Why I'll make my kids get Saturday jobs as soon as they're old enough

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

I started working at my local chemist a week after my 16th birthday. It was my first Saturday job. I would have signed myself up before that if I had been allowed. I was keen to start earning some money and although I relied on my mum to drop me off, I experienced a surge of independence.

Having a job wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be. For a start I had to be at the chemist by 8.45am on a Saturday morning. I then spent hours working the cash register, getting confused about the change and feeling embarrassed about the frilly pink apron I was forced to wear.

During my short break I would scoff sugar free lollies (the only type we sold in the chemist) in the staff room and daydream about how I could spend my hard earned cash.

Look, as first jobs go it wasn't the best. But it wasn't the worst either (I've definitely had worse since). I didn't exactly enjoy the experience, but at the same time I recognised that it was a rite of passage.

It taught me to really value money – when I understood that the trainers all my friends were wearing would take me six weeks to save for I realised I didn't want them that badly after all. When I realised the sausage roll and can of drink I had bought for lunch cost nearly half a days wages I took more care to make a packed lunch at home.

Those big money lessons are just as valuable as anything I learned in school. And so it surprises me to read that younger parents are discouraging their teenagers from getting Saturday jobs because they are distracting.

Oxford Home Schooling found that while a fifth of those aged 55-64 thought weekend jobs were a good thing; only three in 10 parents aged 25-34 agreed. And when asked if a Saturday job was "too distracting", six times as many younger parents agreed, compared with the older parents.

Saturday jobs do mean time away from study and extra-curricular activities. But the pay off is a deeper understanding about the value of money, a greater sense of responsibility and work experience which could even pave the way for a future career.

Having a Saturday job can also prevent teenagers from developing a toxic sense of entitlement. I remember kids of my own generation who seemed to get everything they wanted handed to them on a silver platter. I might have been jealous at the time, but now I understand that working for my money gave me more in the long run.

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I want my daughters to understand the value of hard work – to understand that they can't have every new thing they want just because they want it. I want them to learn how to make good financial decisions and not fritter away money like it grows on trees. I want them to grow into conscientious adults that can be trusted with real responsibility.

By getting a Saturday job they will also learn other important life skills such as time management and planning ahead (washing their uniform in time for their shift and working out the bus time table).

I also want them to have fun – to make new friends and learn how a bit of camaraderie makes the boring stuff go faster.

They will learn all these things and more at their first Saturday job. And that's why I will be nudging them towards those application forms the moment they are old enough.