Parenting Productive Adolescents: Advice Needed 1

I must have struck a chord with my previous post on helping (encouraging/ coercing) your adolescent to get a first job. I thought I provided some practical advice but received several emails asking for more. So, being the full service organization we are, here is my follow-up post with more suggestions for raising children who aren’t still sleeping in your basement until 3 pm and sitting on your couch eating potato chips and playing video games the rest of the time.

Canoeing down the rapids(If they ARE playing video games, make sure they’re educational  – Fish Lake runs on Mac and Windows ).

Just like sex, working is something you shouldn’t wait until your child is old enough to be doing it to bring it up.

I’m not suggesting you put your 8-year-old to work as a chimney sweep or out on the corner selling newspapers like something by Charles Dickens. However, you should have conversations early on. Ask your children what they want to do when they grow up. It’s fine if they don’t know, but by the time they are 12 or 13 , you should be talking about it more specifically. You want to be  a pediatrician? You’ll need to go to college and then medical school. You’d like to run a business? What kind of business?

Make sure you know the difference between wishes and plans

I’ve asked eighth-graders what they want to do as a career and gotten answers like “baby docter”  or  ‘sumthin with ingineering’.  The odds are not great of you succeeding in a profession you can’t even spell. It’s more than that, though. Kids will know little more about a job than the title and tell people that is what they want to do as a career because it sounds like a good thing to say. As my lovely daughter, Julia, says,

You shouldn’t decide to be a doctor just because you like Grey’s anatomy on TV.

The reason I said that you should be talking to your child about careers by age 12 or 13 is that many jobs require a college degree. Getting into a four-year college usually requires a minimum number of courses in math, English, science and foreign language. You can find the requirements for the University of California here. If you hear people refer to the “a through g requirements” , this is what they are talking about. Notice that they don’t just say “three years of math” but that the math needs to include advanced algebra and geometry. Certain majors, such as math or physics, may require more.

It’s pretty discouraging to graduate from high school and find out that you need to take another year of courses at a community college to get the  prerequisite classes you need BEFORE you can even start on the four years for your degree.

Focus on academics !

Did you know that less than a third of eighth-graders are proficient in math? I’m continually surprised when I look at the performance of people on simple math tasks , whether they are in middle school or adults , they can’t compute 20% of a bill for $45. Divide by 10 and then double that amount. Divide by 5. Multiply .2 by 45. They can’t figure it out.

The situation is almost as bad when it comes to reading and writing. If you can’t write a two-sentence email without making two or three mistakes in grammar and spelling, your career is going to be limited.

No one wants to be the bad guy. No one wants to fight with their kids about homework. You should be looking at your kids’ school work every night when they are in elementary school, and at least every week from middle school on up.

If they are anything like my kids, you don’t even have to ask them to see their school work because they will leave their papers laying around the house.

Yes, all the way through high school, I did check their work from time to time to see how they were doing, not just what grades they were getting,

Here’s my point – you can have all the heart to heart talks you want about independence, the dignity of work and self-esteem but if your adolescent can’t read or do math beyond the fourth grade level, their career options are going to be limited.

Of course, we have games for all of that, in fact, our first bilingual game, Making Camp Bilingual, is available on the app store for $1.99 now and on Google play (sign up to be a tester and download here, since the Android app is still in beta). You can learn Spanish, English and math. (As some of our Mexican viewers of our youtube channel have pointed out, I should really be playing in Spanish to improve  my grammar. I feel such shame.)


I’m writing this post on the Amtrak train to San Diego and Eva wants me to wrap it up so we can go to the dining car and get her third – or is it fourth – round of snacks. So, I’ll have more on raising productive adolescents in my next post.



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