Lots of parents today are trying to figure out how to keep their teens productively busy. Most of us will agree that there should be time devoted to just being a kid. But the job of a kid has changed over the years. Being a kid used to mean activities like playing board games, jumping rope, playing softball and hide and seek as well as many other activities that included imagination, physical activity, teamwork, mental stimulation and fresh air. Being a teen used to include hanging out with friends, attending school functions and seeing the occasional movie. Today’s youth seem to have a more limited set of activities, many of which fill time rather than contribute to wonderful childhood memories. Examples of this are watching television, playing video games, and using electronic devices such as smartphones, computers and tablets. Basically, if they need electricity (and Wi-Fi) to have fun, I have alternate ideas. Not ideas for entertainment, but ways to make money while fostering a sense of responsibility, creativity and accomplishment. This is not directed to the parents who are perfectly fine with the status quo. If you are a parent who wants to redirect the energy of your teens without them having a traditional part time job, read on for suggestions.
Parents are always looking for babysitters and a great one can make some serious cash these days! The best way to find a job is through word of mouth. I found a good one when my kids were small. You know you’ve found a professional when she shows up with a backpack filled with activities. She was confident, popular, and not shy about stating her rate. I loved that she had other plans besides watching a movie with my girls! When my youngest daughter was bored, she would go play with the twins that lived behind us. They were much younger than her, but I’m sure their mom appreciated that she kept them occupied for a while and I was happy that she found something creative to do!
I realize that childcare is not for everyone, but pet care is appealing to a pretty wide audience. There are many different opportunities.
- Vacation Care: We used to have a neighbor boy come and take care of our guinea pig and later on our dogs while we were on vacation. It was fun for him because he didn’t have pets. It was less expensive for us than taking the dogs to a kennel. Though they never said, I think the dogs appreciated not being locked up in a cage for a week.
- Dog-walking: Lots of people would love to have someone stop by during the day to walk their dog or provide some companionship. This is a great summer opportunity, but can even be done after school for those who get out early enough.
- Yard clean up: Being a Pooper Scooper is not a glamorous job, but the opportunities are everywhere and there is the potential for higher pay and less competition!
Cleaning Trash Cans
I have a friend whose teens got paid to clean out trash cans this summer. Everybody has one and most people would probably be happy to delegate the job if someone were to just show up and make the offer! Just like Pooper Scooper, the potential for pay is higher than average and the competition will be lower.
With all of the working folks being so busy these days, there is bound to be someone close by who would pay to have someone vacuum, clean bathrooms or kitchens, dust or any other task that can be negotiated. My daughter organized the pantry for me recently, which I appreciated immensely since her organizational skills are far better than my own! I just had a conversation with friends who told me that their 6-year-old assists in cleaning the floors and bathrooms. There is great satisfaction in learning to do a job competently and parents can encourage that with plenty of praise and patience.
Many working families would love the opportunity to come home to the occasional meal prepared by a competent and willing chef. The cuisine does not even need to be complicated…just ready to eat!
I’ve lived in my current home for more than 12 years. Not once has someone knocked on my door and offered to mow the grass. At my house, there were two teenaged girls to cut the grass and occasionally, I did it myself. I’m not going to lie; they didn’t love it, but I was perfectly ok with that. I view the task as an abundant opportunity for anyone regardless of age or gender. The same friends with the floor cleaning 6-year-old have an 8-year-old son. He is already beginning to cut the grass at home while his father works with him to do the detailed work. He even had the neighbors ask him to cut their lawn!
This opportunity is obviously regional and seasonal, but is great for filling a need for someone else while earning money and getting fresh air.
Again, this one is regional and seasonal. Last winter, we had a lot of snow in a short time. I had help shoveling for the first two days, but on the third day, I was alone and exhausted. I had read in our neighborhood’s on-line forum that there was a young man in his early teens who was traveling around the vicinity with a snow blower. I was very excited; not just to find help, but to see a young man who was aggressively pursuing an opportunity to earn. Read more about Tyler in “Today a Flying Unicorn Landed in My Driveway”. https://wordpress.com/post/the-launch-lady.com/98
Some teens are qualified to provide tutoring to younger children. This includes assistance with reading, math and test preparation. Parents of younger children will appreciate having a respectable teen as a role model for their child.
Speaking from personal experience, not everyone is comfortable with today’s technology. Every time I get a new computer or phone, I enlist the help of one of my favorite millennials to get it set up! There are a lot of people like me out there who don’t have their own millennials to ask for help.
What all of these jobs have in common is that opportunities are abundant, flexible and are usually within walking distance. I know that we are all well aware that these opportunities exist, but for some reason, I don’t hear of many teens capitalizing on most of them.
These opportunities to earn are some of the more obvious ones. There are so many ways to grow your family’s economy that can fit in around school and family time yet still allow for plenty of free time for enjoyable activities. Just because we are able to give our kids so much more than our parents gave us doesn’t mean we should. I know many present day teens and young adults who have learned self-sufficiency at an early age because more has been expected of them compared with their peers. I can assure you that they will appreciate money earned far more than any handouts received. Finding opportunities to earn at an earlier age also provides a great start to money management. Earning allows teens to set short term goals like buying a video game or long term goals such as buying a vehicle or saving for college. As you help coach them to find ways to earn, be sure to keep your own gender bias from getting in the way. I grew up in a family with all girls and then I had only daughters. As a result, I’ve defied the boundaries for tasks that were traditionally thought to be assigned to a specific gender. The best part about these options is that they are not only for teens but anyone who is looking to earn spare cash. You would be doing a great service to your offspring if you don’t give them the impression that they are above doing any of these tasks. In my opinion, any job on this list is far more desirable than college debt (or any debt at all)!
What Can a Parent Do To Increase Motivation?
- Severely limit all screen time which just might bore them to death
- Drop them off at the library when they can’t find something to do
- Give them responsibility for some of their wants
- Cars are great motivators to earn
- Smartphones are also great for inspiring one to work
- Cash for movies, fast food, etc.
I hope you find these ideas to be useful or can see them in a different perspective from before. Word of mouth or on-line neighborhood forums are great places to find these jobs. If you see a home that is perpetually in need of yard maintenance, help your teen learn initiative by offering to walk up to the door with them as they ask for the job. My goal has always been to teach my girls to become independent young adults after their formal education ended. Whether you share my goal or if you are just trying to keep them from too many non-productive pursuits, I hope this has been helpful. Please share if you think this can help someone else. Leave a comment if you have some other earning ideas or if you have a story of an amazing child, teen or young adult that you’d like to share.