How parents are destroying Millennial’s work ethic

Work brings out the best in kids

I hear a lot of angst and criticism regarding the work ethic of Millennials, some of which is deserved. There has also been much written about how often this age group job-hops. The new normal for Millennials is to change jobs four times by age 32, double the amount of Gen Xers. These young adults are projected to have worked 14 jobs by the time they hit 40 compared to the 11 jobs worked by baby boomers from age 18-48. I believe we are missing the forest for the trees here. The most important difference between work histories of Millennials vs. boomers occurs BEFORE 18, not after.

A friend recently told me he had worked 20 different jobs by the time he turned 21, and at first I didn’t believe him. I then counted out the number of jobs I had worked, and I came up with 15 by the time I turned 18 years. My first job was selling newspapers on the corner of a busy 4-lane street from 4-6 PM Monday through Friday, rain, sleet or snow. I did this for three years from age 9-11. I moved onto cutting grass, shoveling snow, baby sitting, working at summer camps, washing cars at a dealership, and working on a farm two summers.

For the past 15 years I have asked groups of successful business men and women how many of them had a job by the time they were 12 years old, and invariably all if not most raise their hands yes. When I ask them how many of their children have worked a job by that age, I rarely get any raised hands. We have forgotten the value of holding a job during childhood.

Many teens tell me their parents won’t let them work because they don’t want them to get overloaded and stressed out; their schedules are already overfull with school and activities. Parents also don’t want their teens distracted from getting straight A’s and padding college résumés with achievements. Young adults going off to college are even discouraged from working for fear of getting overwhelmed. It’s no wonder then that Millennials lack a good work ethic; they were never allowed to develop one.

Teen girls I work with LOVE their jobs, even menial work. This is especially true of mature teens: they love being out in the real world connecting with people of all ages, making money, and feeling valuable. It’s one of the few places where adults take them seriously, give them real responsibility, and treat them like adults.

It’s more difficult when you’re older to develop qualities like street smarts, self-motivation and responsibility, the ability to deal with different kinds of people, and managing the ups and downs of life. If you’ve been reluctant to let your kids have a job, I’d reconsider.



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