Age 12

The one where they get a job.

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Twelve years old is prime time to flex some early entrepreneurial muscle. This is an excellent period to lock in some healthy habits for business and for life. 

Start Here.

If your kid is getting ready to hang a shingle as a babysitter, a gardener, or a mod creator, they’re going to have to set a price for their wares. Determining your “worth” (and having to argue for it) can be a real emotional rollercoaster. The sooner you help your kid get comfortable with their own sense of value, the better.

You and your emerging entrepreneur may want to start with some field research. What are the going rates for the jobs being considered? Do other people in the neighborhood get $10/hour to babysit? If so, asking for $30/hour is probably unwise. But so is accepting $3/hour. Research what others are charging, and suggest a rate at the top of that range. If a customer has a lower rate in mind, your kid can offer to meet in the middle.

Establish an hourly minimum wage that feels appropriate, and then talk premiums. 

Perhaps there are instances that will call for a top up on the hourly rate, such as extra kids being added to an evening of babysitting, or a lawn mowing job turning into a planting and weed-picking extravaganza.

Keep Going.

Practice conversations about value and hourly rates with your kid. Help them strengthen their language, so a conversation about a wage isn’t a hesitant, uncomfortable negotiation, but an opportunity for your child to declare what they’ve determined their time is worth. What should they do if a parent says no to their requested rate? What should they say if the parents don’t give them the right amount at the end of the night? The more they role play difficult conversations, the more comfortable they’ll feel having them in real life.

Finding a wage that feels right teaches your kid to value their time. And, building self worth in these small, tangible ways can have a valuable impact on the rest of their life. As an adult, they’ll find that a comfort with negotiation opens up unexpected opportunities to ask for what they need, want, and deserve, regardless of which side of the table they’re seated at.  

Get This.

Now is a great time to introduce the notion of Opportunity Cost. Opportunity Cost compares the price of doing one thing against the cost of missing out on doing another thing. 

Saying yes to a sleepover with friends on a Saturday night may mean saying no to a babysitting job that would earn them money towards a savings goal. Your 12-year-old will probably choose the sleepover 9 times out of 10, but with the idea of Opportunity Cost firmly planted, you may find that over time, they start to consider their tradeoffs.