Parents Want Teen to Get a Job
Q: My husband and I want our 17-year-old son to get a summer job, but he doesn’t want to. How do we motivate him to get a job?
A:My first question is why do you want him to work? Is your goal to have him earn money, to work to learn about responsibility and independence, or are you worried that he has some bad habits that you are thinking a job might change? Once you have identified your reasons for wanting your son to work, it will be easier to come up with a plan to guide him.
Many parents have a hard time watching their children do nothing over the summer. If your goal is to keep him busy, discuss some possibilities with him. These can range from taking more responsibility for doing work around the house and yard, mowing lawns or doing odd jobs for neighbors, doing volunteer work or getting a traditional job.
If your goal is for your son to start taking financial responsibility for activities, spending money, gas or college, then talk to him about the financial role you expect of him. Earning money can be a major incentive to many young people.
If your goal is for your son to learn responsibility and independence while acquiring job skills, there are many volunteer opportunities for young people that can both use his skills and give him experience. He can check with summer camps, libraries, and other non-profit agencies for ways to use his talents.
If your son is still reluctant, talk with him about his concerns. Has your son worked in the past? Was it a good experience? Maybe he is fearful or anxious about getting a job. Many sons don’t share much about the details of their lives. Talking about his past volunteer and work experiences might help you learn more about his comfort level in public.
What other issues may be keeping your son from working? If he is not comfortable around people, it might be very hard for him to have a job where he has public interaction. Perhaps working somewhere with a low public profile would be more natural for him. Often physical labor such as working with a landscaper or in a nursery can be the perfect choice.
As you have this conversation, keep thinking about what might be the restraints, barriers, and incentives for your son to get a job. During your conversations about working, see if he can use his own problem-solving skills to deal with any obstacles he defines. If he hasn’t dealt with those issues himself, what have his friends done? If you worked in high school, how did you deal with issues of getting hired, and getting to work? Encourage him to use the Internet to get information about getting a job or job openings in the area.
If he doesn’t get a job, what will it force you and your husband to do differently? You may want to plan for this possibility by coming up with some consequences such as taking a vacation and making arrangements for him to stay home with a grandparent, aunt or uncle. Might he lose access to the car if he cannot pay for his own gas? Will texting be cut off on the phone? With no money for entertainment, will he be staying home with you more instead of going out with friends?
Some parents like to provide an incentive for work such as matching their child’s take-home pay stubs by a deposit in an account. Other parents are willing to pay for specific designated tasks at home. If this works for you, could you make a business deal that is based only on services delivered on an every two- week basis deposited into his account?
You are in luck if all he needs is help building a resume and getting out to apply for jobs. Let it be his responsibility to let you know exactly how you can help him, remembering it is his job, not yours. Job-hunting should mirror college touring. It needs to be his and not the parents or he will not learn the skills he needs to learn.
Don’t suggest he apply for a job that will become your responsibility to get him there and pick him up unless you are willing to do it. You can help with the job search on the front end if he asks. He can either research or learn from you about job interviewing, job dress, and making contacts about job leads. If he is serious, using contacts can get him an interview, but he will have to get the job! Good luck to both of you!