A Summer Job

When school gets out, most kids want nothing more than to bask in the sun, go to the beach and hang out with their friends. A summer job isn’t necessarily on top of a teenager’s list of fun.

Here’s the thing: if you want to go places and eat out, something most teenagers want to do, it takes money. If you want  money, you have to work.

My sixteen year-old-daughter had her first paying job this summer. For a brief couple of weeks, she worked at a day camp in the aftercare program. Most days she just worked a few hours in the afternoon. Sometimes she worked all day. She had fun in an “I’m exhausted” kind of way.

While we loved that she had a non paying internship this summer, we wanted her to experience the thrill and frustration of earning a paycheck. We wanted her to learn the true value of a dollar. Some lessons can’t be taught, they have to be experienced. Gaining an appreciation for hard work and developing a work ethic is one of them.

Having a summer job teaches the value of a dollar.

Having a summer job teaches the value of a dollar.

When my daughter received her first and only paycheck from her summer job, she was shocked at how small it was.

“I worked so hard,” she said, “I thought I would get paid more.” I could hear the frustration and disappointment in her voice. She sounded deflated.

“You did earn a little more,” I told her, “but taxes had to come out of your check.”

“Oh,” she said, “that sucks. I can’t believe I worked all that time just for this amount of money.”

From our perspective, some money is better than no money. We were happy she was able to find a summer job that worked for her schedule. More importantly, we were hoping the experience would teach her the value of a dollar.

It’s one thing for us to try to explain how many hours one has to work, earning minimum wage, to be able to purchase the latest “must have” item desired by a teenage girl. It’s quite another thing for a teenager to actually do the work and then see what it feels like to receive a small paycheck.

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She now knows what working feels like. She enjoyed her summer job. She realized how hard people must work to provide for their family. It was a win-win all around.

There are some lessons too valuable to miss teaching your kids and a strong work ethic is one of those lessons. If your child can fit in a part-time or summer job, I encourage you to help them do so. It doesn’t matter what they do or how long they do it. The important thing is for them to realize how many hours they have to work to be able to buy whatever it is they think they need. My kids don’t mind spending our money, yet they hold on tightly to the money they worked hard to earn.

There are other lessons to learn from earning a paycheck. Kids can get a glimpse of what it feels like to donate money they earned to charity. You can also talk with them about the necessity of saving. Most importantly, make sure they understand the importance of an education and what it can allow them to accomplish and earn in the future.

Find meaning each day,


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