Let the work begin….

“Which job do you want to do this summer.  The youth center or selling papers?” I ask Teen Take-Out (aka TTO) who is sitting in the back seat with his friend.
(wow… strong response)  “You will be getting a job.”
“Would you like to work this summer?” I ask his friend, telling them both it would be a lot of fun if they did something together.
“Oh, I do lots of chores around our house.  I don’t work in the summer.  Not unless it has something to do with playing golf.”
Solidifying Teen Take-Out’s argument than none of his friends have to work.

We’re sticking to our guns on this one, though, regardless of his desire du jour.  He has forgotten, or maybe never even realized, the wonderful benefits of working last summer.  The overall result of his time at the youth center?   A big fat healthy dose of self esteem.  One that I would have tried to finagled for months and never achieved on our own.

The kid worked 2 days a week, arriving at 7:30 am and leaving around 2:30.  The center has a program for the kids while their parents work that includes all sorts of activities ranging from music to reading to games to field trips.  TTO hung with the kindergartners.  A group of super cute kids … and Edmund, his nemesis.  To say Edmund has lots of energy is an understatement.  He pretty much has one speed – Full.  TTO’s most memorable day involved a lovely incident involving Edmund and urine.  TTO had to handle the whole thing himself, including changing PeeBoy’s clothes, disinfecting the floor and surrounding area, and trying to keep hurling jokes at bay.

Despite the horror, great stuff stuck.   First of all a rather entertaining, bordering on heroic, story entered TTO’s repertoire.  Second, self-esteem seeds began to bloom in the form of a kid who knows he can face a fairly unsavory situation, conquer it and live to tell.

He didn’t want to work last summer, but he did. Working doesn’t mean 8 hours, 5 days a week.  It means  answering to authority (other than a parent), a predefined schedule, and some means of compensation.  For us, since our kids are younger than 16, we take care of the money component, considering their employment more of an “apprenticeship” (in true Chuck Bentley fashion … see his March blog entries:  Kids & Work).

So, in the spirit of a fruitful, other-centered summer, jobs are making their way to the front burner for our able bodies. That means Teen Take-Out and Speed Police will be finding gainful employment for a good portion of their vacation. Okay, so maybe I’ll be finding it for them and giving them a choice of one or two options.  

Here are only a few ideas that might provide direction if you are planning to do the same thing.

For the entrepreneurs, there are countless possibilities to use their skills and passion and maybe bring home a little green. Here are just a few ideas:

Car Wash service. Teen Take-Out and a friend did this a couple of summers ago. They basically detailed cars, doing a much better job than the local car wash. They may not have optimized their hourly rate, but car owners still approach me and ask if “Walter Will Wash” is open for business.  (You can keep going on this one… window washing, one-off yard jobs like sweeping/raking, etc.  … lots of avenues here.)

Dog Walking/Sitting. Great help for neighbors heading out of town while leaving their pets at home.  There might even be neighbors whose dog could use some attention while they are at work.  Its fun and financially rewarding.

Day Camps – Create a flier and invite kids in the neighborhood to a “Day Camp” at your home. Provide crafts
/other activities, read stories, play games, and offer a fun respite for a mom so she can have a couple of hours to run errands or visit the nail salon for that long overdue mani-pede.

Lemonade/Home-Made Cookie/Snow Cone Stand.  A few summers ago, Teen Take-Out contacted an estate sale company (a local friend) and put the stand outside her sales. Very profitable, but a little labor intensive for me since the kids were too young to be there alone. It works best for a sale on your block! 

One important aspect of these business ideas is the all important accounting component – Cost of Good Sold. My kids seem to think the lemonade and cookies appear from the sky. We now work on Net Profit rather than Gross.  (Oh yeah, have I mentioned I’m a mean mom.)

Our neighborhood paper often has spots available for kids eager to hit the streets selling door to door subscriptions. We “encouraged” TTO to do this a couple of years ago with a neighborhood friend. He is not a sales man, but still did okay … and maybe learned that he doesn’t need to be in a sales career. One of the girls that sold subscriptions cleaned up. She was motivated!

So many GREAT options here!  Start with a local church and their sure-fire summer programs.  They are almost always looking for able bodies to help herd the kid cats through a waterfall.

In Dallas, there are several youth centers and day camps needing help, even with something as simple as reading to kids.  One of our favorite places to go is Youth Believing in Change.  Everyone in our family family helps.  During the summer we take a day each week to read to the kids at lunch.

Do your kids like organizing?  Head to a food bank (or Good Will, or any charitable thrift store) and help them re-stock or display their inventory.  Do your kids love sports?  Try a Boys & Girls Club and see if they need help getting the kids to burn off their energy.  Ideas are endless in this area… and organizations LOVE the help.  

Remember… the secret to self esteem is getting your eyes of yourself and on to others.

Real work for kids of age:
By law, kids can begin gainful employment at age 14, with some limitations.  The first question to address – What does your child like to do? Work isn’t always fun, but it can be tailored to suit their interest or their aspirations. You might save a lot of heart ache (and money!!) by steering them in a direction they might actually pursue as a career. It would be nice to know, sometime before completing a degree, that accounting drives them crazy, but photography floats their boat. An older teen can get an internship of sorts (might just be sorting mail) at a small, independent law/accounting/PR/architecture/counseling firm or business. Really any area … you both might need to be super flexible and creative in the compensation area.  It will give them an idea of the in’s and out’s of the trade.

Here are a couple of links to helpful sights. The first has brief comments by a 15 year old girl whose internship at a publishing house for a year and a half segued into her publishing a book.

Teens for Hire Today Show interview
Cool Teen Jobs – A nice list of ideas
Love to Know It – Great tips and ideas

Okay … So, my kids have told me I’m a “mean mom”.  Maybe I am … or maybe I’ve been so laid back with them that requiring effort equates to “mean”.   I’m so not a slave driver.  Our problem is that we are always up for a better offer to go to the park, pool, anything fun (which is why I could never home school!).

I need to be proactive because time flies.  As I look at my “baby” who just turned three, I get how fast it goes.  The baby was literally born yesterday!  Flip it to Teen Take-Out, and we have five more years until he’s out of our house (5 years!!).  I absolutely adore the guy, no matter how many eye rolls or gut groans he hurls at me, and I know, better than any
one else, just how much he has to offer the world.

Thus these slightly nutty attempts to equip my kids. I’m just hoping these lame efforts will help them believe in themselves.  Help them tap into some of that talent sooner rather than later.  I’ll let you know the job choice.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

Tune in Wednesday for sweet Lisa Clark’s (Sky Ranch) guest blog.  She is so genuine in her efforts to encourage moms in their parenting.  I am really looking forward to what she has for us.

Also,  please share you summer job ideas on “Comments” below.  We would all benefit from each of your great ideas … the good, the bad and the ugly.  

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