By: Carol Rood
I blame myself.
No actually I blame people who are parenting kids born in the early to mid 90’s.
We messed up.
We did it wrong.
We shouldn’t have listened to the “experts”. I think we should have parented more like our parents did than how we were told was a “better way.”
I am of course speaking about the way we have parented our children who were born between 1992 and 1996. Those who are legally able to work and who have either graduated from high school or will shortly graduate from high school. I have to first say I googled “what do I do when my teen refuses to get a job”. The websites I found were not much help. A couple said things like, “You need to give your teenager positive motivation and explain to them the benefit of having a job.” I don’t think this will work, in fact I think that kind of “only positive reinforcement parenting” is partly what got us into this mess in the first place.
We have become a society that coddles its kids. We never let them fail, we never let them scrape their knees, we never let them fall. And by doing this we never teach them how to be self reliant! How can they learn to recover from a set back if we never let them have any set backs? I experienced this first hand with Bluebell’s daughter. She was struggling in school. Mainly because she didn’t do any work. And I mean to say she really did not do ANY work. She was in danger of not graduating high school. So at the very last minute so that she would graduate, one of her teachers changed her grades from 0’s to 50’s so she would indeed get a passing grade. I have to say honestly that I had mixed feelings about that. On one hand I wanted her to be held accountable for her lack of action, however, on the other hand, I didn’t want her to have to spend another year in school, and I knew she would end up dropping out and would not have her high school diploma. In the long run, not having a high school diploma was a far worse thing than not being held accountable for ignoring your schoolwork. So she was “passed” and graduated.
With my own children, especially with Joe Cool, the older of my two, I have noticed that I let him slide on some things and he doesn’t always learn about accountability. Looking back at it now, I realize I have been too much of a “helicopter parent”, and need to back off some so he can learn to make his own decisions, bad or good. I think it is not too late for me as he is only 15, so I am taking on this challenge for the good of my son.
I have digressed some, so let me get back on track. I think that somehow we as parents have imparted to the youth between the ages of 16 and 20(ish) that they can pick and choose what jobs they want and that they are entitled to always being taken care of. We did such a good job caring for them that they haven’t learned how to take care of themselves. These are some of the things I hear from Bluebell’s son The Hunter who is 17, “But I don’t want to work in the fast food industry.” “I applied online, that is good enough.” “Why should I call the manager?” etc etc etc.
Bluebell’s son is 17 and has been “looking for a job” for about 6 months. His looking consists of applying for jobs online. He has called a few of the places he has applied to, and they tell him to call back next week. He does this usually two times, then gets frustrated and gives up. I have tried to tell him that he should not be picky when looking for a job. I have told him to apply everywhere. I have told him to walk the mall to look for a job. The answer I received regarding that suggestion was, “I don’t want to go to the mall by myself.” I was like, “What are you talking about, this is not a social excursion. You are looking for a job. That is a one person thing to do. NOT a group.” I have told him to borrow my car and go to the places he has applied to and meet with the manager. That way the manager can see that he is a clean cut polite teenager and it will give him a leg up on his competition. Has he done it???? NO!!
Are you kidding, I am offering the kid my car to borrow to do this. Most teens would JUMP at that opportunity! Not him…..
As a matter of fact when I was in our local Harris Teeter the other day I mentioned to the hiring manager that The Hunter had applied at HT at least 3 times. She said, “Him, and 3000 other people.” She went on to tell me that she had recently hired 4 teenagers, and three of them had been consistently coming in to see if HT was hiring. She said, “The “squeaky wheel” gets the job. They are persistent so I know they really want it.” When I told this to our 17 year old he said, “ok.”
We have told him again and again that he will graduate in 9 months and he will want wheels to get to his “real life” job. He is taking welding in school and he is good at it. I fully expect him to get a welding job with a local shipyard, or BAE enterprises, or a welding apprenticeship. Something. How will he get there? I know 9 months may seem like a long way away, but it will go by SO fast!!!
We are at our wits end with what to do. So finally I said to him, “Dude, you are almost 18 years old. I am done bugging you about a job. It is now up to you. You know what you need to do and how to do it. The rest is up to you. Whether you take the bus or drive your own car to your job when you graduate is in your hands.”
I do know however, that The Hunter is not the only youth with these same attitudes. Bluebell’s daughter was being picky about where she worked too, but the fact that she had to move back to our house and sleep on an air mattress on the floor until she saves up some money and can afford her own place made her see things differently.
In fact, Susan has experienced some of this with her own young adult. Bonnie now has a full time job, but it was a struggle, and I know for her as well as other young adults it is easier to sit at home and hang out then look for a job. Because really, what are we parents going to do??? They know they have us over a barrel. They know we aren’t going to let them live on the streets, so they take advantage of that. Maybe a few nights on the streets would be good for them….but I know and you know that really won’t happen.
So what do we do when our teen and young adults refuse to put any effort into looking for a job? I don’t yet have the answer to that I think each parent needs to find a way that works best for their family. But this is so rarely discussed in a meaningful way that I thought I would get the conversation going…
Are any other parents of teens and young adults out there dealing with this? We would love to hear your comments!!