Workin’ It

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m 15 years old and in the 10th grade. I will turn 16 just after school lets out for the summer and I want to get a job. However, my father won’t let me. He says that I’m too young and that he works to support his family. I think I understand his point, but I don’t like to ask my parents for money and I want to have my own.

A: Wow. I must commend you for your desire to work during your summer vacation—and for starting to think of it so far in advance. It shows maturity and level-headedness that many kids your age (and older) lack. So kudos to you. Be careful, though, there are parents all over the country who would love to have you come to their house to give their teens a pep talk.

At the same time, I have to applaud your father for his sense of responsibility and devotion to his family. You have a wonderful dad who clearly would like to offer you all the financial advantages, while allowing you to enjoy your teenage years without the burden of working. Plus, he’s got another point. Depending on where you live, you may be legally too young to have a job—and even if you are able to work, there may be some restrictions on the number of hours you can be employed.

But none of that really makes much of a difference because you’re almost 16 and you want to earn some money of your own. So the big question is, “How do you go about convincing dad?” Well, as in many situations where two people disagree, communication and negotiation are the best approaches.

Here’s what you do. Sit down with your father and tell him why you want to work and the kind of jobs you’d apply for. Then listen carefully. If he’s concerned about your safety, assure him you won’t be working nights or evenings and that you’ll confine your search to jobs that are within an easy and safe commute to your home.
Beyond the safety issue, your father might also be worried that a job could create added stress and affect your school performance. Obviously, your education comes first, so reassure your dad you’ll maintain your GPA—and keep that promise. As a kind of preemptive strike, make sure you don’t slack off on your regular household chores. Your job should fit in around your other responsibilities, not replace them.

You might also be able to sway dad to your way of thinking by telling him why having a part-time job would be beneficial to you. A few reasons you could bring up:

  • A job will help you develop a sense of responsibility, self-esteem, discipline, feelings of competence and independence—all qualities that will serve you well in the future.
  • Working will teach you a variety of useful skills—getting along with bosses and co-workers, following instructions, dealing with public, and managing money.
  • You’ll develop a better understanding of the value of money and hard work—you’ll appreciate the fruits of your labor all the more because you earned it, not because it was given to you.

Once you get dad’s permission and get a job (and I’m sure you will), make sure it doesn’t take over your whole existence. The key to a healthy and balanced life—especially for someone your age—is to make time for school, work, family, friends, and to allow yourself plenty of time to have fun and just be a kid.