night (or they are tired from a lot less wholesome activities). If they are going to be tired, it might as well be because of some good, honest work.
Why life skills are more important than grades
Grades serve two practical functions in life.
- Good grades open the opportunity to go to another school or to continue on to higher levels of education.
- Good grades may help in securing your first job. Once you have worked that first job your future employers are going to care more about your work performance than your school grades. Unfortunately, too many parents pass along a paranoia about grades to their children.
Questions for parents to answer: Would you rather your teenager learn to master geometry or learn to work when tired?
Craig Ford is a fulltime missionary in Papua New Guinea who writes Money Help For Christians and Help Me Travel Cheap, a frugal family travel blog. He is the author of Money Wisdom From Proverbs, has a Masters of Divinity degree, and (most importantly) eats homemade pizza with his family every Friday night.
I also have to disagree respectfully. What Snowy Heron said is difficult to really say because parents raised their children and work hard to support them, as if I have children in the future I won’t work hard to support them? Only good grades will give a good college then a good job therefore I won’t work so hard in a minimum wage job. So if I don’t work hard now, I’ll make it more difficult. Appreciation from every child is expected when parents are working hard to take care of their children, but if you’re a teenager and have… Read more »
I started working at age 14 and think it has taught me quite a bit more along the way than most of my formal classes, at least in things I can use in the real world. Each job has a different lesson that can be learned. For example, I worked at a nursing home, which taught me patience, or while working as a bartender I went from being completely shy to having the ability to hold conversation with anyone. I think throwing yourself out there into challenging positions at a young age will teach you how to adapt and hopefully… Read more »
I strongly agree that teens should work. They need to understand how hard their parents have worked to provide for them. They need to understand how to get along with a boss who could not care less about whether or not they are happy. They need to understand about taxes. They need to understand that they need to be places on time and appropriately attired. Getting and having a job is just as much of an education for knucklehead teens as going to school is.
By the way, my youngest of 3 just turned 20, so no more teens!!!!
Hear hear! I would also encourage entrepreneur-ship. Several years ago I helped a couple neighbor kids get a snow shoveling business started. We lived in Miami so it never really took off but… just kidding! We simply sent postcards to 300 of their neighbors. We told them these guys were available to mow the lawn, clean the pool, shovel the sidewalk, rake the leaves, move furniture and anything else that was legal. They got phone calls immediately. We addressed each postcard like this: To Our Neighbors at 123 Main St. Anytown, NY 12345 Don’t waste your time trying to get… Read more »
I will have to respectfully disagree. You only have ONE chance of getting good grades which accumulate from 9th-12th grade. With poor grades, you have a tougher time getting into GOOD college, and landing a good job. You will suffer millions in lost wages just because you got a B in Calculus, instead of an A. Trust me on this folks!
If youre teen can’t multi-task as well as s/he should, FOCUS ON STUDYING!
@ Snowy It was great to hear from a person who does not agree just in theory, but agrees based on the experiences of her kids. Sounds like you’ve done a great job laying a solid foundation for your kids. @Leo There are some awesome entrepreneur jobs for teens. Thanks not only for your suggestion, but also for you detailed advice on how teens can kick start a side job. @FS Hey, if you’re going to disagree at least you’ve got the class to do it respectfully. Thus, in the good spirit of your response I will offer my own… Read more »
I had jobs growing up as a teen and respectfully disagree with you. I think young people should be given the chance to concentrate on their studies instead of worrying to help pay for their “car loan” or experience “life skills.” If you are doing your job as a parent,there are certainly a good amount of things you can do to make sure your child is well rounded.
By the way, there was a typo in the following paragraph:
“Most teens I know are fatigued from saying up late with friends…”
I would have to disrespectfully disagree with what you’re saying. Being a teen who basically worked myself out of a slump of grades and focus and into a phenomenal school, I really take offense to this article. It seems that your main premise is based off of the idea that every high school teen’s free time is spent being a couch potato. “One of the fallacies of our generation is that we believe for kids to be happy they need to be able to do whatever they wish.” That is completely false and really questionable. And yes, I have a… Read more »
I had left some responses earlier, but I guess they didn’t post. I’ll try and see if I can find my responses so I can address you comments.
Thanks for taking the time to respond. I will take your advice and think about what is best for my kids. Hey I’ll even commit to spending the rest of my life doing what is best for my kids. In light of that comment I’m going to go play with my kids now.
@ Craig Ford
I mean no disrespect, honestly. After I saw your reply to the other comments, I do not mean anything rudely, rather I just pointed out my personal experience with work..and how it’s not a great idea unless it’s an easy office job of some sort.
It’s true that you should care about your children, and it was nice how you commented back with respect. Cheers.
I worked for $3.12/hr at McDonald’s in high school for a bit (in my about page). My manager was a tyrant, and scolded me for practicing my Spanish with my colleagues. At least I got a B in Espanol!
I would only encourage my kid to work during school, if they reall really wanted too, and/or if they could study while working! lol
@ Josh – Donno what Craig wrote to be deserved to be called “bigot”.
I think a Summer job is nice for extra spending money but I don’t think children should work during a school year. School IS work. Socializing is a part of growing up and learning how to get along in the world. Also, that is a great deal of stress for a child. Don’t we spend the bulk of our existence working anyway?
While there are many really good lessons to be learned by work, one season a year should suffice. There are a great many social, educational and family oriented lessons that should not be under valued.
I’m a new parent and have a PhD and I see the merit of this article. My parents wanted me to focus on studying and I was satisfied with my allowance, so I never worked. My first bit of work came when I was 23 and I had no practical work ethic. I had gotten by on being smart all the previous years. It took a bout of clinical depression and not finishing my master’s degree on time for me to dig out and learn how to manage my time and work hard. I want my child to work as… Read more »
@jasi I agree about the amount of time we spend working being way too much. I think that by working some when you are younger you actually get more choice in the future because of your skill set and less debt. I like the idea of working in the summer and focusing on school during the school year. @Andie, Thanks for sharing your experiences. It does definitely underscore some legitimate reasons for teens to work. @Ryan You’re right that every job offers some good lessons along the way. It is true that your end goal makes a big difference. Do… Read more »
I agree with Financial Samurai, study comes first. If you set a goal or if a goal is required, you should “run the race to win”.
As a father of a teenage son who plays basketball and baseball, active in his youth group & church and attends Young Life events, why add another activity work.
If his grades were to suffer he would have to make school his priority. His grades are not suffering because his other activities are what he loves to do.
Yes, why not work at Micky D’s in high school, and get lower grades (possibly B’s and C’s) so we can not get accepted (with scholarships) into college, and then have to work at Micky D’s for the rest of our lives! Waaahhoo! We will learn how hard our parents work when we are parents. There is a thing called childhood. School is work (harder actually), and maybe work brings home money, but parents should be doing that. The most important thing during teenhood is learning. Its harder to learn when you’re old. So it’s better to learn geometry now… Read more »
look i understand why teens want a job but as soon as it interferes with thier school work it is time to stop. But i do think jobs for teens would help create responsibility for teens
I worked as a teen. I also participated in every organization offered at my school, cheered, went to church, did plenty of chores, and remained a honor student. It is my opinion that teens should work. For me, working was not an option in my house. I had to use my pay to buy school clothes, pay for a car, gas, and any expenses that I had from cheering. I never felt overwhelmed, cheated, or wronged. I did feel prepared for life. I fully understood how to pay bills and save money. What I learned most was how to prioritize… Read more »
@Yolanda, thank you for sharing your personal experience — you’re awesome.
Also, I have to say, some teenagers who do work end up buying drugs for themselves, and selling them for more money. That’s why it is a bad thing; parents do not know what their child is doing with the paycheck the student is getting”
Kids should be able to work. And if parents don’t want them to work then at least let them work during the summer if you are worried about your child’s grades!
My 16 year old son is working because he wants, not because he has to. He is in 11th grade with crapy grades of C’s, D’s and 1 F on his hard IB class. He is taking 3 IB classes. He does fine in school but he does not do homeworks or turn them in on time. His IB history class is 50% of his grade from homework. My husband I did not wanted him to work but he was very unhappy and work makes him happy. During the summer he worked at swimming pool and mowed a neighbor’s yard.… Read more »