Teen jobs: Failure is one step closer to success

86489804-campers280I remember my first summer job! It was waitressing and cleaning tables at a local steak house. It was a very humbling experience, as the first time I delivered a large tray of plated steaks to a table, I didn’t consider the balance of the tray and promptly, dropped all of them on the floor.

In my horror, I looked at the steaks on the floor, and looked back at the customers, who were staring too! I know they were conflicted! They wanted to make me feel better; I apologized profusely, knelt down and began collecting my mess and immediately returned to the kitchen with the order ticket, to have the steaks – PREPARED AGAIN!

I have heard it said repeatedly, every failure is one step closer to SUCCESS! And it is true. So, what did I learn about my job as a teenager. I learned that having a job comes with responsibility. I had to clock in on time, deliver the steak dinners with a smile on my face and confidence in my step. I learned that I could not quit because of one “glass of spilled milk”, that I needed to sweep up my mess, apologize and carry on!

I also learned quickly, that teenage employment is a time to determine the specific skills I have, the skills I want to sharpen, and define the things that I don’t care to do in the future. I have never worked in the restaurant industry since. My decision to work with people in another capacity, education, seems to fit my skill set better!

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Teens and Jobs

girl gardeningTeenagers may view getting a job simply as a way to earn money, and that’s a valid reason to work. However, employment may bring additional benefits to teens and perhaps a few concerns for their parents. Teens who have earnings from a part time job can learn how to save and budget their money. This is important, because money management is an essential life skill. Research shows that youth also learn responsibility and gain time management, record keeping and social skills from being employed. Although, parents may worry that teens who take on a part time job may let their school work slip, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, notes several studies indicating a positive relationship between working 20 or fewer hours per week and higher levels of subsequent educational attainment. Today’s teens need educational and work experiences that will enable them to compete for jobs, excel academically and live healthy lives.

In September, we’ll explore how employment helps teens develop essential life skills.

September 2016


Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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It’s Easier to Do Myself

Ok, I confess. On more than one occasion I decided it was just easier to do a job myself than deal with a kid who didn’t want to run the vacuum or empty the dishwasher. She was busy or tired or just not interested. Never mind that I was also busy or tired or not interested. I think this is one of the biggest obstacles for including children in household chores. They resist and we end up doing the task ourselves because it’s easier. Then we end up feeling like everyone’s personal maid and being resentful.

So how can we get out of this trap? An important piece is to remember that we are teaching life skills. By having realistic expectations and providing guidance, we can get there. One really good rule of thumb is “don’t do things for children they can do for themselves.” Let me give you an example. When a child is young we dress him and tie his shoes. As soon as he is capable we teach him how to dress himself and applaud his efforts to tie his own shoes. The same thinking applies to household tasks. We make the bed for babies and toddlers. But once she can climb in and out of her own bed, she can begin to put the pillow in place and pull up the covers. If we teach children how to do something and continue to offer support, we are on the way to raising responsible kids who can take care of themselves.

Check out Inspire Children to Help with Chores for more practical tips.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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