Cars For Kids

by Finn

In a recent post, Fred mentioned that he might be buying a car for his DS in the near future.

Providing cars for our kids is not something we’ve discussed much here, and this seems as good a time as any. This is especially the case for us, as DS now has a learner’s permit, DW and I are getting tired of driving him to his activities and would like him to be able to drive himself, and DW has talked about getting a new car for herself and letting DS drive her current car.

Totebaggers with kids at or above driving age, have you provided cars for your kids? If so, what kinds of cars? What responsibilities did you tie to the use of cars?

If not, how did you juggle your existing vehicles to allow your kids to drive? Or, did your kids just not drive during HS?

Many years ago, a coworker told me he had his kids pay their own insurance premiums to drive, and educated them on how moving violations would affect those premiums, and how his kids were extremely careful as a result. Would you consider this?


171 thoughts on “Cars For Kids

  1. a coworker told me he had his kids pay their own insurance premiums

    That sort of implies they have a job. We have a few folks here with kids 14-18. Do any of them work during the school year? And by “work” I don’t mean the odd babysitting gig, I mean 3pm-9pm a few days a week at the Piggy Wiggly.

  2. We’re a way’s off from this, but my eldest would like a Wrangler.

    This is one of those areas where DW is much further than me down the spectrum of “Deprivation for its Own Sake.” In part because her Mom was home all the time when they were in HS, DW always had to ask specifically to take the car anywhere, and they only had two cars, so MIL would often just drive them. And she’d pick them up from whatever school activities they were involved in.

    My parents were reluctant to “give” us a car, but once my brother started driving we always had three in the driveway, and it wasn’t an issue unless someone was grounded.

    I think we’ll most likely follow my arrangement, with some symbolic nods to DW’s mentality. And I didn’t pay for gas or insurance until I graduated from college.

  3. I think my parents bought my a car (can’t remember exactly) but it was awful, this little Plymouth Horizon that used to stall all of the time. I remember having to pay for gas, can’t remember about insurance in high school but I know I paid for it in college. I did have a job. I think I was pretty responsible anyway so paying insurance premiums or not would not likely have made me any more careful.

    I would likely buy or hand down my kids a car because I would want them to be in something safe. Would probably tie it to some sort of curfew adherence and keeping grades up.

  4. I know insurance cost varies by state, but to add a male driver under 25 in NY to a policy is expensive. My FIL was still paying the premiums for my nephew until about a year ago, and I think it was approx $2500 extra per year to add him to my SIL policy. I know that one of our babysitters uses most of her babysitting money to pay for part of her car insurance and all of her gas.

    We just picked up our new car this weekend and most of our neighbors asked if this would eventually become DD’s first car. It is a lease, so this won’t be a car that we own in six years. We definitely want her to learn and drive on a sedan vs. large SUV when she starts to drive.

    Our neighbor bought out the last year of a lease for their son because he will leave for college next year. They found an Accord for him. They said he struggled to drive their Surburban because it is just too large as a first vehicle. The guy that used to write the Auto column for the WSJ wrote a great article a couple of years ago about the best cars for teenagers.

  5. Our kids are late bloomers and never drove in high school.  But then my H and I hardly drive, putting only about 5k miles per year on our one car.  We’re finally buying a second car as we transition from 2 drivers to 4 in our family.  I anticipate our kids will be using our cars to drive to jobs and other activities over the next few years, and I expect we’ll be paying at least part of their insurance costs.

    Any advice on car buying?  I like Fred’s buying strategy that he posted a few months ago, where he contacted about ten dealers for quotes and then chose the best.  Even easier, Consumer Reports has a no-hassle Build & Buy Car Buying Service that lets you pick among local “certified” dealer sand offers a guaranteed savings of MSRP.  That sounds like less work, right up our alley.  Anyone tried that?

    We will probably buy a small SUV or maybe a small sedan.  I want something that’s easier to park than the 13-yo minivan we own, and it turns out that small SUVs are generally similar in size to sedans, only taller.  We place a high premium on dependability and low maintenance.

    Here are our top choices based solely on Consumer Reports:

    Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium 2.5i Premium 4-cyl CVT Price as tested: $26,814
    Honda CR-V EX EX 4-cyl CVT Price as tested: $27,500
    Toyota RAV4 XLE XLE 4-cyl Price as tested: $26,802
    Volkswagen Tiguan SEL SEL 4-cyl Price as tested: $37,020
    Subaru XV Crosstrek Premium Premium 4-cyl CVT Price as tested: $24,215

    Subaru Impreza Premium sedan Premium 4-cyl CVT Price as tested: $21,345
    Kia Forte LX sedan LX 4-cyl Price as tested: $19,570
    Hyundai Elantra SE (1.8) GLS 4-cyl Price as tested: $18,445
    Mazda3 i Touring (2.0L) sedan i Touring 4-cyl Price as tested: $21,740
    Volkswagen Jetta TDI TDI 4-cyl Price as tested: $25,100

  6. In MA, most middle class or UMC people in the burbs purchase or assign the kid(s) a dedicated car and they are not permitted to drive the other family cars. It isolates the insurance cost. We do something like that for our cars – DH is allowed to drive mine as an occasional driver, but since he has a separate insurance policy on his car in his own name his considerable points are all assigned to that policy and the policy on my car, or any new car I buy, is protected from the bad driver surcharges. I don’t know if that works in other states. And everyone who can afford it and lives in the burbs gets the kid a car. It relieves the parents of so much driving, but removes the punishment factor since the inconvenience to the parents outweighs the instructional value of that particular punishment. A kid who has a real job and pays for most of his auto expenses is not usually a UMC resume builder.

  7. I used Fred’s advice and I was able to get a very fair price to lease the car. My trade in was a mess, but it doesn’t sound like you will have that issue. I ultimately received the same price for the lease from two different dealers and I went with the guy that I liked better. Fred’s method saved time for us.

  8. Growing up, we had three cars and the two driving-aged kids at home at anytime fought over the preferred vehicle, with the loser having access to the Volare station wagon with vinyl seats and only AM radio. That child typically made a friend drive.

    When my oldest started driving, we already had three cars, so she had one she could drive. One day, a friend’s college aged daughter was killed in a wreck, and a co-worker’s family was devastated by a terrible accident. I became obsessed with car safety and air bags, and bought a new car (sight unseen) based entirely on Consumer Reports safety rating. At the time, I worked at home, my husband was driving 2 miles a day to/from the park and ride, and the new driver was driving 40+ miles round trip per day to her school. She had the least experience and was driving the most miles, so I wanted her ensconced in air bags. She did not work and did not pay her own insurance.

    My second child will be driving soon and we are trying to make a plan insuring a teen boy here is very expensive. We will need a fourth car because logistically we can’t make sharing work. He is not materialistic at all – wants something not expensive and that gets good gas mileage. Again, with his 20+ mile daily round trip, I care most about safety. If anyone has recommendations, I’d love to hear them. My husband wants a new vehicle, but I don’t want to give my son a 14 year old truck with minimal safety features until he’s a much more experienced driver. I’m thinking Honda Civic-type vehicle, and am open to something a few years old or new.

  9. “UMC resume builder” Maybe we should shorten that to UMCRB, pronounounced “umcrub”. :)

  10. My oldest is a year away from driving age, but I doubt it will happen then. He just is not trustworthy enough to drive – not because he is a bad kid, but because he is the kind of kid who literally walks into walls. Happily, there is little need. We live a block from his school, and are close to train and bus stops. His therapist just moved to an office that he can get a train too – woohoo! He can walk to many of his friends houses. It will be interesting to see when his friends start driving – none of them seem like the car types.

    I actually was in grad school, age 22, when I learned. I graduated from HS when I was 16, so didn’t have much chance though I did have a learners permit and took drivers ed. I went to college in a city with great transit, and we were not allowed to have cars on campus. In 4 years at college, I only ever knew one kid with a car, and he sold it a month after he bought it!!!

  11. kid who literally walks into walls

    The perfect candidate for Subaru’s lane departure warning and pre-collision braking.

  12. We’re picking up half of the cost of the car– and covering basic insurance. They cover any increases in insurance (due to tickets or accidents).

  13. CoC, instead of the Forester, consider the Outback. I have one and love it – and I am not someone who tends to love cars. On of my local friends, someone I think you have met, bought the exact same model and color a week after we did, and she also loves it. Only problem is that we confuse our cars when we both come out of a local kid event.

  14. My DS will start learning to drive this summer. We will most likely get a third car. DS will have to pay for gas, registration fee, etc., but we will pay for insurance and any repairs.

    MIL is thinking about giving us a 1996 Acura Integra with 90K miles on it. I like the “free” aspect of it, but am worried about safety.

  15. My parents had to basically force me to get my license before senior year of HS. I was so over-scheduled that car time on the way to sports and such was when I did most of my homework, and I did not want to give up my free chauffeur service. Plus drivers ed does a little too good of a job of scaring conscientious teens that they will kill themselves and/or someone else in a car accident.

    My parents were generous enough to upgrade to a new car at the time I got my license and let me drive the 10 year old economy car. That’s been passed down through all my siblings.

  16. I expect both our kids to be driving when they eligible. Kids in our neighborhood drive small SUVs and on weekends they even drive the family’s huge SUV with the parents in the car. I’d rather have my kids learn to drive because that means I will not have to drive them. The distances are not far and they are on local roads to get to most places. I didn’t learn to drive in the U.S. until quite late and I hated having no option but to wait for public transport or call a cab. There were some of my friends/relatives who didn’t drive either but they forced themselves to, because otherwise the places they could get to were limited even with public transport.

  17. This is one of those areas where what I do now is so completely different from how things were when I was a kid. (No parents bought their kids cars back then – if you wanted a car, you paid for it yourself. If the family’s cars were in use, you rode your bike). To some degree, it bothers me and makes me think I’m being way too indulgent. But that’s knee jerk. If I look closely at the facts, they are so different for my kids than they were for me that I realize I simply can’t apply the WhenIWasYourAge standard to this and be reasonable.

    So, ignoring what my parents did/didn’t do for us, we went this way with our kids: DH held off on getting a new (to him) car until our elders were 16. At that point, he got his new (to him) car and we then had a 3d car. I don’t make them pay for insurance and gas. At the time they started driving, they were both in crew, which took about 20 hours/week. With homework on top of that, no way could they work. Plus, it was worth a lot of $$ to me to have them take over my shifts in crewpool, etc. We have discussed that if they were to drive long distances for their own purposes, maybe we’d have them pay for gas but thus far, they drive at least as much for us as for themselves — half the time they’re driving themselves, they’re driving another of our kids as well, or doing errands for us, etc.

    I haven’t added it up, but if I did, with 4 kids and many activities/kid, plus school, plus errands, I’d bet I’ve gotten back at least 5 hours/week of free time that I used to spend driving. It could be more. And it’s not really the time, but the interruption in whatever I’m doing. My afternoons, evenings and weekends feel so much more relaxed. I’m so grateful to be done with that that I’d pay almost any price to enable others in the house to drive.

    Ours will do a lot of extra driving for us if we ask them — and often they volunteer before we ask: picking up the youngers and their friends, shopping, various other errands. I had nothing to add to the Target discussion because I haven’t set foot in it since DSD got her license, over 2 years ago. She’s always going for make up or whatever and always offers to get whatever I need. I’m hoping not to set foot in the place until after our youngest moves out for college.

    My DSD’s mother gave her an old car, which means our two never have to share our 3d car. This is huge for us — not because they weren’t quite capable of sharing, but b/c they’re both very busy and their combined use of one car would’ve resulted in our having to drive sometimes. So, we decided to pay for the gas in DSD’s car, too. All of the gas, not just the days she’s here.

    As for types of cars, we decided to keep the 3d car in good condition rather than getting them a new or lease car. It’s an Audi wagon w/ all-wheel drive. When it has snow tires on, it’s fantastic in the winter (and it’s pretty good without them, too). It sits low to the ground and isn’t particularly heavy (compared to a sport ute). Seems like a better thing for them to drive than the Flex, so we’ve thus far decided not to give them the Flex when I need a new car, but to trade it in instead. The Audi is actually fancier than I think kids need — leather interior, sun roof, good stereo, heated seats — but it’s getting old, too, so it’s not like they’re driving around in a flashy new Benz, so I can live with it. We tell the mechanic that we need it to keep running until the last one is out of HS, and he assures us he can make that happen.

  18. That Subaru auto braking system is appealing — I’ll check it out. I prefer the Forester over the Outback simply for the smaller size.

  19. Are the expensive teen insurance rates significantly reduced if the policy is not carrying comprehensive or collision coverage on the vehicle the teen is primarily driving?

  20. CoC – I’d be interested to hear your impression of the Kia and Hyundai. I’ve never driven or ridden in either of those brands, but those price points appeal to me.

  21. Driving my oldest around has not been too onerous, except for the 40 minute each way weekly jaunt to the therapist, but now he will be able to bike it or take the train one stop. And honestly, time spent driving my kid is time spent talking to him, so I don’t like to totally lose that time.

    I don;t know about auto-braking, but when we were in Europe last summer, we rented a car with the most HIDEOUS collision detection system. Basically, you could not park the car without all kinds of loud warning announcements going off.

  22. I am in the middle of this – sort of. My DD is hesitant to get her license and it is driving me nuts!! As a single parent it would be wonderful if I didn’t have to juggle ferrying her around. I also put off buying a new car, planning on her using my old one and fully plan on buying her gas and insurance. I also planned on requiring her to get a job or find a volunteer gig this summer – but she really can’t if she wont get her D#@!M license. So I told her she is going to work at home this summer (laundry, cleaning, babysitting her brother) and I will not be adjusting my work schedule to drive her anywhere anymore – she can take the bus. I don’t think she will ever get her license unless she starts being inconvenienced by not having one.

    I paid for my own car, gas and insurance from the time I got my license and I started working about 6 months before getting my license to save up for the car. I was just thinking about how much better cars are now, mine was always breaking down then, but I never worry about my 12 year-old Highlander breaking down.

  23. Milo, looking at the policy from when my daughter was 16, we paid about $1200/year more for her, with all applicable discounts, than we paid for my husband or me. The Comprehensive coverage made up $30 of that. The bulk of the higher rate was in the Collision ($280), Bodily Injury ($370) and Property Damage ($400). That was six years ago, and it’s much cheaper for girls, so I am not looking forward to seeing the premium we’ll pay for him.

  24. I realized another thing – although I did not drive in HS, I also did not get ferried by my parents. There was a big reason – we only owned one car. My father always had it, so the rest of us were on foot. I used to bike or take the bus all over town.

  25. HIDEOUS collision detection system

    Was that autobraking/collision detection or was in the parking sensors*? Those are two different things.

    * The ones that beep faster as you get closer to an object while parking?

  26. I have no idea. It was a rental car, rented in a country where I did not speak the language, so I knew little about the car. I just hated being screamed at while trying to park

  27. “Are the expensive teen insurance rates significantly reduced if the policy is not carrying comprehensive or collision coverage on the vehicle the teen is primarily driving?”
    Yeah, they would be.

    “And by “work” I don’t mean the odd babysitting gig, I mean 3pm-9pm a few days a week at the Piggy Wiggly.”
    Yeah, our kids have worked, mostly Sept – March (youth ice hockey season), Refereeing ~4-5 hrs/wk @ $25/hr. Much more effective, right Rhett? Sure some specialized skills are required, but that’s why the pay is so good.

    Lauren, Thanks! Which dealer? I might be buying one like that for me in ~18 mos or so.

    I have a lot to say on this. Our approach when the oldest got his license was like Risley’s.

    Assuming DS2 actually gets a summer job, we’ll buy him a car. That’s the carrot. The truth is, even if he doesn’t get a summer job, we’ll buy him a car by the time he goes back to college in August: (1) he has been kicking butt on the grades, dean’s list and all that and (2) unlike DS1, he’s about 2-2.5 hours farther away one way, and a royal pain having to take him there and fetch him…some carpooling is possible, but not as easy as we thought given the large number of kids we know who go to that school. But I’m sure he’ll get a summer gig so we’ll be a 4-car family within a few weeks.

    This one is a car guy. Meticulous. I am planning to get him a smaller, safe SUV with all-wheel drive that gets decent mileage. Planning to spend <=$12k + tax, etc. I am actually pro-SUV because it enables the self-transport of all (or a lot of) their stuff. I found the one I want to get at a dealer I have bought from before about an hour away but I don't know it'll still be available when I'm ready to buy.

  28. MBT and Fred –

    So then that would make a good case for teens driving an eight-year-old car that still has plenty of airbags and electronic traction/stability control, but has a replacement value sufficiently modest to not require comprehensive/collision.

  29. Milo, I’m not sure I agree. Dropping the Comprehensive coverage would have saved me very little. The Collision would have saved more, but the bulk of the premium for our teen (75% plus) was in the Liability area. If I’m still spending in the $10-15K area, I’d rather spend the few hundred and cover it. (I have not discussed this with my husband, so he could have different views on how much to spend on the car and the value of full coverage. He felt railroaded by my last car purchase, so I expect that he will speak up a lot more on this one.)

  30. If you are buying a new car, please remember this about truecar (or Edmunds no-hassle price, also):
    – ANYONE can get the truecar/edmunds guaranteed price, so you know there’s still margin in that price for the dealer.
    – which means, use truecar/edmunds as a guide for where to START your pricing discussion and go down from there.
    – specific example: today, truecar says I can get $2617 off of a new Audi Q7 configured how I want it, where I bought is (truecar prices/discounts are different in different places). I got $3650 off list by going direct to the dealers and having them give me price proposals.
    – I paid less for my car than what truecar shows I should pay…in fact I am the one person who got the ‘truly exceptional’ price shown on their graph.

    In my case, it was worth saving $1000 to spend a little extra time to make a few phone calls and send/respond to a few emails.

  31. MBT – Got it. You and Fred had different interpretations. In any case, for the additional $1200 per year that your DD’s insurance coverage cost, I was just thinking that a parent could almost earn that back by making them spread mulch once a year.

  32. We are in the midst of these very discussions. DH is new car contemplating, and I expect he’ll pull the trigger in a few months. We’ve been discussing whether he should get something with the intent of handing it down when the oldest is driving age. But I think he will not – he’s looking at a larger car than a 16 year old would need, and he keeps his cars for 10-12 years. I think he should just get what suits him the best now, and we’ll cross the young driver bridge when we get to it.

    I drive around 20k miles/year, and probably 17K of those are to and from school and sports. I’ll definitely be benefitting the most from teenaged drivers.

  33. Refereeing ~4-5 hrs/wk @ $25/hr. Much more effective, right Rhett?

    Seems like very few hours to me. But, as Risley said, it’s a whole different world these days.

    Did you happen to see the link Milo posted about the naval officer resigning her commission? I’d be interested to see if she worked +20/hours a week. I say that because I’m not sure she’d be as naive about the ways of the world if she’d put in a couple of shifts a week at Target, Walmart, Kroger, Starbucks, etc.

  34. When DS1 was learning to drive, we bought a new, but entry level, Civic. We wanted safe and reliable. When DS2 started driving, they shared that car until DS1 took it to college his junior year. At that point, we bought a Hyundai Elantra, which DS2 drives and also took to college his junior year. DS3 has his learners but no real interest in learning to drive. He’s learning on my Outback.
    We chose to keep the cars titled in our names and insured on our policy (and under our umbrella policy) until the driver started working full time and took it over. DS1 will drive that car into the ground.

  35. “So then that would make a good case for teens driving an eight-year-old car that still has plenty of airbags and electronic traction/stability control, but has a replacement value sufficiently modest to not require comprehensive/collision.”
    I agree with that.

  36. “We chose to keep the cars titled in our names and insured on our policy (and under our umbrella policy) until the driver started working full time and took it over. DS1 will drive that car into the ground.”
    Yes, this.

  37. Oh, one thing my insurance guy at work told me was to get an umbrella policy a few years before you have drivers. I forget why, but I added $2mm I think, when the big kids were around 13.

  38. Not that I’m anywhere near this… the only “car” my kid will be driving in the near future is his stroller…

    When I was 17, my parents helped me buy (they paid half) of a 9 year old car. We spent $2000. I think it cost that much to insure. I never had to pay gas or insurance, even in college. But I also didn’t work – my parents wanted me to focus solely on academics. Honestly, I never paid insurance until I was married and got my own insurance policy. I made up for it by paying my mom’s cell phone bill and working with her to get a better rate on car insurance when NJ had the “cheaper” insurance co’s (de-regulation, I think??)

    MBT – I have a Hyundai Tuscon. I love it. So far (4 year old car, I’ve had it for 2), it’s been gas, tires, oil, and brakes (tires and brakes coming this year according to my wear patterns). I have a mid-line trim with leather seats, blue tooth, USB drive for MP3s, auxilary cable, power everything, etc. Full price it was probably $25-30k (I bought it off a lease, so I paid ~$20k all in before trade). I miss not having the storage capacity of my truck, but for DH, myself, DS and the dog, it works.

  39. MBT, we have been delighted with the Hyundai Elantra. My only complaint is it doesn’t come with a spare tire and we had to buy that as an extra. We went for a sedan rather than an SUV for the kids because of rollover potential, although maybe that tendency in small SUV’s has been mitigated since we were looking for cars for inexperienced drivers.

  40. Thanks Rhode and Hour. I am also avoiding SUVs and trucks because of my concerns about rollovers. He is learning to drive in my Miata, which is a completely different experience.

  41. “So then that would make a good case for teens driving an eight-year-old car that still has plenty of airbags and electronic traction/stability control, but has a replacement value sufficiently modest”

    This is our plan exactly (tho I may keep the insurance coverage): DD will get my TL, which will be @9 yrs old then, but recent enough to still have airbags (including head and driver side) and traction control and handles just fine in snow with the snow tires on. Then *I* get the new car. :-)

    I am also having to deviate from the WIWYA approach, because now that I am on the other side of it, I didn’t like the results. My mom originally told me that I’d need to earn money to buy my own car, pay for the insurance delta, and pay for my own gas and maintenance. But I did the math and realized a part-time job to pay for a car would take up all of the spare time I would want to spend *in* said car. So I just never got my license. I think it was late in my Jr. year, when my mom was sick of having to pick me up from school play rehearsals at midnight, when she told me I didn’t have a choice and needed my license. At which point I negotiated down to free use of her car with responsibility only to cover my gas — which, since it was a Rabbit diesel, was negligible, and which I paid for out of my allowance.

    The difference now, of course, is that DD has a younger sibling who requires ferrying around, so it is in my best interest for DD to drive. Plus we’re more financially comfortable, and it seems more common now for the teens in our neighborhood to have parent-financed cars. So, assuming ADHD-girl is showing sufficient maturity, I envision doing something more like Risley, where DD “pays” for the car by running errands like doing the grocery shopping and taking her brother places and such (or, you know, taking herself to her synagogue teen group and ADHD therapist and such). Although, boy, she does need to learn some financial lessons, so we’ll see how that all plays out.

  42. When we were at Great Wolf Lodge recently, after the kids were sleeping, DW remembered that she had left something in the car and I went outside to retrieve it. There was a huge tractor-trailer car carrier that had recently parked at the perimeter of the parking lot, and I just got to talking to the driver and we were out there chatting for about 30 minutes. He drives for a few dealership networks and usually carries late-model used cars up and down the East Coast. (His family also goes to the Lodge every couple of months, and this was his DD’s birthday, so he was able to arrange to stay there overnight.) He wanted to show me this one black Suburban that he had–fortunately on the lower level of the trailer–which had been converted into a limousine. It was neat because it looked completely normal and stock from the outside, but when you opened the rear door, you could see that the interior was totally redone and there was a partition with a retractable glass window between the driver’s and passengers’ area. A bench seat ran down one side and the main seat was farther back.

    Now THAT would be an awesome car for a teen to have. Makes me wish I were 16 again and could have it for a few years. And I love how it was totally normal and anonymous from the outside.

  43. We got our cars when we had “real” jobs. We really don’t have experience with the whole teen driving thing. I suspect in our case, the grandparents will be most excited that the grandkids can drive around town. I don’t think the grandkids will mind driving the grandparents – they have a different dynamic with them. Anyway, you have to be careful when your grandparent is in the car.

  44. My brother and I shared a car from 1966. It was all steel, huge and really difficult to drive. The upside, everyone in town knew it so my mom would get reports about where we were spotted and it couldn’t really be damaged in any material way AND after that, I can drive almost anything. We are just couple of years away and my biggest concern is safety. Given that car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens I feel like that is a good place to spend our money. We have a lot of big SUVs around here so he will likely have a big, heavy car too – just to be competitive in case of an accident. We may give him my car and I’ll get something new. Rhett, I would like to see him work once he is old enough, but we will have to see what the options are when he gets there.

  45. My understanding is that rollovers are far less common than they used to be (even with the increase in SUVs), and far less serious. When I was a baby doctor, a rollover collision automatically activated a certain trauma response. That is no longer policy in most ERs, and the majority of people I see in rollovers walk away from them.

    I dealt with a fairly serious car accident a few weeks ago where there was no airbag (and likely no seatbelt used). It has been a few years since I have done that – I had to stretch a little bit, as our assumptions about what tests to run and pretest probabilities of injury have really shifted with airbags being present in 90%+ of cars on the road.

    Anyway, when factoring what car to get my kindergartener, rollover potential is not on my list of concerns.

  46. One thing I thought my parents did right when it came to cars – when my brother and I turned 15 and got our learner’s permits, they assigned us the car we would be driving (they purchased a used one for him, I got a hand-me-down), and for our entire 15th year we drove every where, in that car. So, when we turned 16 and were on our own, we had a full year of driving under our belts, in the same car so we were used it. It was not always convenient – sometimes they had to take 2 cars, but we relative to our peers we were much more comfortable driving when the time came. DH and I plan to do the same.

  47. DD and DS#1 share a 1999 Lexus passed down by my parents. We pay the insurance and gas. The gas doesn’t amount to much but the insurance is expensive. We have an umbrella policy. The insurance co gives us a good student discount and we don’t need to insure DD when she’s at college (freshmen and sophmores may not have cars on campus). That said, the insurance is expensive, and I suspect that DS#1 will not qualify for the good student discount this year – he will have to pay us the difference in the premium cost. Like Risley noted, it is tremendously convenient for the kids to drive. They gladly run errands, pickup their younger brother and it saves us from making numerous trips back and forth to the HS.

  48. When I was purchasing my now 9-year-old car, I looked a few in the same class. The dealer made a big deal out of “knee air bags” for the driver, which seemed like the most ridiculous thing. In the week I was making the purchase, I saw two accidents with blow out femur fractures — the knee gets hit so hard it pushes the ball of the femur through the pelvis. Made me appreciate the utility of knee air bags. Went 8 years before seeing another similar fracture.

  49. Lark – my mom had a similar view of things… I had to drive everywhere all the time. My mom also made a point to have me drive at night, in the rain, on the highway and local roads. I almost didn’t know how to drive when it was sunny out. When I compared my confidence behind the wheel with my husband’s, I was the superior driver. I was never concerned about the road conditions while driving, and my parents were very calm during trying times (2 times come to mind when I got stuck away from home when snow/ice storms kicked up). I hope to repeat their lessons when my kid(s) is(are) old enough to drive.

  50. Ada, in the co-worker accident that so deeply disturbed me, no one in the family except the (permit) driver was seat-belted, so my obsession with airbags after that didn’t make a lot of sense. They may have all been fine if they had been belted. But I started reading up on car safety and couldn’t get past the fact that my old Miata have her no head protection. Do, now she drives something with all available airbags. I’ll have to see if it has knee ones.

  51. Just throwing this out there: There have been articles noting how employers complain about millennial employees and the complaint often hinges on the “everyone gets a trophy” culture that some kids grow up in. Personally, I think it has as much to do with them not working at what I’d call “a real job” until they are 22.

  52. MBT – In terms of “safety,” do you think we ever get to a point where we say “that’s good enough” or is it a moving target, and you’re always going to think that only the latest is safe enough? It’s not an easy question to answer, but I was just thinking of this because it occurred to me that when you are saying you only felt comfortable buying the latest model car with the newest safety features for your DD, and I said that we’ll maybe do the 8-year-old car approach, we may very well be talking about the exact same model car.

  53. Milo–I just traded in an 11 year old car for a new one of the same type. The main safety features that a new car has are backup camera, cameras to aid in lane changing/turning, some sensors that warn you in different situations, and some additional airbags. These are big changes, IMO.

  54. However, the best features of the new car (for me) are keyless entry and preset seat adjustments. DH is about 10 inches taller than I am, so this is awesome.

  55. @Rhett – my first “real” job in an office was truly miserable. I did have experience in different jobs prior to then but being left to complete tasks within a deadline and having very little on the job training made for a dismal year. I see fresh college grads in my current workplace and they have a much better onboarding process than I ever did.

  56. I am ready for self driving cars. I am hoping they are ready by the time I am too old to drive. That would be a blessing.

  57. Rhode, I looked for a driver like you when I hired my first babysitter. I needed to find someone that could drive in the snow so she could get to us in bad weather!

    I am an expert with driving in crazy NYC traffic because I learned to drive with the taxis and multiple Kane’s of double parking. I even took my road test on city streets in the Bronx.

    I finally learned to drive in snow since we’ve had so many miserable winters.

  58. I got a hand-me-down car in high school – a 1980-something Honda Accord. The deal was that I had to pay for insurance and gas and pick up my little brother from his after-school activities. I had too many extracurriculars, AP classes, etc. to hold a “real” job, so we canceled the housekeeper who came every other week and I cleaned the house on Saturday mornings. I still got an allowance from my parents (covered lunches, clothing, entertainment, and gas), and I worked my tail off all summer and saved all the money to spread out over the next school year.

    When I went to college, the Honda was sold to my 16-yr-old cousin. My dad got himself a new truck that spring (for his side business) so I got to drive his old Jeep Cherokee that summer and then my brother then inherited it in the fall when he turned 16. When I came home the 2nd summer, my dad was ready for a fun car and bought a used Jeep Wrangler for me to drive, with the caveat that he got to drive it occasionally. I got to take it back to school since I was living off-campus, and it lasted me through the rest of college and my first year of work, and my dad kept it for a while after that. I think I might go back to Jeep for my next new car.

  59. Milo, I found that some of the safety features I wanted were not available on cars a few years older. If they had been, I would have been more open to a used car. Since I haven’t been reading up on the latest safety features, for my second child I would be fine with him driving that car we bought in 2011, but his sister is driving it. However, my husband’s 2002 truck has only front airbags, and I don’t think that’s enough for a new driver. At the time I was insisting on getting the new car, he kept asking me “are you sure the Miata is not safe enough?” My response was that if she didn’t wreck, then it was plenty safe enough. But if she hit someone or got hit, I knew I would really regret not having gotten something with more airbags. So the back-up cameras and other things are great if they come on a vehicle I want, but for me I just really wanted the upgrade from a single, steering wheel mounted airbag to the side curtain and head airbags, and the ETS. I won’t insist on a new car for my second driver, but those things are a minimum.

  60. I’m still in denial on this — I have just over a year until my oldest is learner’s permit eligible (15.5). He’s not as fired up about it as my daughter is, but he has been expressing increased interest lately so I guess I should be prepared.

  61. I’m with A Parent on self driving cars. My mother recently commented “who needs a self driving car?” And my reply was “you! You need a self driving car!”

    To Milo’s comment on safe enough, I think I got there with side airbags. The more recent things seem more marginal to me. I didn’t wait for the “cross the center line” warning on the outback. To me it just seems like it might encourage texting while driving.

  62. From what I’ve heard many kids experience their first failure when they fail to pass the driving test. Some land up with a tough examiner and there is no use arguing but to come back again and retake the test.

  63. Rhett–I disagree. DS works harder than I do.

    I’ll use The Goldberg’s as an example – Erica works her way up from clerk to assistant manager of a department store between the time she was 15 to 17. I think experiences like that provide life lessons and real world perspective that make work resume padding roles like treasurer of the Chess Club just don’t match.

  64. Perhaps, but since he already works much harder than I do, I hesitate to make him do additional work to improve his character, teach him life lessons, or whatever. There is plenty of time for that during the summer, or even for the rest of his life.

    Will working a second job at a department store improve my character? Sure! However, I’m not going to do it–and I have more spare time than he does.

  65. OTOH, I’d love for my younger DS, aka video game addict, to get a job so as to use his copious spare time in a more productive manner. Unfortunately, at 12, he’s too young to have a real job.

  66. The timing on this topic is PERFECT!!! My DD#1 is in driving school now, she got her learner’s permit a week ago. First school driving lesson is next week. This weekend the weather was awful, so we haven’t taken her out yet. Then, she must hold her permit a minimum of 6 months or until her 16 birthday, which ever comes last (birthday in our case). She must also log a fixed number of day and night time hours in various categories that must be turned in when she takes the driving test.

    My understanding of Texas insurance is that they assume any licensed driver in your household has access to every vehicle in your household that they are permitted for. We know there are some discounts – the insurance agent mentioned that good student is a sizable one.

    Car is the issue. She, at this point anyway, isn’t too excited about driving, but we will see how that goes. As the driving at this point is more about our convenience than her desire, we will likely be picking up the full tab. When I asked about cars she liked, her response is this: She feels it fits her personality. Well, that will remain her dream car!

    Seriously we are thinking a small SUV due to (1) a bit more visible that some of the sedans (2) the ablity to stow the stuff and (3) quite a few later model used ones in the area.

  67. I hesitate to make him do additional work to improve his character

    Not more work, different work. More W-2 paycheck actual work and less bullshit Chess Club treasurer busy work.

    And, it’s not about character so much as it’s about learning how the world actually works.

  68. I agree with Rhett about the value of a “real” job to prepare teens/young adults for the working world. I did plenty of activities in high school/college and worked incredibly hard academically. I think by any measure I “worked hard” at these things. But in terms of preparation for the real world of jobs, by far the best preparation was my two waitressing gigs and the time I spent working as a receptionist/file clerk for a steel company. First, you learn how to deal with people and how to be the lowest person in the pecking order (the “concerned listening face” you need to pull for a disgruntled restaurant patron is strikingly similar to the look a disgruntled biglaw partner wants to see when they are freaking out about something). Second, it really made me appreciate the difference between working hard at school and working hard at a job (particularly when the job had extremely boring moments).

  69. “I think experiences like that provide life lessons and real world perspective”

    I agree that many young people could benefit from real work experience.  Apparently they see it that way, too.

    College graduates’ biggest regret is not getting more work experience….

    Students become more valuable to employers by spending time in the real world.

    But many have never been in an office setting and had the experience of having to work hard for a difficult boss. They may not understand the sense of urgency that permeates the fabric of most work environments, and they may misread the cues and signals of prospective employers and recruiters as they search for a job.

  70. @Houston – I suspect the “gamer” will be fine. He probably has a less intense personality and is able to make the “concerned face” June describes yet get his work done and find time for leisure.

  71. Rhett – I agree with you to a point, but I think it’s too radical an idea for widespread acceptance in Totebagland. And some kids will benefit far more from it than others. Since I worked during the summers, but not during the school year, to me that’s the ideal amount. Anything less is highly entitled, and anything more is low-class.

  72. Teens and jobs – my DD#1 is working with a local day camp as a counselor in training at age 15, but until you work a certain number of weeks – sort of OJT – they don’t pay you. The reality is it is hard to get them in your first summer – limited number of weeks to spread across the CITs in the program, plus working around your other summer activities that they assume you have. I think it is to get around paying them before age 16, but no hard evidence.

    However, many jobs that I and my friends has as teens the businesses now require you to be 18 or to hold a certificate of some sort. Some others require you to agree on the application that you canbe available hours that teens in school can’t commit to as it is during school hours for most of them. A friend’s teen was told go a head and say you can work those hours, we never schedule students then. But, they did schedule his work hours to overlap with school and then fired him because he lied on his application that he could work those hours. That makes it harder for teens to get employment pre college.

  73. I think it’s too radical an idea for widespread acceptance in Totebagland

    The crazy part is 20 years ago it was the norm in totebagland. I guess it sort of like the free range kids. One it was the norm, now it’s verboten.

  74. Yeah, to be clear, I worked those jobs during the summer, not the school year. The first summer job that I had that was more of the fancy internship variety was the summer before my senior year of college. I think that is probably not Totebaggy enough these days. During the school year in high school, I would babysit 2-4 nights per week, and during the school year at college I worked as a “nanny” (glorified babysitter) 10-20 hours/week depending on my class schedule.

  75. I worked at jobs as a teen ranging from babysitting to chicken coop cleaner to fast food to art gallery attendant to camp counselor. I don’t think any of them taught me anything of use other than a) chickens are really disgusting and b) camp counselors and fast food workers like to smoke dope.
    On the other hand, my summers at a (paid) internship in my field of study were pretty useful, as was a stint as a Unix sysadmin while in grad school.

    My students are really struggling to find jobs right now. When I look at their resumes, I see the problem. They have lots of experience as clerks at electronics stores or delivering pizzas, or plugging in PCs at some little mom and pop place. But they have no technical job experience, and it is killing them. Technical employers just do not hire fresh grads who have never held a technical intership or job. I don’t get why they aren’t doing those internships – there are tons of them available and they PAY. They pay more than being a clerk at Best Buy. But my students have such limited horizons, and they are afraid to give up that clerk job

  76. Thanks to all for sharing.

    I like Eric’s approach with insurance. When/if DS gets his license, some of the driving we will have him do will be to relieve DW and me, so I don’t think it would be reasonable for us to expect him to pick up all the cost of insurance, but the possibility of having to pay for any increases will help convince him to drive safely.

    DS is currently like Rio was– he’s not all that interested in giving up chauffeur service, and usually makes good use of his time in the car, either doing homework or sleeping. But, like BAM, we will encourage him to start driving by forcing him to take public transportation more when he wants to go places.

    I guess we will have to make sure he gets more sleep if he starts driving regularly, as he currently supplements the time he sleeps in bed with napping during commutes.

  77. My oldest worked a part time job at a retail store during the spring of her junior year of high school, with the intent that it would be her summer job. At the interview, they said about 12-15 hrs a week. The reality was they were scheduling her many more hours than that, changing the schedule after it was initially posted but not telling her until she was missing a (newly added) shift, etc. She was working until after 11 on school nights, despite being told at the interview she’d be out of there by 9:30. Getting up before 6 after those late nights took a toll and she ended up getting bronchitis twice and missing school. It was not worth the trade off, so she quit. Based on that, we will not encourage the younger one to work during the school year unless it’s tutoring or something similar where he has control over his schedule.

  78. My understanding is that shift oriented employers have gotten much nastier about expecting employees to be on-call all the time, willing to pick up a shift no matter when

  79. I don’t think any of them taught me anything of use other than a) chickens are really disgusting

    Given your love of complaining, I’d venture to guess that the chicken coop cleaning job gave you a healthy dose of perspective. As bad as XYZ job was it was better than cleaning a chicken coop.

  80. DS will have his first job this summer, and will learn those lessons. However, dealing with incompetent teachers, slacker students on your team, guidance counselors who ignore you, etc. also seems like great training for the real world.

    Speaking of difficult bosses–my DS2’s 6th grade English teacher ripped up his homework in front of him and made him redo it…because it was on the wrong type of paper. He had to take the insult without a peep, say something nice like “I’m sorry for my mistake and will redo the work.” and redo the work without complaint. Seems like perfect training for a law firm, from what I hear.

    My point is that experience comes from all facets of life–not just an entry level job (though those are also valuable).

  81. She was working until after 11 on school nights, despite being told at the interview she’d be out of there by 9:30.

    You see this whole thing as a negative experience. I think that Rhett and I would disagree. Your DD learned that sometimes what is advertised and promised in a job interview is not the actual expectation, that there are unstated expectations and sometimes requrements change. To use the example Rhett mentioned, she’s less likely to be as shocked as that bitter Navy officer was in her resignation letter about these sometimes unreasonable demands on her time, or that an employer claiming to value work-life balance is not the same thing as actually following it.

    Keeping your DS from learning the same thing to protect him could prevent him from really learning that lesson.

  82. I dunno, I actually think that camp counselor job was worse. Seriously. We were so underprepared for the job – there was no such thing as CIT back in those days. And we were so stoned all the time. I had to go help out with the shooting class, where the kids shot 22’s, and I had never handled a gun before in my life (and never have since). I didn’t have the faintest inkling of what I was doing. We also almost lost a counselor to drowing. He was out in a canoe, and it turned out he couldn’t swim. We had to all fish him out.

  83. All work is valuable, some more valuable than others.

    DS1 worked landscaping the last 2 summers. Scheduled time was 7a-330p, unless it was really hot, then it was 6a-230p. He loves this kind of work; I figured having to be there by 7am every day would get him. But no problem. Last summer he would finish at the job, then either (split about 50/50) go to the gym or go home for a shower and a snack, then to his unpaid internship in his major 45 minutes away till about 1030pm. The next days were hard on him, but it paid off. This summer he has a paid internship in his major.

    This is the kid who (I think) has finally figured out that actually going to class, doing all the reading and other assignments is the way to succeed in college. The work part, he’ll do great at, once he gets hired (talking about the full-time, post-college gig).

  84. DS has a couple of minimum wage part-time jobs at school. One is at the afterschool care program for K-2 kids. It is a language immersion program in the language he’s currently studying. The other is as a TA for Biology (BTW, the student paper did a survey, and bio was named by far more seniors than any other class as the hardest class they had in HS).

    He doesn’t work a lot of hours (as discussed in a previous hijack, he earned about $400 in 2014, all of which is now in a Roth IRA), but he thinks the jobs help him academically. This summer he’ll be working about 28 hours a week as a TA for either chemistry or biology, again in part because he thinks it will help him get better at those subjects. I think he’s hoping to be assigned to a bio class, since he’ll be done with HS chemistry next month when he takes his AP exam and SAT subject test, but he has AP bio next year.

    Both kids are planning to volunteer for two or three weeks as day camp counselors at the zoo. They’ve been doing that since they were 12.

  85. my DS2’s 6th grade English teacher ripped up his homework in front of him and made him redo it…because it was on the wrong type of paper. He had to take the insult without a peep, say something nice like “I’m sorry for my mistake and will redo the work.”

    If he was working at Target and something similar occurred that might be the time to say, “Hum…maybe there is another job out their that might be be better.” Then he might go and get that new job and in the process learn a valuable life lesson about having agency in the world.

  86. All work is valuable to the employer. I don’t think all work is valuable to the employee, and some jobs are a total waste of time.

  87. Finn, that’s great! DS is thinking about being a TA for Computer Science during his senior year. In our school, they don’t get paid–you do it during a free class period, which is why he has to wait until his senior year.

  88. We got a “kids car” for dd when she was a junior in high school. Her school was across town and required 2 to 3 buses to get to from our house, and was in the opposite direction of her brother’s school. It wasn’t really safe for her to take the bus home from that area when it was dark, which it was when she got out of play practice or whatever in the winter.

    We got her a Honda CRV, and that worked well. She did not have a job during the school year.

    Ds went to a slightly closer high school but only got a parking pass his Senior year, so I usually dropped him off in the morning and then either took him (and his buddies) to crew, or he got a ride from someone else. I was happy when he got his license and could drive himself to rowing every day.

    Dd is using the third car for work now, but is actually moving this summer and will not really need a car anymore. I know that ds is going to ask to take that car with him back to college in the fall, so dh and I need to be ready with an answer to that question! He really only needs it to drive to crew practice, which is about 5 miles away from his school. They don’t go on the water in the winter so he would not have to drive everyday in the snow, but I am not very comfortable with him having it there because of the other worries I have.

  89. Rhett: I thought the life lesson he was supposed to learn was dealing with *sshole bosses. I agree, he doesn’t have much agency at 12. But then, who does? : )

  90. Milo, I’m not trying to protect him from those lessons, and he’ll work, just not during the school year. Given his past problems with anxiety, im pretty religious on keeping a balanced life for him, with adequate sleep and exercise every day. Until he has a few more good years under his belt with managing life well, I’m not going to have something like a minimum wage big-box job throw off how he’s doing. I would apply that to Chess Club Secretary as well. He thinks he’s already learned those lessons from watching his sister, but he’ll do his own crap work this summer or next, depending on how he’s coming on required volunteer hours.

  91. You all have impressive, hard-working kids!

    Finn, are those TA positions at a private high school? I’ve never heard of high school students being paid to TA classes.

  92. I thought the life lesson he was supposed to learn was dealing with *sshole bosses.

    It is. One of the ways you deal with them is by quitting.

  93. I should amend that to say, “One of the ways you deal with them is by finding a new job.”

  94. The other thing that can be helpful about having a job when you’re high school aged is that, if you grow up in Totebaggish circles, it may be your first exposure to a world that, from your perspective, doesn’t sort of revolve around you. Even if you have difficult school experiences, school (particularly in Totebaggy circles) does sort of exist to serve you, particularly if you have Totebaggy parents who can try to put a thumb on the scale in your favor if needed. A waitress on her second shift doesn’t give a flip that you’re a National Merit Scholar–what matters is whether you can pick up an extra table when you’re in the weeds. For me, it was good perspective.

  95. “We got her a Honda CRV”

    Those things just won’t quit. And after 12 years, repairs have been very minimal, iirc, only a catalytic converter, an alternator, and one of the brake calipers.

  96. “All work is valuable to the employer. I don’t think all work is valuable to the employee, and some jobs are a total waste of time.”

    Agree Mooshi, but even the jobs that are a waste of time, at least for me, made me appreciate the opportunities I had to do other things and made me work a little harder in school. I also agree with June’s perspective and I will add that my retail/food service jobs exposed me to a group of people with whom I would not have otherwise socialized. It made me more human.

  97. Finn’s TA positions are indeed at a private school. My niece does the afterschool language immersion aftercare job too, same school, not necessarily same language.

    If anyone’s interested, I see that Amazon has a one day sale going on the 7″ Kindle Fires: . They’re $79, which is a discount of $60.

  98. CoC, yes, it’s at a private HS. DS knew those jobs existed because his classes had TAs, so he asked his teachers about the jobs?

    When I was in HS, at a public school, we had TAs as well. E.g., in my freshman math class, the TA was a junior. They were not paid, but did get credit (DS does not get credit). I believe our math TA got a math credit that counted toward her graduation requirement, although I’m sure she would’ve graduated without that.

    I’m pretty sure, based on my experience as a tutor, they left their years as TAs with a much better understanding of the material than they had starting the year.

  99. Milo – we only kept ours for about 5 years. For some reason (possibly ds egging him on) dh traded it in for a Jetta with a stick shift. So our third car is now one that I can’t drive (probably too old to learn), which means if we don’t let ds take it to school we will probably sell it.

  100. I actually did have one summer job in HS that was extremely valuable to me. I can’t get into details because it was so specialized that it is identifying. But I got to wear a hard hat every day, and steel toed work boots, and do manual labor that was both really hard, and produced something lasting – what we worked on is still there in my home town today. The thing is, it was one of those guv’mint jobs, aimed at teens, with a significant educational component. You got into it via lottery, and most of the applicants were low income, so I got to work with kids I wouldn’t have know otherwise – and we weren’t stoned! But it was hard. There were 10 of us on the crew, but only 3 survived the entire summer – all girls. None of the guys made it through the summer.

  101. Fred – it sounds like your DS1 has completely course-corrected, eh? What a great thing.

    Rhett – yeah, I get it. My sibs and I all had jobs after school and in the summer and no one told us to get them. It was just so natural for us to do it. But I think about it, and I easily held down an after school job and did sports and other stuff, and got all my studying done (all 30 min/week of it, or whatever I did) and a decent amount of socializing. I look at the homework my kids have, and the fact that sports practices now are sooooo much longer and on more days than mine were, and I honestly don’t see how they would fit it in a job on top of that and have any kind of a life at all. Summers, sure, but not during the school year. I would prefer that sports and homework were scaled down and there would be time for a part-time job, but it’s not how it is.

    So again, it’s one of these things that I try not to spend too much time comparing – ThingsBackThen were different. Maybe better, maybe not, but certainly different. I can’t recreate them for my kids now and that might mean they miss out on some great learning I got. But they’ll also get some experiences I didn’t get. In many ways, they’re more impressive than my sibs and I were at this age, so I’m not sure our part-time jobs were the deciding factor in any character building.

  102. Cousin’s daughter, not niece. I guess I can’t keep my young relatives straight.

  103. Ris – completely would be a bit strong, but overall a good course correction is apparent. Thanks.

  104. Fred – whatever amount he’s done must be a huge relief to you and your DW (and to him). *I’m* relieved to hear how he’s doing now!

  105. Same here, Fred. I was hoping for an update on your oldest DS and am glad that things are working out.

  106. Yeah, it is very good to see…a lot less worry, not zero, but a lot less, and things are much better than they were ~10 months ago. There is a path forward and a timeline that’s doable…it may end up being ~4.5 years vs. 5+ as I had mentally prepared myself for.

    CoC – I have not forgotten about writing something about this, including the financial aspect. I have started a couple of times and things just seem too specific.

  107. “slacker students on your team”

    How do your kids deal with this issue?

    DD has been complaining about that this year. She told me that in the group presentation she’s currently working on, she’s put in blank slides where the others in the group are supposed to put their slides, e.g., all the slide will say is, “Joe’s slide goes here,” until Joe actually creates his slide.

  108. “My understanding is that shift oriented employers have gotten much nastier about expecting employees to be on-call all the time, willing to pick up a shift no matter when”

    Yes, I’ve read, e.g., that the Wal-Mart raises aren’t as great for their employees as some might think, because they’re accompanied by the use of resource management software that reduces employee hours to only when they are busy enough to need them.

    OTOH, I don’t think employers can be so nasty about it with totebaggers’ HS kids, who can just walk away from the jobs if the employer expectations are perceived to be unreasonable.

  109. Is Rhode still here? Is there a baby update? I know I’ve been absent so I may have missed! Hope you are doing well!

  110. Finn – them’s the breaks, right? You either do the work for the slacker or you leave it undone and your grade suffers. Same thing happens in corporate America. This is what I tell the kids, anyway. So far, they’ve decided to do the work. DS even did the work for *college* teammates in a college course he took in the fall. Sheesh.

  111. There are plenty of UMC teens who work very hard in school, who will gain great benefit from summer activities, paid or not, that are related to their fields of study, or expand their minds, or allow for physical adventure, or especially in college give them internship experience. Most of them will do well in life, either because they don’t encounter too many speed bumps, or because they are naturally resilient, or because their parents’ resources and support will allow them enough second chances to slip up a few times on the way to adult stability and success. However, we talked last week about grit, and whether it could be instilled in someone or just came naturally. People without advantages usually fail if they have even a slightly greater than normal dose of bad luck (beyond their lack of advantages) and do not have grit. People with advantages usually succeed and require less parental intervention if they have grit, even if they have a significantly larger dose of bad luck than their cohort.

    Working for pay at a young age, especially when it involves dealing with dead end work, boredom and arbitrariness and having to weight the cost of work versus the benefits, is one of the most natural ways to instill grit in an otherwise privileged young person who does not have day to day need of that quality to survive or get ahead.

  112. “You either do the work for the slacker or you leave it undone and your grade suffers. ”

    Same here. DS ends up carrying his team, too.

  113. “reduces employee hours to only when they are busy enough to need them.”

    Isn’t this the ideal, I mean from the owner’s perspective? If I were in such a position, I would indeed look at when the sales are made and staff accordingly. It’s ok to schedule people that way…if you give sufficient notice. It sucks if you’re scheduled, say from 4-9pm and you’re notified at 3pm that you’re not needed that day.

    Also, there’s some investigating going on by our atty general to the effect that WalMart, among others, is breaking fairlabor laws by doing the reverse…making people be on-call for possible work,but not paying them to be on call.

  114. “making people be on-call for possible work, but not paying them to be on call”

    I hope this is deemed illegal. What a sucky situation for the employee. Especially if you have to find childcare.

  115. anothertwinmom and lauren and CoC (or any other NYC area regular) – We are taking the Acela from the Hub and spending our annual theater/opera visit to the City next week – I have daytime hours free Tu, Wed early,Th, Fri if ATM can spare time for lunch or a morning cuppa or Lauren and/or CoC is planning to be in Manhattan for some reason. memetotebag at outlook dot com if you are interested.

  116. ugh, meme, a couple of weeks later and I could have come into Manhattan. What opera are you seeing?

  117. Slackers on the team – One teacher at our MS has the kids document at the beginning of the project how the workload is to be distributed and then has them evaluate at the end how that worked out and if it changed, what caused the change. Each kid does the evaluation at the end. Sometimes the shift is due to hitting an obstacle (research problem, materials didn’t respond as expected – think castle-building here) and adjusting to overcome it and still get the work done; other times the shift is due to taking on a slackers work. This teacher will then talk to the slacker, but lowers their grade. No other teacher has done this that I am aware of in my or my kids experience.

    My kids TRY to select teams without known slackers. That doesn’t work when you are new or assigned teams.

    In grad school, one course assigned 3 person teams on DAY 1 of class. First group project we found out we had a slacker – got a 70 on the project. Second group project, we designed it so that he just had to be present and say about 5 sentences. The other male on the team even went to slacker’s house and got the correct attire for the day a couple of days in advance and brought it to campus. Correct, we couldn’t even count on him to show up in the correct clothes!
    We got a 100 on that project. For the rest of the semester it worked the same way, with two of us carrying the weight of the third.

  118. I teach a course that involves a big group project almost every semester. The way I grade is the same way a manager would evaluate employees – each student is responsible for some chunk of the work and is graded on that, plus a component based on whether the student is a team player – does he or she respond to questions from other students on the projects? Does he or she help other students out? Does he or she go over and beyond if there is an issue?
    We do one week sprints (agile dev method) so students have to submit their work as a patch as well as a log of all issues they worked on. Issues have numbers in the issue tracker. I grade each students progress for the week and then give them new tasks depending on where we are. Again, if you know how agile development is done, you will recognize this.

  119. My son got killed on a 8th grade science project which was done in a group of 4. The teacher had a checklist of things she wanted in the project. One of the kids did a sloppy job so a bunch of items on her list were missing. I told my son that it doesn’t matter if someone else is responsible for that component or not, he has to double check that everything is present, and do it himself if it is not there. That is the way life is

  120. Opera – Un Ballo in Maschera (Verdi, Levine, great cast), Cavalleria Rusticana/ Il Pagliacci (I could have skipped that one), The Rake’s Progress (Stravinsky, Levine again, great cast), Musical – On the 20th Century (Comden and Green, Peter Gallagher and Kristin Chenoweth), Drama – Skylight (Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan).

  121. Meme – I’ve read great reviews of The King and I. DH and I may go to NY later this year, and if we do I would want to either see that or On the 20th Century.

  122. We had tickets originally to see Tony Danza in Honeymoon in Vegas, which got great reviews but suffered from the bad winter and closed. So we scrambled to replace it with 20th Century, and then when Skylight opened to raves we added a matinee. I am quick to make up my mind, but not price sensitive (at least in this matter), so I can usually get decent tickets from the designated online vendor associated with the theater, such as or Telecharge.

    StubHub now has a direct link to Major League baseball season ticket packages, so I can sell any of my excess tickets with a couple of mouse clicks, and the proceeds go into my paypal account. Still learning how to price them correctly – when they sell in two hours the ask was clearly too low.

  123. Thanks, HM. I took advantage since I have been waiting for a sale to replace my first generation Fire. Replaced my really old regular kindle last week when Paperwhite went on sale. I don’t shop enough, I guess, to get all the emails from Amazon myself.

  124. Mémé, what would be involved in a weekend trip from somewhere like Boston to see a show or two?

    I know the proximity of Broadway is a big reason DS and his friends have included places like Columbia and NYU among the colleges which they’re considering, but I’m wondering if there aren’t a whole bunch of other schools that are close enough to make it feasible to take quick trips to see some shows.

  125. Not Meme here, but when I was an undergrad in Boston, the university used to run excursions to NYC for the day. I usually couldn’t go, though, because they were too pricey.

  126. Finn, I read that article and think only a certain type of person would like the Com Sci from Stanford lifestyle. One distant acquaintance (software engineer) is searching for work that will let him work 4 days/week and it’s hard to find. His wife, a pediatrician, has no problem working 3 days/week.

    I think I’m just not motivated enough for high tech. I wish chemical plants had been hiring when I graduated.

  127. Interesting article, Finn. I have to remember that this group of people is such a tiny fraction of college graduates!

  128. From what I have pieced together a lot of Totebaggers are driving their kids to various after school activities. This seems to have coincided with reduced work hours for one parent.
    Looking at next summer for instance one speciality camp runs from 9.00 am to 3 pm. for a week. I am wondering how to manage something like this. I do have flexibility but I do have unspoken boundaries as well.

  129. Finn. There are student rush tickets so local students can go stand in line and if they don’t get in just get back on the subway. Anything that is on the subway or commuter rail lines would do. Once it involves a planned trip and advance purchase, it gets pricey and requires organization. We tend to go once a year. If we lived in Manhattan we.d see some sort of performance every week at least.

  130. Louise- I’d start by calling the program and asking about before care/after care. Barring that, I’ve heard of people taking a carpool-type approach — like if five families participate, a parent from each family leaves early to get all the kids one day a week. I never did that though, too fiddly to try to get enough people all doing the same specialty program at the same time and living reasonably near to each other. Basically, if I couldn’t make a program work with our schedules (given a reasonable amount of flex), it just wasn’t an option.

  131. Louise, I’d also suggest checking out what resources are available near the camp. E.g., is there a public library that your kid(s) could walk to where they could read until you can pick them up?

    Another option is to let them be free range kids, and use public transportation home to be latchkey kids.

  132. louise, when I suddenly had to go back in the office, I found that there are a number of shuttle services that pick up kids from school and/or activities and take them where they need to go. The price is based in distance traveled. The drawback for us was that there were a number of kids being picked up at school, and we live the farthest, so it was a long ride home with all the stops. But it was safe and reliable, and I got a text when he was dropped off. It worked for us.

  133. Finn, I went to two universities about 90 minutes from NYC, both of which ran trips to the city for concerts and shows all the time.

    If the school is within 75 miles of the city, chances are he can take a school charter or mass transit there most weekends.

  134. Louise, we don’t have shuttle services, but we have a bus route between cities and inexpensive taxis (~$10) within cities. If it were an important option, I would consider these to make it work.

  135. In my area I think retired neighbors or college students could be people willing to earn a few bucks to provide transportation. Well before, I will have to put the word out that I am looking. I will check out shuttle services for kids but I suspect in my area kids doing the speciality programs have one parent who is able to get them there.

  136. You are all missing the point on the group projects. The kids need to learn how to get in a group with overachievers so they can be the slackers. In AustiMom’s group, who had the best deal? The guy who just showed up while everyone else did all the work.

  137. Denver: I think the exact same thing. The slacker in the group is really lucky. The groups are assigned by the teacher, so there is no choice. All the hard working kids want to be together, but the teacher won’t let them.

  138. Missed this since we were traveling yesterday – so interesting. So many people are getting the kids cars!!!! I have no idea what we’ll do when our kids are able to drive during high school.

    I couldn’t drive until my last month of HS, so it wasn’t an issue. The kids who got cars got old beaters. Safety wasn’t really thought of since it was a small town and traffic accidents due to anything other than speed/drunk driving were nonexistent. Where we live now is so much busier (drives me crazy, but that’s a separate issue) so safety will be an issue.

    I am hoping that our current nanny will be able to stay with us (with the addition of another PT job at the kids’ preschool) for as long as she wants, or until her parents retire and she can take over the family business. If she has the preschool job, she could then work it to be able to pick up our kids from school and take them to activities even when they are older.

  139. A lot of summer camps that end at 3 will have extended day options. You should always check.

  140. Thanks – all. Actually I will call this year and find out about extended day options, so I know what I will be dealing with next year.

  141. The guy who just showed up while everyone else did all the work.

    “We had a chance to meet this young man, and boy that’s just a straight shooter with upper management written all over him.”

  142. It is interesting that some of the states permit kids to drive at such a young age. There are large parts of NY state that are rural, but the state still doesn’t permit anyone to drive under 16 even with a license from another state. I wasn’t able to drive until I was 17 in NYC.

    on a side note, I picked up my new car on Saturday. I felt a little sad when I left the Subaru there because Subaru was my first car. It is only a few days, but the MMM part of me has no regrets. I am happy that I spent the extra money to get a more luxurious ride.

  143. Moxiemom – I’m still here! 3rd week back at work, just came back from a conference at the end of week 2. DH is on paternity leave, DS is growing like a weed and is becoming more human like. He’s smiling, looking around, and getting interested in things. He’s hitting milestones between his chronological age and his corrected age. I need about 24 hours of sleep to catch up with myself.

  144. “It made me more human.”

    My first job in the deli made me more human. My second job as a Kelly Girl made me less so. It was rather sad how low the companies I worked for set the bar for a temp — when I read the manuals to figure out how to use their software so I could type up a letter for somebody, the guy nearly shit a brick. But it was even sadder to realize how low the bar was for full-time employment (e.g., the manager who literally could not write a comprehensible sentence — we’re talking like random word generator, without even nouns and verbs in the correct places). Overall it was a useful experience, though; the first job convinced me of the need to work my butt off and put the needs of the job first, while the second job demonstrated that if I did so, I would be head and shoulders above 99% of the workforce.

    @Louise: We can’t do camps like those, which does make me sad. So my kids go to the camp with the bus that picks up at 8 and drops off at 5 — still a shorter day for both of us, but at least tolerable. This year, we’re trying an experiment of a local half-day basketball camp for DS; DD is begging not to go to camp, so for that week, we’re going to let her be responsible for walking him over and back (and it’s about 2 blocks from the pool, too, if she wants to hang out there in-between). Will see. This is the kind of thing where having a teen driver would be awesome.

    @AustinMom: your kid has excellent taste — that’s my dream car, too. :-)

  145. Great Rhode!

    I think the main benefit of kids working service jobs and such is it shows them what they can expect to do if they don’t go to college.

  146. But it was even sadder to realize how low the bar was for full-time employment

    Why is that sad? I find it to be quite the opposite. If everyone was competent, the totebag median income wouldn’t be several 100k a year.

  147. To expand on LfB’s point: The value of a kid working may be similar to the value of a kid playing an instrument, or a sport, or theater, etc. it may be the one thing they enjoy and are good at.

  148. I agree with Rhett about certain jobs becoming like activities. I was required to have a work study position as part of my college financial aid package. I stumbled into an accounting position in a student run corporation. I was assigned very boring data entry work. It was boring, but I would sit in this tiny office with other people and we eventually became friends because we were together for so many hours. It was unimportant moment in my experience at college and in my career because I eventually became the CFO of the corporation. I progressed from payroll and data clerk through controller and CFO positions. It was an actual corporation that was formed in the 70s for another purpose, but it evolved to run several stores, cafes, and other services on campus.

    I am traveling this week to see several friends I met while working there that are still close friends. I keep in touch with many people from this job. I worked so many hours there that work became my primary extra curricular activity.

  149. LfB – does your DD want to be counselor in training or something similar ? The activities my kids attend/other camps have need for teen helpers and both my kids have expressed interest in counselor in training and after that counselor positions. In the upcoming years, if my kids are not going to camp themselves they can go to some type of “helper” job, they can walk to a few of these summer camps.

  150. Oh, also meant to say that I’m not sure it’s as reasonable to expect the typical Totebag kid to hold an after-school job as IMD. Back in the stone ages, I talked my way into the evening shift at the deli — basically, around 5-8 to help with dinner; with Saturday work, it generally came out to 15-20 hrs/week and was manageable. However, that worked only because the family that ran it was very respectful of my need to get home at a reasonable hour on a school night — and even they could hardly wait for me to finish the school year so I could stay through close. Nowadays, with the Starbucks on-demand scheduling system and the by-and-large reliance on larger generic companies for those kinds of jobs, my schedule limitations would never have gotten me through the door. Gotta leave by 9 so you can finish homework and sleep and not be a zombie in class? Thanks for coming, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    And I also had it a LOT easier at school. I basically never had “homework” just for homework’s sake — you had work to get done, I mostly got all of that done in class except for stuff like chemistry problem sets, and then I worked on reports and projects on the weekends. I would be surprised if I averaged even an hour a night of homework, so even with orchestra and journalism and sports, I had plenty of time. Now it seems that homework has become an end in and of itself — DD has rejected AP American Gov’t largely because that class requires 1-2 hrs of reading *per night* — for ONE class. And we’re not even in the super-competitive districts around here. And let’s not even get into travel teams, or the various competitive band stuff, or religious obligations, or — God forbid — other extracurricular interests.

    So, yeah, I’m not going to be pushing DD to get a job during the school year, other than the kind of periodic babysitting I did when she whines about being broke. Because the basic expectations for just getting the schoolwork done are about where school + extracurriculars were for me. And I’d rather her take that extra time to do something she enjoys, like playing in the band, or playing a sport, or whatever. Now, if she decides that what she’d really enjoy is a job to make money, then I’d totally support that — like Rhett said, if that’s her strength, if that’s what makes her happy, awesome. But I’m not going to tell her that she needs to add more grunt work on top of all of the other grunt work she’s currently saddled with just to make it through school.

  151. @Louise — yeah, this is her last “suck it up” year — she needs to go this year to be CIT so that she can upgrade to paid counselor next year. But the promise of future pay is not stopping the current whining. :-)

  152. “The value of a kid working may be similar to the value of a kid playing an instrument, or a sport, or theater, etc. it may be the one thing they enjoy and are good at.”

    I agree. I had a similar experience to Lauren’s in the comptroller’s office of my college. It gave me some skills and I enjoyed the work. I hope that DS will find the same thing. However (to tie back to the original topic), he will need to learn how to drive and get access to a car first!

  153. Dang, I missed yesterday. My oldest got her license last fall. About a month before that, I got a new car and now she drives my old one. We pay gas, insurance, registration, etc. She runs errands, take herself to practices, takes her siblings to practices, and it the designated driver when the family goes out to dinner. It is really nice that both DH and I can drink wine with a nice meal out. I want her to have a lot of practice driving before she heads off to college, so I pay for the practice. She works lifeguarding in the summer, but with schoolwork, extra curriculars, and since she has the lowest marginal wage rate in the family, she is kind of expected to run pick up parts, turn off water, and assorted other work/chores on the farm, it would be difficult for her to have another job.

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