Monday, September 14, 2015

How We Got Our Teenaged Son to Find a Job

Our son has just crossed the threshold into the working world.

A few months ago, his computer broke. For some of us (adults) this is a sigh-moment. Even a da*n-it-moment. For others (people younger than us) it's THE END OF THE WORLD.

We try to be honest with our children as often as possible and there was never a more painful moment than I announced, in response to his coy statements about how computers help with homework, when I revealed to my doe-eyed son: We don't have the money.

THAT was the motivating moment. That was when Alex knew: he needed to find his own money. Somehow.

Let me be very, very clear: perhaps we could have bought a computer for him. But that would mean we would have to delve into credit and empty out our accounts of meager savings. Is that smart of us? Is that a good example for him? Nope and nope.

It's a difficult balance with raising teenagers who have desires beyond your wallet. Sometimes it's important: school supplies? shoes? underwear? We'll make it happen. Sometimes.. it's a little vague. New backpack? More markers? Weekend trip with friends? Sometimes... we have to say no, but it's a bit of a bummer. Your own TV? A new outfit just because? The latest smartphone? Sometimes, it's crystal clear that we can't do it.

Involving our children in the conversation of what is affordable for us and what is not has been a little embarassing at times, but over time, they have become less demanding. It was an educational process, too, for both of us.

I think it was important for us, as parents, to NOT always say, No, no, no. I think it was important for us to splurge a little, to show that we can enjoy ourselves once in awhile, without feeling too guilty. Family night out at the movies, pizza for dinner, etc, the latest video game, etc.

Since we did NOT always say no, when we DID say no, I believe we then gave our Nos more value in their eyes. They understood that this time, NO is because we truly couldn't do it.

When Alex knew he had to find his money, I said, on impulse, "Can you sell anything?"
I am a frequent Craigslist seller, so that was my go-to for extra cash.

I wanted him to to sell something he no longer cares about. I had to intervene a couple of times because in his passionate zeal to gussy up the money, he suggested selling some of his more sentimental items - and I could tell he was torn up about it. Taking a breath, I pointed out that he had two side table lamps - which were in addition to his giant room lamp and the solar tube -  and two side tables. Three weeks later, he sold one bedside table and both lamps. $45.00

From there, he became inspired and encouraged. He sold a push-mower for $50.00. An analog TV which I had gotten for free from a hotel sale for $45.00. His dad brought down some electronics parts that we had discovered in the house and together he and our son decided which were sellable and which were not. They explored Ebay and Craigslist. Alex also leaped into the Amazon opportunity and sold some DVDs and old video games.

Alex then tried applying for jobs. His options are limited as a teenager with no car but we were hopeful.

We tried to go door to door in the local business park which was within walking distance of our home, but he lost heart after the first attempt when he was told, "No, sorry, no work for you." It IS a little scary for young people so I didn't push too hard.

He tried applying for a local treat shop position for a place he could ride his bike to. No answer yet, two months later, even with follow up emails and calls. I told him to let it go. It is his secret Dream Job. I hope they respond one day. ...

The clincher though was my husband asked a friend of ours, a successful realtor, if he had any work Alex could do. I had expected filing or something. Lo, and behold, my son was now in the lawn mowing business for a few of his properties.  We were excited for Alex, and so was he, but there were many lessons to be learned in his first business venture, as the first time out, Alex lost money because he didn't negotiate too well. Another problem was he didn't have the right equipment for this one property which reportedly had chest-high grass. My husband said, of course, we must get a new tool! and ran out the door to pick up a motorized blade thing. He does things like that.

The positive side of this connection with our realtor friend is that when he gets these jobs, they'll likely be on the weekends. My husband was really concerned about his working as a teenager because he did not have a good experience working while in high school. Money and new friends made for a powerful distraction from his studies.

We are especially proud of our son for working so hard toward his goal. I know it's a valuable thing, to learn how to earn money, and how to earn money specifically for a goal. I think it was also valuable for our son to hear those words; We can't afford it, son, we love you, but we can't do it. And rather than leave that as a wall, we made it a door. What can you sell? What can you do? Let me show you Craigslist. Let me show you Ebay. Let me show you Amazon. Proverbs 22:6 NAB.

Final Note:

Occasionally parents fall into this stupid mental trap, "Oh, he'll figure it out." That is such crap. I believe our role as a parent is to encourage and to provide opportunity. If we just leave our kids hanging at the moments of crucial decisions, we lose out on an important chance to inspire, encourage, and develop.  It IS true that young people are resourceful. It is also true that young people who are often frustrated and directionless - due to a lack of guidance - morph into negative, downtrodden young adults. You know them. They always see the "can't" do, versus the "can" dos.  I know we don't want more of THOSE people, so we should own up to our part in making sure that we produce more "can" do people.
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