Should teens be working through high school?

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OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. - Should teens be expected to work part-time jobs while in high school?

My kids are still a little young and we haven't crossed that bridge but the subject came up recently when my husband and I started talking about the first jobs we ever had.

It's funny how you can look back at things in your life like your old high school jobs and wonder how much those early job experiences helped.

When you throw the teens and part-time jobs question out there, my immediate response seems like a no-brainer... Of course teens should work to get some real-life experience.

But, the more I talked to my husband and the more I looked back to my own experiences, I saw just as many pitfalls and lost opportunities as benefits.

There were some real differences between us when it came to how we were raised and it made me wonder how we would approach the issue with our kids.
My work situation as a teen was relatively sheltered.

I was a waitress at Big Boy from age 15 to age 17.

Sure, it wasn't the most glamorous job in the world but it was exposure to customer service and learning how the restaurant business worked.

My Big Boy job was also on the low end of part-time - only 12-15 hours a week.

My cheerleading schedule and academics took care of my time Monday through Friday.

I grew up in a very traditional, almost stereotypical Italian family.

We were very family-oriented.

My 12-15 hour work weeks didn't net me a lot of money.

I was very fortunate that my parents chipped in to help with money if I ever needed something for school or wanted to go to the movies.

They knew my after school activities (cheerleading and school clubs) were important and chewed up a lot of time.

My parents didn't give me very much in terms of money, but they definitely helped.

I rarely asked for extra money to go somewhere but when I did, they usually obliged.

Long story short - I didn't have a lot of money but I never went without.

My husband's situation was different.

He started a paper route when he was 14 to buy his own guitar.

My husband was on the hook for most of his teen expenses (gas, entertainment, trips, guitar lessons etc.)

If he wanted something, he had to buy it.

His paper route job led to a dishwashing job at a Chinese restaurant and then a busboy/cook position at Pizza Hut for the rest of high school.

While my husband's teen jobs taught responsibility, they weren't necessarily in fields that taught a lot.

His teen jobs also required him to work a lot of week nights and weekends.

Since my husband didn't play high school sports, he worked between 25 and 35 hours a week.

When we were talking about our teens and jobs, he almost lamented that perhaps he had worked too much and missed out on valuable experiences, or maybe the hours can affect your ability to excel in school.

That said, he did have the pocket money he needed to date, save for Spring Break, and buy all the cassette tapes and guitar lessons he wanted.
Looking into the crystal ball for our kids, it's still way too early for us to make decisions yet as to when or if my kids will need or want to take part-time jobs in high school or even how many hours they should work if they do work.

Both my kids are already showing signs that they want to be heavily involved with high school sports and activities.

I'd like to be able to help them out money-wise, but that's likely going to be difficult.

When I was a teen I could fill up my gas tank for $12 or go to the movies for $5.

It sounds great for me to say I'd pay for some of their non-sports after school activities.

But, the first time they ask for a tank of gas and movie money, and the total comes out to be $75 each, I'm going to do more than blink!

I shudder to think about the look on my husband's face one day when my daughter asks for prom dress or spring break money!
When I was a teen it was "just expected" that kids should just march out and take whatever job, no matter what it was, that came their way.

When it comes to my husband and me, only our fashion choices back then were as dubious as our job selections.

Neither of us regrets working, but we could have done better if we would have thought out our job choices a bit more than we did.

I'd like my son or daughter's first teen job to really help them with a skill they could use moving forward.

Setting up the breakfast buffet at Big Boy or my husband washing dishes at 1 a.m. on a Saturday taught the value of hard work but there was little else we took from those experiences that we could apply to our future.

I'm hoping my kids will be able to pursue a skill or craft that may apply to their future or, at the very least, be a little more selective when it comes to jobs than my husband and I were.

There's a lot to think about when it comes to kids becoming teens and working high school jobs.

I want my kids to learn the value of hard work when they're young but I also want them to focus on their grades and have a social life with their friends as well.

Hopefully they can find a nice balance.

Lisa LaGrou is the founder of She and her team work to present quality content to their readers. Lisa likes to provide information and options for families about a myriad of topics without preaching or condoning. If she experiences something, she want to share it. If she doesn't know about something, she tries to find information to share. She's delighted when people contact her with suggestions about content and resources. For more information on how to become a member of Oakland County Moms click HERE. 

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