First Job Ideas for Your Teen

Help wantedThis just in: Tween Girl wants a job. Well break out the banners and the shimmery confetti. I couldn’t be more proud that she at least wants to work and earn her own cash to blow at Claire’s and Forever 21. 

The only problem is she’s 12 and, technically, she can’t start working until she’s 14. In most places, anyway. But not to discourage her desire to be independent and enterprising, I’m looking for ideas on how to usher her into the working world in a way that develops responsibility and doesn’t burn her out too fast.
A job would be especially good for her since my beloved struggles to appreciate the value of money. Once she starts making her own, I suspect she’ll understand a little better why I’m such a fan of sales and generic products, and why expiration dates on certain food items mean nothing to me. Yep, that’s right. I can hear some mothers gasping while I type. 


But I’m an armchair conspiracy theorist, and I’m a firm believer that some (not all, mind you) of those dates are designed just to make consumers toss out otherwise good merchandise for the sake of going out and forking over more cash for the same thing that may or may not be fresher. Boo hiss.  

I don’t know when or how my child became so conscientious, but she now checks box lids, carton creases, and the sides of bags to reassure herself about the use-by date on our stuff at home. My message to her: you’ve made it this far and, as your mama, I certainly would never put you in danger intentionally, but until you buy some groceries or pay some bills, tuck it away. How in the world can someone forget three homework assignments in a row but think to check an expiration date anyway? Puh-lease.

Now with the possibility of a job on the horizon, maybe she can prance through the wonderland of Whole Foods freshness. 

Her employ is also a bonus for me. As it stands, homegirl has no issue with losing stuff I’ve paid my good money for. Lost school sweater? Ah, no big deal. Prematurely torn bookbag? It’s all good in Skylar world. But I bet you once she starts spending her own money on her own things, she’ll value them a lot more. I remember my mom giving me the same lecture — particularly after I got my braces off as a kid.

For some reason, I just couldn’t hold on to my retainer. It was like it came fitted with a magnetic pull that lured it into the trash. So after the second time of dumping it along with my lunch, Mommy warned me that if it happened again, I was going to be paying the $80 for a new one out of my own pocket.

Ummm yeah. Here’s the abbreviated version: the garbage ate my retainer, my mama — never one to not keep her word — refused to buy me another, replacing an orthodontic torture device was the last thing I thought about whenever $80 slid across my hot little hand, and — badabing — some 15 years later, I was being outfitted with my second set of braces as an adult because my teeth had shifted. Oh, the domino effect of improper dental care.

I say all that to say I want the girl to understand early that you may not always get to use your money for fun and frolic but that part of the responsibility of making money is also assigning it to less-than-glamorous things, like (ugh!) bills and (ack!) car repairs. Not that I’ll force her to foot too many of her own expenses this early in life. Just enough for her to get a taste of reality outside of “Mommy, can I have ...? or “Mommy, I want ...”

She’s determined to be a babysitter. I vote that one down simply because that child still needs me to nip at her heels to remember the basics — like the homework — let alone be charged with the care of a younger kid. She’ll be rarin’ to go next summer and I’ll need to have some alternatives on tap.

So fellow Stirettes, any suggestions on something a soon-to-be 13-year-old can do to make a little part-time money?

Image via bgottsab/Flickr

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