MORE THAN FUN

Forget vacation—Summer is the perfect time to put your kids to work

Taking a break.
Taking a break.
Image: Reuters/Eric Gaillard
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Never is the work/life balance of a small business owner more challenging than in summer.

If the very mention of summer raises your blood pressure, you might be looking for ways to keep your kids out of your hair during the long weeks of summer break (me too!).

You don’t want your kids plopped in front of the television for three months while you work. But with a little creative ingenuity, you can keep them busy, teach them something, and get your work done on top of all that.

They’re never too young to work

Many small business owners dream about passing on their business to their kids eventually, so what better way is there to get your kids invested in your brand than hiring them to help out? Assign your kids tasks based on their age and abilities.

For kids under 10, keep the tasks simple, but make them feel important. They make great envelope stuffers, sorters, and filers (and get to practice their alphabetizing skills at the same time!).

For tweens and teens, find tasks that will maybe pique their interest in what you do (or even help them really understand it for the first time): you can turn them into your administrative assistants, filtering through emails, reading documents, or organizing your mail. Heck, they might even be able to teach you a thing or two about social media!

While you shouldn’t necessarily hand over your social media management to your teens, you may be able to glean valuable tips and tricks from them. They can help you look for relevant tweets, articles, and people to follow, and then you can review any work they do to make sure it resonates with your brand message.

Giving kids work assignments teaches them the value of hard work, as well as the pleasure of doing something they might be surprised they actually enjoy doing. If you’ve struggled to get your kids to sit down to do their homework, you might be surprised at the change you see after a summer of hard work. Understanding the importance (and benefit) of taking work seriously at an early age can set children on the trajectory for success in school, and yes, life. I have met many people who had small jobs as children who now, as adults, have a better appreciation of those valuable life lessons learned early on.

Keep it serious

Create brief job descriptions and detail expectations (as well as offer some kind of compensation or incentive), so that they know you are serious. You could even hold a mini interview to give them a taste of what it’s like to apply for a job. Teach them to talk about their skills: “I have experience reading, and am a great speller, so I could organize your files.”

 Let them know that you are relying on them to do a good job. If they understand that they will be compensated at the end of every day or week, they should be motivated to get the job done.

Treating your kids like adults (at least, in their eyes) and putting them through the interview process teaches them invaluable skills about understanding the assets they bring to a job. The interview process, too, will be an experience they can practice as the time comes for an actual interview (even if it’s at Baskin Robbins) draws nearer.

Give them—and you—a break

Hard work deserves a reward. Give them and you a time to play with friends and unwind. That might mean sending them to camp or taking the day off yourself and going to the museum or beach.

It’s important that your children know that adults have fun, too, and balance out their hard work. They may see you as “all work and no play,” so show them that it’s important to you to find equilibrium.

Feel good about the lessons you’re teaching

Even if they moan, groan, and complain, your kids are learning valuable lessons in working for you. They see how hard you work to make your small business thrive, and they want to be a part of that. You’re also instilling in them fantastic work ethic that will carry through their entire lives. Who knows? You might even inspire them to start their own businesses one day!

Follow Melinda on Twitter at @SmallBizLady. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.