My neighbors, Barbara and Glenn, encouraged their two daughters—one is now in college, the other is out of college—to work from the time they were early teens. How do I know? Jess and Amanda were my best babysitters, but that's not all. Their parents paid them to do jobs that they would have paid outsiders to do—from washing the car to babysitting for younger cousins. As they got older (and their desire for more expensive things outstripped the value of the jobs they had to do around the house), they encouraged them to get jobs as waitresses at the nearby golf course. When Amanda got her driver's license, she added a second job working in a store that sells the sorts of trendy clothes she loves—as much for the employee discount as anything else. Result: The two girls grew up fiercely independent, rarely asking their parents for money for anything.
Working in high school and college seems to pay off later in life as well. According to a study conducted by Roper ASW in 2003 (for my book, You Don't Have to Be Rich), people who worked through high school are significantly more likely to achieve their financial goals and to be knowledgeable about money and investing than those who did not. And they're not likely to do less well in school. Other research has shown high school and college kids can work up to 15 hours a week without negatively impacting their schoolwork. How do you groom a good work ethic in your kids?
Don't give them everything they want
Again, this seems to be a running theme in this program. If you give your children enough money to buy every little thing their little hearts desire, you're enabling them not to value anything at all. They have to want things—and then wait for them—for meaning to return. And you'll soon come to understand that things they buy with their own money have much more meaning to them than anything (and everything) that they buy with yours.
Show them how to search
Trust me on this: Babysitting is not bad work these days. Depending upon where they live, kids in their early teens earn $5 to $10 an hour. But eventually, your children will—and should—want more. Show them how to read the classified ads in their local newspaper, their local newspaper's online advertising section and websites like Monster.com and Snagajob.com (which specialize in hourly work). Sit with them as they make those daunting first phone calls, put together a rudimentary résumé, write cover letters (proofread carefully!) and book their first interviews.