Challenging economic times are spurring many U.S. families to take on extra jobs for more income. These side hustles can create important learning opportunities for your children to discover values such as goal setting, collaboration and a strong work ethic.
Parents can help introduce these values to their children in resourceful ways that strengthen existing family relationships and problem-solving skills.
Here are some examples for further inspiration to decide what works best for your family!
- Teach entrepreneurship through small business ventures.
Perhaps the most direct route to business acumen involves child entrepreneurship, sometimes called “kidpreneurship.” Encourage your child to consider monetizing a favorite activity or hobby such as crafting, cooking or coding.
Lacey Blamire was 13 when she started managing a virtual café on Roblox, an online gaming platform. Already she’s learned administrative skills such as hiring real-life gamers for her café, enforcing codes of conduct and designing outfits.
While she can’t earn real dollars in her business yet, Blamire has earned plenty of “Robux,” or game currency, through her own boutique.
“It amazes me that she’s learning so many real-life things through this game,” said Blamire’s mom, Lindsay. “I’m hoping she can earn some real money for what she’s doing.”
Lindsay is also planning to help her daughter post a portfolio of her custom designs as soon as she’s old enough for freelance work.
Even if your child can’t think of a favorite pastime to monetize, suggest something they can already do well that provides a valuable service for friends and family.
Household tasks such as lawn mowing, cleaning, babysitting or leaf raking (especially in the fall!) all contribute to a sense of purpose and satisfaction when children have finished the project and received a reward for their efforts.
- Reframe chores either for allowance money or as preparation for real-life vocations.
Speaking of household tasks, can your children take advantage of everyday chores to learn skills for the real world?
Absolutely, according to the Therapy Tree clinic, which has locations in Arizona. Its website lists 20 developmental benefits to children when doing chores, including:
- Improved fine and gross motor skills
- Practice in delayed gratification
- Better self-monitoring and evaluative skills
- Stronger work ethic
- Preparation for more complex tasks
- Greater sense of ownership
For best results, chores should always remain age-appropriate and grow in complexity over time. Parents should model each task first, then do it together with the child.
Finally, children can try performing the chore completely on their own – described as the “I do, we do, you do” approach.
The website provides examples of these chores from ages 2 (e.g., picking up toys, folding dish cloths, etc.) through 12 and beyond (e.g., car washing, cooking meals, etc.).
- Mentor younger children.
If your children are in middle school and beyond, consider letting them serve as mentors to younger children.
Such protocols existed more formally in the early 1800s through the “monitorial system,” where teachers outsourced much of their classroom duties to exemplary students.
These even included high-level tasks such as “catching up kids who had missed class, examining students and promoting them to different classes, taking care of classroom materials, even monitoring the other monitors,” according to History.com.
While the practice disappeared from mainstream education, the initiative of older children mentoring younger ones still exists in countries such as Finland. Its “buddy up” strategy pairs 6th-grade classrooms with 1st-grade ones.
American educator Timothy Walker notes how these older buddies “seemed to boost the first-graders’ sense of belonging at school.”
“On the playground, during those fifteen-minute breaks, I’d see first graders tagging along with my students and hugging them incessantly,” he wrote in his book Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms.
- Create a system for “client/consumer feedback.”
It’s never too early to emphasize the importance of customer service. Whether they’re doing chores or running their own business, encourage your children to ask for comments and pointers on their “job performance.”
These can range from informal questions such as “What did I do right?” and “Where can I improve?” to more advanced questionnaires sent by online survey platforms or Word documents.
When constructing this feedback system, give your children freedom to explore the ways they most want to receive constructive criticism.
Not only does this help them stay invested, but it also prepares them for real-world skills, in relating to customers outside their immediate friends and family!
- Explore group field trips.
Programs such as the School of Economics can help introduce life skills and economic principles to children in a fun, easily understandable way.
For example, the Mini-Town divides students into “producer” and “consumer” groups. Producers operate various businesses and organizations to earn two paychecks. They may also complete loan applications and work on teams to create their products.
Meanwhile, the consumers arrive later in the day with spending money already earned. They can browse and “window shop” the producers’ handiwork to decide which businesses will get their money.
“The economic concepts of scarcity and opportunity cost come into play in very real and tangible ways,” the program’s website explains. “Based on the choices, students can conduct a personal cost-benefit analysis.”
- Introduce your child to your workplace.
Some of my most enduring childhood memories involve visiting my dad’s workplaces.
I remember exploring several offices over the years as my father’s career spanned several companies. I got to see his desk, sit in his chair and type on his keyboard – all under supervision, of course!
Bringing your child to work can implant similar experiences for the next generation. Children often love to mimic their parents and envision themselves working the same or similar jobs.
Additionally, feel free to take this opportunity to spark discussions about your work, career goals and professional abilities.
- Introductory classes, apprenticeships, and first jobs for high school and beyond.
Students in high school should spend at least part of their time exploring vocation options and focusing their skillset.
First jobs in retail and hospitality may not factor into your child’s overall career path, but they can help improve their communication with others, multitask under pressure and adapt to working in shifts.
If your children are interested in construction work or other skilled trades, they may want to consider apprenticeships with an experienced professional or national organization related to their interests.
Finally, introductory classes at a local community college also can help students decide future careers. For example, if your students are interested in the legal profession, they could take an Introduction to Law course for a year and gain college credit at the same time.
Many companies are seeking capable, hardworking employees even in this challenging economy. By implementing these steps and strategies, you can help your child earn some extra income now, while positioning them for future success!