When I sit down to interview someone for a position with my company, one of the questions I like to ask is how old they were when they had their first job. Jobs for children can be many things—running a paper route, helping serve at parties, or cleaning pools. I tend to look for people who have held a job by the age of ten. To me this says that they did not need to work, but they had a work ethic and were excited about applying themselves. His findings work for me, but you might have different ideas based on your child’s maturity and interests.
When I turned 13, my parents cut off my allowance and let me earn any money I wanted to spend. I was lucky – I had seen this happen to my sister when she turned 13 so I had some time to get ready. And my parents had encouraged both of us to work at young ages, so it wasn’t a huge shock to our systems. The right age for you to push work will be dependent on your children, but know that it’s probably a good idea to let them earn on their own before they turn 18.
What kind jobs for children should your child target? It doesn’t need to be something complicated or high profile (save the management consulting internship for when they are a little older). My first jobs were washing dishes and painting houses; not exactly CEO-level work but great fundamental work. If, for example, the neighbor asks whether your nine-year-old can feed their dog while they go on vacation at a rate of $5 a day, encourage your child to accept. Just a simple opportunity in the vast field of jobs for children, taking on a responsibility outside the home can be a great learning experience, and it saves your neighbor $20 a day at the kennel. If no such dog exists and you’re hurting to come up with ideas, the good news is that there are plenty of resources these days to help guide your child to “employment” opportunities. Using the example of the common lemonade stand, American Express recently outlined the lifelong lessons one can learn from such an idea.
Children’s Books About Work
Daryl Bernstein, Better Than a Lemonade Stand!
Jeff Brown, The Kids’ Guide to Business
Vada Lee Jones, Kids Can Make Money Too!
Feel free to also help them procure babysitting gigs, landscaping jobs, etc. I’m not advocating over-parenting, but if a friend of yours mentions they need a sitter for Saturday night so they can do a date night with their spouse, suggest that your child might be interested in offering their services. About.com has provided a great list of easy, self-inspiried tasks your child may undertake. As is true in the real world of business interactions, once your child starts to establish a network, more and more opportunities will come their way.
As your child gets older, you can assist them in finding formal employment. Their first formal job does not need to be thrilling. In fact, it may be better if it’s not. The idea is to teach your child how to work, not to entertain them. Call me old-fashioned, but I think it’s helpful if their first job is tangible—farming, painting, something that requires use of their hands and bodies and that gives them a healthy respect for physical work. Children spend a lot of time in front of computers and televisions and work can be a good opportunity for some physical activity as well as a financial education.
If your child starts to complain about his job, don’t let that become a habit. Similarly, make sure he doesn’t end up quitting a job for bad reasons. That does not mean you should be heartless though. You should absolutely ensure that they are working for a fair employer, preferably someone you know. You want your child to be treated fairly—in a safe environment. But remember that being treated fairly doesn’t mean being spoiled!
Just a note here: I know some people who pay their children to behave at dinner parties or for making good grades. I’m not a fan of this approach. Good behavior is not a job; it’s an obligation. Getting an education isn’t a job; it’s a privilege. Think twice before you choose money as a motivator for either of these things!