How to Teach Your Children the Life Shaping Value of a Summer Job

Teaching Your Children About Money Series - Jennille's Story

Think back to your first summer job.  Mine was polishing cabinets and scrubbing toilets at a cabinet factory.  I certainly didn’t feel like that job was shaping my life, but it was.  In countless ways.  Not to mention I know roughly nine different cleaning solutions for polishing high-end counter tops.  Now THAT’S life changing information.

Today we are joined by blogger, business woman, Colorado native and mother of two, Jennille.  Not only did she teach her son the value of working a summer job, but she helped him tough it out and raise $2000 on his own to go on a trip that would impact his life forever.


Please tell us a little about yourself and your family.

My name is Jennille.  I am 38-years-old and have been married for 16 years.  I have 2 children.  My son is 12, and my daughter is 10.  I am employed full time as an optician (repair, help pick out, and adjust glasses) at a local eye clinic.

I also am building a color & inspiration business on the side where I help people choose colors for their homes & businesses.  The inspiration part comes from helping them choose vinyl lettering and expressions to accent their new paint.  (If you are wondering more of what that is, here is my vinyl website


What teachable moment regarding your children and money would you like to share?

Where to begin?!?  A brief family history is where I’ll start.  I grew up with an engineer father who was very intentional about teaching me about money (ie. saving and tithing).  I didn’t necessarily apply those lessons until I got out of the house and on my own.

My husband grew up with parents who told him that since he had worked for his own money (ie. through paper routes, mowing lawns, etc.), he could spend his money however he wanted—no teaching about really taking care of his money or planning for a rainy day, etc.

When we got married and had our own kids we needed to come together.


Fast forward to a year and a half ago…My then 11-year-old son was offered an opportunity to go on a trip sponsored by one of his teachers to Washington DC and New York City.  It was pretty spendy—as in, he needed to raise $2,000 to go.

Now my son is a natural saver, like me, but he did not have $2,000.  We knew he was interested in going, so we told him he could go…as long as he came up with the money.  We were clear that we were not going to pay for it.  We don’t have credit cards and didn’t have an extra $2,000 lying around, so it was up to him.

The group did a few fundraisers, but that really didn’t contribute more than about $100.  We talked about what he could do to come up with money and decided lawn mowing was probably the easiest way for him to raise it.

I posted on Facebook saying that he was raising money for a trip and did anyone need their lawns mowed.  My friend’s mom saw the post and told us that her (grown) son was looking for someone to mow his lawn.

We connected with him, and my son, Aidan, mowed his lawn almost every Saturday for the entire summer.  He also had another lawn that he did every other Saturday, in addition to mowing Grandma’s lawn.

He raised about $1,500 before the summer was done.  That was huge, but it was really hard.


When the going gets tough:

As you can imagine, an 11-year-old quickly got tired of getting up early every Saturday to go mow other peoples’ lawns, even though he was getting paid well for it.  We treated it like it was his own business.  He paid for gas out of his profits, but we did let him use our lawn mower.

About 2/3 of the way through the summer, he was ready to quit, even though he had made so much progress towards his goal.  The trip seemed so far off and was such an abstract concept that it was hard to keep him motivated.

He was supposed to have the entire balance paid before March 15th, but still owed just over $200.  It actually came due while we were on vacation.  We got a phone call from the travel company and ended up paying it.  Then he had to work it off when we got home (which was a good lesson in why we don’t have debt!).


The trip took place 4 days after school got out for the summer.  He was a bit nervous before he left which means he was quiet and cranky.  I drove him to the airport early on Sunday morning and he barely let me take a selfie with him.


He went with his classmates and 3 adults.  There were 18 kids, in all.  He had an AMAZING time and absolutely loved it!

They kept the kids going the entire time, so they didn’t have opportunity to get in trouble.  They saw every monument and museum in Washington DC and then traveled to New York on the last 2 days where they saw the 9/11 Memorial, the Statue of Liberty and an off Broadway show (Wicked).


Being the natural saver that he is, he only took $50 spending money (even though) he had more.  The precious part is that he spent most of it on gifts for everyone else and only bought himself a hat.

About a week or so after he got back, we were making dinner in the kitchen when something came up about his trip.  He turned to me and said,

It was really hard, but it was so worth it.

I got forklempt and just hugged him.  I thanked him for saying that because it was really hard to watch him struggle and not rescue him, or make him give his money to another kid.

There were plenty of times that he wanted to quit…but he didn’t.  That in itself was worth putting up with the hard parts, but for him to say (without being asked!) it was worth it?  Oh my goodness.  That was worth everything.

He came back a different kid in many respects.

  • I felt like he had all of a sudden grown up.
  • He flew across the country without his parents to 2 huge cities (we live in small town, Colorado), and loved it!
  • His parents weren’t there to tell him how to respond.
  • His parents weren’t there to hold his hand and make sure he got along with his roommates.
  • He had to figure it all out.

What a gift.


What is the most rewarding part of the experience for you?

The most rewarding part was when he told me it was worth it.


What is the most challenging part of the experience for you?

Not saving him when it was hard for him to raise his money and trying to motivate him to finish what he started.  This momma doesn’t quit!  Let’s finish this thing!


When you were a child, what was your favorite money moment?

Hmmm…this is a little trickier.  While my dad was very intentional about teaching me about money, I feel like most of the lessons were as I got older.  We would sit and talk about money things at the kitchen table when I was in high school.

When I was younger, I used to help balance the checkbook.  It was a simple adding and subtracting exercise (before computers did it all for us!!).  I felt pretty grown up helping with that.


Let’s say a young couple with a newborn sits beside you on a bus.  They lean over and ask you, “What are the three most important things we should teach our child about money?”  What do you tell them?

  1. First, be the example.  It’s important for our children to see that money doesn’t rule our lives, but instead is a tool that many good things can be done with.  Money makes a great servant, but a poor master.
  2. Second, we must be intentional with our money.  It doesn’t just accidentally go into savings or into a budget, or generously spent on a friend in need.  It takes thought, preparation and discipline.
  3. Third, there must be a balance of saving and spending.  Too much of one or the other is a bad thing.

Here are a couple of Jennille’s blog posts where she talks about this topic more:


This article is part of an ongoing series called “Teaching Your Children About Money”.  If you have a teachable moment to share, please feel free to tell me about it at lauraharris(at)piggybankdreams(dot)com.


Join the Discussion:  What was your first summer job?  How do you think it shaped you?

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6 thoughts on “How to Teach Your Children the Life Shaping Value of a Summer Job

  1. Thank you for the opportunity to share about my son! I love what you are doing. Keep up the great work!

  2. Great story! So great to see that you had him see it through, what a great lesson for him. It’s so hard not to rescue them isn’t it? Looks like it was an amazing trip and one he’ll always remember. Good job mom!

    • I admire her ability to see it through as well, Audra. It inspires me to stay strong when my kids start testing their limitations and abilities like that. Thanks for reading!

  3. Great story. Glad your son stuck it and and achieve his goal! My fist job was delivering newspapers, it taught me hard work, getting up before school to delivery the papers and the fun it was collecting the money each week from the customer.