This is Life, Based on a True Story  

Teens at work

One of the most biggest milestones for most adults is their first paying job. 

Not just the babysitting job they did one summer, but the first job in a store, restaurant or gas station.

That first job morphs children into young adults when they have to make choices, learn new skills and be accountable to more than just themselves.

That is why I get so frustrated when I hear how kids sometimes get treated at these first jobs.

Both my kids work. At the ages of 14 and 16, they’ve both held jobs for the past two or so years by their own choice. Also because their dad and I opted out of being ATM machines when their wants far outpaced our paycheques.            

My kids and all their friends work in the service industry for minimum wage. These kids give up their evenings, after school and weekends to serve us coffee and burgers and assist us at the change room at the clothing store.

Often, one of my kids will come home after working, complaining about how someone treated them or their co-workers. 

I’ve had talks with fellow parents whose kids work and am shocked to learn that their children have also experienced similar treatment.

So who’s the culprit? 

We are. Adults. The people who frequent these places. And those who manage or own these places.

The largest employer of kids getting their first jobs is the fast food industry. It is absolutely crushing to a kid’s self esteem when they feel their managers don’t listen to them or mistreat them. Or when customers verbally thrash them.

Here’s an example. My son was so excited to get hired. He provided the workplace a wide-open schedule for his availability including being willing to fill in for people who were sick or no-shows.

Not only did he not receive any hours, but the establishment hired more kids and essentially forgot about him. 

He tried calling the person making the schedule to request hours. He’d hand in written requests for more hours, but the request never seemed to make it to the right person. 

It took over a month for him to receive his first paycheque because someone kept forgetting to put his name into the payroll system.

The enthusiasm quickly dwindled. He didn't feel valued as an employee. Additionally, on the times he did work, he’d hear the managers gossiping about other employees.

What’s maddening about this type of situation is these places are notorious for high staff turnover. Is it a mystery why when this is a common treatment?

There are countless stories from my kids and their friends about how their leaders can beat them up at these workplaces. 

We train our kids to adults, but the behaviour isn’t always reciprocated ... and if the kids do stand up for themselves, they’re seen as insubordinate.

Here’s another spin on adults behaving poorly to our kids at work.

My daughter works at a retail store. A year ago, she got into a disagreement with a girl at school her and it  didn’t end well. However, they ignored each other and handled their situation with maturity, so end of story, right?

Nope. A couple of months ago, the mother of this other girl went to the store while my daughter was working and confronted her about the fight a year earlier. Not just confronted, but followed my daughter around the store until she cornered and threatened her. 

The store manager had to intervene. My daughter was upset and embarrassed by the whole thing.

How is this acceptable?

A customer swore at and belittled my son for something beyond his control. The adult also happened to have his own older children with him and they witnessed everything. 

This translated into my son being bullied at school the next day. A prime example of how our kids follow our lead.

I’m not saying the managers of these establishments are bad or that all customers act this way. Managers have their hands full trying to manage a roomful of hormones and we, as customers, get frustrated if our standards of service are not met.

There’s nothing wrong with that; as long as we remember to not take it out on the poor kid just punching in our order.

On the flip side of grumpy managers is this story:

A manager of a fast food chain went above and beyond to make sure one of the employees got home safely after their shift ended. 

This manager would go out of his way to drive the kid home because the buses had stopped running to that kid’s neighborhood when he got off work. The manager felt it was his duty to ensure the safety of the employee even after work was done.

Interestingly, this manager was very well liked by the kids who worked there and they would usually always show up for their shift when that manager was working.

The idea for this column came from a reader who was frustrated by what she was witnessing at her child’s workplace. It wasn’t until I started talking to other parents that I realized this frustration is shared by many – including me.

Whether you’re a customer, or an owner/manager remember these kids are just beginning a lifelong journey of working for a living. 

They’re often doing the best they can and will have many a bump in the road. Guidance and encouragement will go much further than criticism and yelling. 

Give them a good memory of their first job. 

If you have a subject you’d like to bring out in the open, please send me an email. Thanks for reading.


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About the Author

Tanya Gunderson has been writing for the heck of it for many years. Her inspiration comes from her kids, their friends and the craziness of life. She takes great pleasure in exposing life for what it really is and has an open-book approach to her writing.

Her formal education and background include a blink-and-you miss-it stint in the radio and television industry, but it gave her an opportunity to write professionally on a few different occasions.

Email: [email protected]



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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