Should teenagers be encouraged to get part-time jobs?


Dear Adele,

Our teenager is experiencing some peer pressure to work at a local ice cream shop this summer with his friends. While it would be beneficial for him to have some of his own money, we are not really sure he is ready to take on the responsibility of paid employment. What are some of the things we should consider, Adele?



Dear Unsure,

The period between 12 years of age and 18, can at times seem very long, when teenagers are stretching their wings and pushing back against some of the basic expectations and house rules. Nature has provided these urges so that the young can test their abilities and ideas for functioning in the world independently while still enjoying the security of the nest. Sometimes a parent will be very impressed with a child’s maturity in a certain area and within days realize the spheres in which they still need to grow and accept guidance. Undoubtedly, the ebb and flow of your teenager’s development is causing you some uncertainty regarding his readiness for the employment market. Let me give you a few ideas to consider before making your decision.

Entrance into the workforce allows your teenager to widen his view of life. He will be required to meet new people and rise to the expectations of a boss and coworkers. When he accomplishes this, his self-esteem will be elevated. This will make him feel more able to cope with adult life, where work will be a major component, most likely. We call this maturation, and the work experience enhances this process for most youth.

Some of the other significant benefits of the teenage work experience are the opportunity to learn and practice life skills. Your teenager will have to prepare a resume and sit for an interview. He will have to develop responsibility by showing up at work on time and carrying out the duties assigned by the boss. He will practice time management skills, juggling the part-time hours of the work situation with his school and extra-curricular requirements. He will have to deal with problems himself and solve them without mom and dad intervening. He will gain experience in a work situation that might provide direction to him for future employment or links to people who might be involved in a career choice down the road. As well, he will practice the productive use of his time.

According to Susannah Snider in ‘The Pros and Cons of Having Your Teen Work a Part-time Job,’ part-time work affords a good chance to earn money. Your boy can develop his skills in personal finance by having a real-world experience with income, monthly expenditures, income tax, and credit. You can help him open an account for savings for such goals as college, travel, or retirement. You can review his pay stub and deductions with him. He can learn about good money management, cost of living, and cash flow.

On the negative side, your adolescent’s employment experience may expose him to people and situations he is not quite ready for. This can create stress and usurp some of his childhood. As well, his time will be limited for extracurricular activities and study. You will want to be careful of the number of hours your child is committed to so that there is a good balance in his life between work, play, and study. You would not want to delay his graduation or have him regularly get lower grades which might endanger his admission to university or college.

Research has shown that students who work more than 20 hours a week are more absent from school, have lower grades than their peers, and are at increased risk of drug and alcohol misuse. Studies also show that students who work 10 to 15 hours of employment have higher grades than those who do not work at all and have higher rates of high school graduation, a lower dropout rate, and a reduced risk of involvement in criminal activity and the juvenile justice system.

The job that your teenager has an interest in at an ice cream store, seems suitable for a child in his age group starting out in the workforce. Other jobs suitable for teenagers include tutor, busser, car wash attendant, lawn care taker, cleaner, babysitter, pet sitter, grocery store worker, summer camp counsellor, field marketer, blogger, farmers market helper, dishwasher, food preparation person, restaurant host, ice cream clerk, lifeguard, grocery store stocker, fun park attendant, house sitter, filler of online orders, ESL teacher, call center representative, telemarketer, ‘To Go’ order taker, box office ticket seller, or library book shelver.

Before your teenager accepts a job, you might want to discuss the pros and cons of working at that position with him. Consider a visit to the place of employment to meet the boss and to be sure that the work is not hazardous in any way. Check that the terms of work are fair and respectful. Ensure he understands the difference between a boss and someone taking advantage of him. Monitor the number of hours your teenager works. Guide him so he has a good balance of work, school and extracurricular activities. Finally, accepting the job on a trial basis if possible, will give rise to some of the difficulties your teenager will be up against for the summer, so problems can be nipped in the bud or avoided altogether.

Overall, the literature is good on teenagers having summer employment or part-time jobs which provide youth with real life experience about the world of work. According to Angus Whyte in an article entitled ‘The pros and cons of teenage jobs,’ “Research shows that in general, working a job has positive developmental effects on the life of a teenager.”

I will conclude with a few quotations about work which might inspire you.

You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.” — Dale Carnegie

Opportunity is missed by most people, because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas Edison 

Sincerely, Adele    

I'm looking forward to your questions! Email me at and please put Heart to Heart in the subject line. Note that all columns will remain anonymous.

Photo: Unsplash