This school year my teenage son regularly pulled down $100+ a week buying and reselling hot clothing items online. When I say a week, I mean in an hour because that’s about how long the transaction would take from start to finish. He’d get up early for a planned shoe or clothing “drop,” click “buy,” and unless his timing was off, he’d have the coveted item in his cart before it sold out in five seconds. Then he’d immediately sell it online for more than he paid. Once the item arrived at our house, he’d ship it to the buyer.
So yes, he has cash to fill his own gas tank and shell out for a night at the movies, but is this “easy money” teaching him the wrong lessons about working? With his bank account being replenished weekly with little effort, it’s hard for me to convince him that yes, he should get a job this summer. Especially when the majority of moms I know have their kids lined up for enrichment classes, volunteer work and intensive sports workouts.
These moms aren’t alone — in many communities, the summer job has gone the way of Pong, as teens opt for what many parents believe are more purposeful activities. In fact the Bureau of Labor Statistics found the number of working teens is down almost 30 percent from 1978.
But I believe that lifeguarding at the neighborhood pool or whipping up smoothies can be just as important as perfecting your swing or honing your Spanish.
Here are the life lessons I hope my son will learn from a summer job.
HE’LL LEARN TO APPRECIATE THAT WORK IS HARD
My oldest son was shocked by how rude people were when he was working the gate for the community baseball team last summer. He couldn’t believe the sighs and annoyance when a fan was delayed a second or two by a crumpled ticket that wouldn’t scan properly or when he was confused by a free pass that he didn’t recognize. His own fumbles gave him a new perspective and layer of patience for other workers who might also just be learning the ropes or be dealing with unwieldy systems out of their control.
Work is called work for a reason. It’s not always fun and it’s not always easy. And you don’t learn that until you actually start regularly working an eight-hour shift.
HE’LL REALIZE THAT “ON TIME” IS A REAL THING
If my kids are expected home at 6:30 for dinner, it’s not uncommon to get a text at 6:34 that says “OMW!” which they believe then absolves them of the responsibility of being on time. But when they clock in on a time card at their summer job at 8:34 instead of 8:30, that’s probably not going to fly, and they will be unpleasantly surprised to have their pay docked. I’ve explained to my kids that the boss doesn’t care that you had to stop to get gas or the parking lot was full, and certainly doesn’t want to hear that you are “on your way!”
HE MIGHT COME UP WITH A WINNING COLLEGE ESSAY
This summer we start down the road of brainstorming college essay topics. When it seems as though the vast majority of kids are building homes overseas or raising funds to cure cancer, I think that some application readers are going to be wowed by simple stories. And as throwback as it sounds, that might be discussing the quirks of human nature my teen observed while working at the local carnival or the satisfaction of helping a shy kid master a new skill at youth camp.
HE’LL FIGURE OUT THAT MONEY DOES NOT GROW ON TREES
Even though I admire my teen’s entrepreneurial acumen, I’ve told him it’s not sustainable. And I think he’s going to have a whole new attitude about blowing his paycheck on takeout when he does the math to see he had to work three hours (before taxes) for that sub sandwich and soda. Suddenly the free leftovers at home are going to look a lot more appealing.