Letting Teenagers Quit Can Save Your Relationship

a teenage girl looking at the camera with her hand held out in front of her face

For a long time, I didn’t give my teenagers room to choose for themselves what they do for paid work. But when I finally did, it changed everything!

We didn’t listen to them at first. We insisted they continue what they were doing and didn’t realise that they had got to and age and stage where

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Instinctively we want to ensure our kids learn to finish things, follow through, finish what they start etc. It can get really tricky when they want to choose for themselves to quit and we think they are opting out way too soon.

Our thought is if they could just change their attitude and stop complaining the job would be done already!

Am I right?

But what happens when continuing on, in the same way, can be more damaging and how do you know? We realised this with our own kids aged 13 and 15 years who have been doing a community job for about two years.

We couldn’t see things had changed. They had changed.

They loved their job at first, especially the pocket money that they got. They even enjoyed the task, it was always a job, but it was pleasant enough. Now that they’re getting into high school, they are far more pushed for time.

They began pushing back on continuing to do this job and we sent the pressure back saying, it’s not that hard, and made it very clear that if they quit the money would stop so might as well keep at it.

I liked the way things were, I was comfortable.

I loved knowing that they had a job, paying their own way a little and learning about money.  It wasn’t much money, but it didn’t come from me so I was very reluctant for them to stop altogether, especially if they didn’t have anything else to go to yet.

And so we got through each delivery day, and the weeks went by and we keep doing the same thing. The kids are whining and moaning about their job and complaining about how tedious it is.

Where they just being lazy?

Originally we assumed they were being lazy and thought we had to push through and deal with the bad attitude.

For about 6 months we tried a few different things. From taking our hands-off completely not being involved at all to forcing them into really good habits, and getting it done no matter what! They did it, but they still hated it with a passion.

I often complained that they were giving me so much hassle on this. I wondered how I could get them to want to do it?

We realised our part was done.

And all of a sudden it came clear to me that I was never going to be able to make them want to do anything.  My job was done already. They know that money is an exchange for something given, I wanted them to know the value of a dollar. How to earn it for themselves and to value the effort that purchased it.

How to complete a commitment, because they always had, for two years, they had biked around the neighbourhood and delivered papers. But now they’ve moved on. They want bigger jobs, bigger challenges and commitments, they want bigger money.

They want to move on to better things. Better work stories. Better money.

So who am I to stand in their way, enough’s enough, we need to quit. I’m done. I don’t want to be their boss or manager anymore! They can go get a real-life job for a person that isn’t me! They’ve got ideas about what they want to do in the future and it’s not a paper run.

When is quitting a bad idea?

Sometimes quitting isn’t a great idea, but there isn’t a black and white answer to all of our different children.

There are so many different scenarios for every family but there are a few hard facts you may want to consider;

  • Quitting halfway on a major project for no good reason is a fail. C’mon, follow through!
  • If they decide one day they want to stop, ask in your heart of hearts, have they really given it a good shot.
  • When they desperately need the cash for a debt they do need to continue until they find another job alternative

Sometimes quitting can be a great idea.

Things can be glaringly obvious that they need to say goodbye to a particular job;

  • When the work environment seems unsafe or unhealthy by your standards
  • When your child is obviously miserable and desperate to stop working for a good reason
  • Anything negatively impacting their education so they don’t have enough time for it

The freedom from quitting can be so rewarding!

What is best will be different for everyone, you have to observe and try things to find what is right for you.

In our family situation, quitting was a good thing.

  1. We can breathe the quiet nag-free air.
  2. We’ve now got 3-5 hours of free time each week to do…anything else!
  3. They’ve got time and motivation to get another job they DO like. 

My kids want to move on. They want more, my job is done, and now I can let it go.

Allow kids room to think and have a say.

I agree with quitting if it’s well thought through with good reasoning behind it.

Maybe it’s a music or dance lesson? Maybe they want to do a different instrument? Sometimes allowing them to choose helps them take a lot more ownership of it.

Allowing teenagers to make some decisions if you think they are ready is so good. My kids had been telling us they wanted to quit long before we knew they should quit. And I’m so glad I listened in the end.