Workplace skills for 12-year-olds?

Dear Shelagh

I have just discovered your advice column and have to say I think it’s a brilliant idea.

I’ve just bought your book for my son who is in his third year at University and I just know it’s going to be a big help – I certainly found it very informative. Thank you for writing it!

My question is about my 12-year-old daughter. I would like to do more for her in the way of teaching her work-related skills. I realise I didn’t really teach my son anything practical (I’m a widowed mom, so there’s no one else to chip in) about job skills or CVs or anything and I want to get that right with my daughter.

Is there anything you can suggest that will help her as she grows up? She says she doesn’t want to read the book!

Concerned Mom


Dear Concerned

I’m so glad you like my column – and thank you for buying a copy of Your First Year of Work for your son. You have entirely made my day.

I can understand your daughter’s reluctance to read the book. I think twelve-year-old girls have enough on their plates as they move from childhood to womanhood, but I really do applaud your decision to teach her some ‘real life’ skills. Sometimes we moms just give up and do it ourselves – which has no long term benefits whatsoever.

Work-related skills for twelve-year-olds in seven easy bullet points:

  1. Teach her about the power of ‘earning’ by matching her allowance to certain extra household duties. I wouldn’t be too soft about this as paying your children to do the chores you least like is a perfect way to introduce her to the realities of work and reward. I haven’t cleaned out a fish tank or picked up dog poo in years.
  2. While I don’t believe that children should be financially rewarded for doing things they should be doing anyway, verbal recognition for keeping her room tidy, washing the supper dishes or making you a cup of tea will reinforce the small delight of knowing that her good deeds are appreciated.
  3. Teach her about money management by opening two bank accounts for her: one for short term savings (holiday money, or new boots) and long term savings (buying a new bike or an iPad). Be wary of lending her money; rather encourage her to save for whatever it is that she ‘needs!’ – and once her monthly allowance is gone, it’s gone.
  4. If you haven’t already started, teach her to cook – not only to cook, but to draw up a menu and shopping list; then go shopping with her so she can learn the value of things, what they cost and how prices vary.
  5. Let her be the boss of something; something for which she has to delegate responsibilities. This need not be a regular thing – perhaps an occasional family picnic or hike. Be there to guide her, but don’t take over. Let her learn from her mistakes (no plates at the picnic!) rather than pointing out the obvious. (This, I confess, is a message to self.)
  6. Consult her. Ask for her advice. When practical, present her with a situation related to home life, your work, an issue with a friend, etc. and ask her what she thinks the best solution would be. Listen to what she has to say, and give her feedback on the advice that you heeded.
  7. While parents sometimes have to lay down the law, allow yourself to negotiate with her: Perhaps she’d prefer to do the Sunday lunch dishes than clean up the dog poo; or perhaps she’s more of a morning person and would rather get up an hour earlier to study than miss her favourite TV show the night before. If that works for you, then be flexible. She will then learn to be flexible in return.

I hope this helps. You sound like a fabulous mother!

Readers, I’m sure you have loads of other practical ideas for Concerned Mom. Please share them below.

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One thought on “Workplace skills for 12-year-olds?

  1. I’ve done quite a few interviews about this exact topic, and there are a couple of things that you can do with a child to get them an early foothold on the corporate ladder (Dear God, do we really think like this?). My understanding is that employers and universities are looking for academic excellence, but from those they will pick the well-rounded candidates – so it is good to have a balance of extramurals that reflect widespread interest in the world. I think that ensuring that there is at least one academic or humanities extramural, and one sporting one is a good way to start (and many schools insist on this), but then expand as her interest dictates. Also try to make it a measurable interest – so, while a passion for an excellence in yoga may indicate that she’s a balanced individual, she won’t be able to get her blue belt or provincial colours in that. She doesn’t have to excel in all her pursuits; being committed to them is enough.
    Academic hobbies are also beneficial – so teaching herself computer programming, joining the local scrabble club or publishing short stories on a social media platform will all look good. Again, these should simply be measurable extensions of interests that she already has.
    She’s too young to start working, but when she is, holiday jobs will help. While waitressing shows responsibility and grace under pressure, working in a book shop has more academic appeal – and of course, holiday jobs at family members’ companies, even if she’s just filing or answering phones, really help. For now, she could do pet-sitting or babysitting in your area.
    And finally, more and more organisations are looking for people with a social conscience. She should start looking at organisations at which she can volunteer in the holidays and on weekends. Try to help her find something close to her heart, so if she loves animals, she could go and help socialised abandoned pets at a shelter, so that it’s not just a CV filler, but actually something extremely rewarding for her.
    Good luck.

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