Mom Moments

Teens learn a lot from that first job

2013-06-06T00:00:00Z Teens learn a lot from that first jobCarrie Steinweg
June 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

I recently saw an article come up on my Facebook feed titled “Why Your Teenager Must Have a Job This Summer” ( and agreed with much of what is stated in the article. A good work ethic comes from actually working and when teens feel entitled to certain jobs and feel they should be exempt from less desirable ones, it only gets worse from there. The article touches upon the decrease in teens working summer jobs and the benefits of working a “menial” job as a teenager.

As a kid, I was eager to do anything to earn a buck. I was out in my front yard all summer long pushing pitchers of lemonade. I’d help a neighbor with yardwork if it would earn me a quarter. Once in a while I’d accompany my dad on his weekend job delivering pizzas. I’d help him carry stuff up to the door and I was thrilled when a customer would throw a few dimes my way or when Dad would pass off some of his tips at the end of the night.

I was 11 when I started babysitting for a neighbor and soon most of my weekends were filled with babysitting jobs. Then I started babysitting after school for a neighbor and until I could work a regular job at age 16, I spent summers babysitting for kids while their parents worked. I loved kids, so it often didn’t seem like work. But once in a while it was a drag to be stuck inside with toddlers while my friends were at the pool or beach. I knew that there would be a paycheck at the end of the week, though, that would provide some money for some fun or a new pair of jeans when I wasn’t on the clock.

My first employer was a fast food restaurant and it was a job that I really, really didn’t like. I hated mopping floors and taking out garbage. I hated leaving work covered in grease and smelling like a spoiled version of what had been served that day. I’d try to get there early so that I could get a spot on the cash register rather than working in the back. But you know what? I learned a lot from that job. I learned about customer service. I learned about getting along with co-workers. I learned how it sucked to have to work a holiday. I learned about hard labor and long hours and shifts where you were on your feet and didn’t get to sit down. I learned that if I worked harder than others, I got more perks or the less undesirable duties. And I learned that I would never want to have that job again. As much as I didn’t want to work there, I knew I had to stick it out until I could find another job. And I don’t really remember there being any

parental pressure to work. It was what I wanted to do. I wanted to work and earn my own money and be independent.

I was ecstatic when I landed an office job later that summer. What a difference that was. I felt spoiled being able to sit at a desk in an air conditioned office. I was thrilled to make coffee for my bosses and water their plants if it meant I didn’t have to slave in a hot kitchen anymore dropping food into a fryer. I’d take a paper cut over mopping a greasy kitchen floor any day.

In college I remember taking a full load of classes while working three jobs - one at my brother-in-law’s hot dog stand and two part-time office jobs. I had no qualms about working. I felt it was a good use of my time. We all know that teens that don’t keep busy are more likely to get into trouble, anyway.

I really don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to work. I couldn’t wait to grow up and earn money. And I don’t think I was a rare kid in those days in the 1980’s. Today we hear that kids just don’t have that work ethic. I can also say that there aren’t quite as many opportunities as there were back than, so I’m willing to cut today’s teens a little slack. I had a lot of friends who were working jobs at 14 and 15 and there were a lot of people who would pay teens cash on the side. You didn’t have out-of-work adults and recent college grads also competing for the same minimum wage jobs.

Today it is hard to get a job many places unless you are 18. I’ve seen that happen through my own son, who had a hard time finding a job when he turned 16. He ended up working as a painter, then at a sandwich shop. He’s now working as a grocery store stocker, a part-time firefighter and he also does some lawn mowing. I think it’s a good thing for him and for all teens to learn that if they want things, they need to earn them. Once they are out own their own in the real word, no one is going to just hand them things that they want. Perhaps the parents of some kids will continue to. But at some point that gets old no matter how much you want to pamper your child.

I know teens who have never worked. I know parents who have not wanted their kids to work. I have known kids who have graduated college having never worked a day at a job.

I’m grateful for all those jobs I had as a youngster, even the one I didn’t really like. I learned about hard work. I learned about getting along with people. I learned the satisfaction of earning an income. I learned what it meant to work for something you had. I think every teen should have a job and I’d go so far as to say every teen should work a job they don’t like to give them an appreciation for the next job.

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