Motivating Your Kid to Get a Job

Each week Michele Borba answers your parenting questions right here on her blog. If you have a parenting problem or question leave a comment on this post and you may have yours answered next week!

How can I motivate my 17 year old daughter to get a job? She makes half-hearted attempts to find something, and then plenty of excuses why she can't find one. I need help getting her off the couch and into the workforce. -Get A Job

You've hit on the essential parenting query that goes beyond just helping your kid get a job. This is really about "How do you motivate my kid?" And that's a great question because it will impact ever aspect of her life.

There are two kinds of motivation: Outside-In Motivation and Inside-Out Motivation. Your first parenting task is to determine your child's motivation source, then you can create a plan to help her get that job. So think of your daughter and how she handles most aspects of her life. Which of these is most like her?

Outside-in Motivation: Is when the parent pushes the child to do the work, arranging the interviews, circling the want ads, and praising the kid when she makes any attempt or gets that job. The problem here is that the kid ends up relying on the parent to do, push, arrange, praise and basically rescue. The danger is that the child never develops an "I did it!" attitude. After all, somebody else is always going to do, solve, rescue, create, finish for her.

Inside-out Motivation: Is when the child is self-motivated to look through those want-ads, make those phone calls, and develop a job check list. The child's motivation comes from the inside and the parent needs only to stand to the side. This type of motivation evolves over time but you can see remnants way back when your kid did homework in grade school or practiced violin without being asked. An inside-out kid doesn't need mom or dad to praise, push or encourage because she has developed skills such as goal-setting, time management, and prioritizing to go alone.

I'm gathering from your query that "Inside-Out" isn't the best descriptor of your child. If so, don't despair. This can be turned around. In fact, I'm convinced one of our most important parenting tasks is cultivating "inside-out" motivation. Though not easy, it has to be done if our kids are going to survive without us someday, and especially in these tough economic times. You're helping prepare your child for life and is one skill all our kids need.

Here are tips to start that inside-out turn and get your kid off that couch:

Read Mel Levine's Ready Or Not, Here Life Comes! It's a must-read for any parent of an outside-in kid and offers realistic advice on getting children ready for the real world. I highly recommend it!

Assess your child's job-seeking skills. Next, determine whether your kid really has the skills to seek that job. Don't assume she's lazy. She may actually be "failure-paralyzed" or just uncertain what the heck to do. Here are a few critical skills kids need to know: Introducing herself, shaking hands, using eye contact, writing a resume, describing job strengths to an adult, assertiveness, writing goals, searching want ads.

Use baby steps. Teach any skills your child needs one at a time. Start by helping your child set up a job-seeking schedule and reviewing her resume. Make sure knows how to dress for that interview. If she has those skills then fast forward to step four, ASAP.

Step back. Once your child has those job-searching skills then stop the rescuing and doing. Instead start plain expecting your kid to get off the couch, pick up that phone to set up those interviews. Be firm. Pull the plug on the TV. Cut the cell phone privilege and tell her she has to start paying for part of it as well as her make-up or "entertainment needs." Make getting that job more meaningful to her life.

Be realistic.  Actually getting that job may take some time, especially if you're dealing with an "out-side in" kid who is just learning new skills and gaining confidence. Or one of those kids who has been sitting on the couch over the last decade.

Be vigilant. Your job probably will get rejected. Tell her that's what life is all about. Don't let failure be an excuse.


There's a great Navaho proverb that says, "We raise our kids to leave us." It sums up the whole issue about helping your child develop that inside-out motivation.

Click here to read more of Michele Borba's Q&As, or leave a comment below with your own questions and it may be answered next week.



12Secrets_Borba.jpgDr. Michele Borba is the author of over 22 books including 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know.

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