T Nation

High School Vs. Work Debate


So fellas, I need some backup here.

My girlfriend's 15-year old son (currently in 10th grade, in a private school, will be 16 in under a month) has this recurring, nasty little habit of whining about how much harder life is in school, as opposed to being easier when you "only" have to go to work. I need some new and convincing points to throw at him, to attempt to shut him down once and for all.

His main points are that in school, you have to listen to what the teachers say, you have homework every night, tests, and no time to relax (funny...he manages to get onto Xbox 360 for 2-3 hours a night though.) He says, when you work, your day ends at 5:00, and you get to make money, to buy whatever you want.

He simply does not acknowledge the days I've had to work from 8 a.m. to 9 at night. Or the fact the adults have to deal with silly little things called "bills" and "rent" and "car insurance" (that last one will be near and dear to his heart, as he may be getting his permit next month).

Unfortunately, he's the kind of kid who, if you tell him the "T" in T-Nation stands for Testosterone, he'll yap on and on telling you that it doesn't. TC himself could tell him that, and this kid would still say "No it doesn't. Prove it."

Am I wasting my energy, and fighting a losing battle here? Is it just typical teenager crap I need to deal with? At this point, I just want to get the point into his head that the real world is not all the fun and games he seems to be expecting.


Both are difficult. Maybe you have forgotten the "culture" of high school. Between being pigeon holed into a role from "jock" to "prep" to "nerd" (regardless of changes to "emo" or whatever other bullshit that now takes the place of the SAME characters), I am sure that many kids find it fairly stressful. I am glad that part of my life is over. I think only high school jocks who never make it in life actually look back at high school as the highest point in their life. Think "Al Bundy".

Yes, real jobs are stressful. My job can be stressful. It was very stressful today, by the way. The responsibility is greater and all decisions you make are final and have the potential to affect many. This aspect is what he needs to also unerstand about your life. In Highschool, you can fuck up. Nearly everything you do at that point can be blamed on someone else. Even if you flunk out of school, many would still look at your parents as if THEY fucked up for letting you get that far gone. Once you get out of college, everything is on you and you alone. No one gives a shit if your mom didn't make dinner at that point. No one is going to give you a second chance after you kill someone during a procedure on the job. All of the minor shit you learned in school comes to a head when every decision you make sets a standard. It is that level of responsibility that I am glad I was smart enough to enjoy NOT having while I was growing up.

If you are having a debate about who has the harder life...you might as well give up. No one understands what someone else's life is like unless they live it. All they can do is attempt to understand where someone else is coming from. It sounds like both of you need to do that.


If he's made to get an after school or summer job to pay for a car then he may at least begin to understand. It sounds like life will get him quite familiar with menial labor, given his attitude towards school.


Man. I worked throughout high school and stilled pulled a 3.8 GPA. We were a fancy high school (International Baccalaureatte Program) too. Sounds like he's just lazy. High School is not hard - if you put in the time, you're almost certain to maintain a B average.

I will say, it's incredibly stressful and disheartening. Some of my worst memories come from my middle and early high school years.


I'm 21 and I already miss school, which I never thought I would.

But I have to agree that the best way to learn this is through experience, cause you would've never convinced me back then - as a teenager I new more than the whole world put together.

The stress of having to pay for bills, feed yourself and people who rely on you & knowing that if you lost your job or couldn't work for whatever reason you'd be fucked - so many thing that just build up over time once you're out of school...

Maybe take him a little wager which he'll regret when he grows up? :wink:


I think the Prof hit the nail on the head. What makes the high-school and college-phase of life cool is the opportunity to fuck off. To do nothing, to defer stuff, to not take responsibility, to blame others. And it's really, really nice. I'm looking into going back to school, full-time if I can swing it, and I'll really make the most of that fuck-off ability.

There's no arguing with a high-school kid about stuff like that. None. It only sinks in when they want something and they realise that you're not obligated to give it to them. Think paying up their mobile phone, a new computer, new clothes - stuff that's really important to them but doesn't really fall into the area of essentials. When they get to that point, they're ready to look into working and then they start to learn about the whole idea of personal responsibility.

But until then - why argue? Set the ground rules of what you'll supply and what you won't and let the rest of the bleating fall on deaf ears. If he wants more, and he will eventually want more, he'll have to at least consider stuff independently.


god i wish i could go back to high school... start lifting and eating right from jump street.

prob play football... avoid a lot of mistakes i made...

be a math major ($$$) :-p


As the father of 3 teens (15-19) I can tell you this: You are stupid, teenagers know everything!

Keep up the good fight, but don't make it the focus of the relationship. It's a balancing act. Some figure it out sooner than others.

I like to mention the big "breaks" of the school schedule: summer, Christmas, Easter/spring, snow days... People with jobs generally don't get those breaks.

Good luck!



I agree with this. I've had a job since I was old enough to have one. You learn quickly how important things are when you start balancing studying with real work...even if that real work is working at Six Flags Astro World picking up trash trying really hard not to look too bad in really short short shorts color matched to the Texas Cyclone ride as you try to sweep up used cotton candy funnels and half eaten big ass lollipops and not cry because the trash bag busted open and it started raining and funnel cakes and ciggarette butts spilled all over your shoes and IN your socks while some really cute girls walk by and laugh at you....

Got a little carried away there. Where was I? Oh, Job...get one.


Let him piss and moan about how hard high school is and just ignore him. He is a teenager and he knows everything. We've all been there and the only thing that kicks him in the head and makes him realize that he was wrong is growing up. My suggestion is that you record every rant and rave about how hard high school is and then when he is about 25 or so and has to support himself, play the recording for him. A good "I told you so" years later will make up for the whinning he is putting you through.


I used to laud this over my brother all the time when he was still in school. In lots of HS districts (in Indiana at least), you're allotted snow days, If you don't use them, they're knocked off the end of the school year. You've got to be a little weak to take some of the snow days that kids get, but to take the days anyway? They really are a bunch of pansies.


Yes, the "emotional/cultural branding" in HS is bad but, IMO, it doesn't compare at all to the politics of the workplace. Namely because of the money and career/life actions involved. I agree that most don't look back at HS as the highest point in their life, but I think lots agree that it's definitely one of the easier.


I actually thought college was 50 times more enjoyable. Maybe sex was what was missing.


I hated highschool with a passion. I don't know where any of my classmates are with the exception of my two best friends from that time. I don't go to any homecomings, in fact I have been back to El Paso only twice in the 14 years that I have been married.

But College - I loved college. I can honestly say that it was indeed the best 8 years of my life.


Thanks for the comments, guys. They're appreciated.

About him working, last summer, his uncle got him a job bussing tables at a fancy-shmancy country club. It was about 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. That really was a decent dose of reality for him. However, he then twisted his arguement into "My job is worse than yours, because I'm on my feet all day, and you sit behind a computer." Grrrr.

I've been suggesting that my gal make him pick up some part-time work during the year now, but she says that he's worried about keeping his grades up. (Though, I think that's a bogus excuse. He's got a mid-to-high 80's average, and that's with a truly slothful amount of video gaming).

I will say though, working did give him a slightly better concept of money. He saved up and bought his own Xbox 360 (of course, it didn't help that his dad bought him and his brother each one also, but...that's a rant for another day.) And he still mentions the sting from the $200 he chose to chip in for the dog's veterinarian bill.


Maybe you simply don't slap him enough?

I understand he isn't "your" kid so I would expect much of this to be just his act of rebelling against you being there at all. All boys would be that way unless you jumped on the scene VERY early in his life or you two just hit it off exceptionally well. That is why I refuse to a date a chick with a kid over 5 years of age. After that, they are already little people who know who they originally had in their life.


The difference is that in high school you only have to worry about yourself.

Once your out in the world and have a family every decision you make impacts everyone in your family.

Responsibility is the difference and a huge weight to get used to carrying around.


Most kids aren't capable of thinking outside of themselves. They think that their pain is the worst pain, their joys are the greatest joys, etc.

It might be difficult with split parental messages if they aren't on the same page, but he could be helped to realize the value of work by being made to pull his own weight. This isn't where he gets to buy whatever he wants with money he earns, but has to pay for what he uses to live. You know, clothes, food, utilities, and the like.

Kinda like recalibrating his sense of what it is and what it takes to have anything.


My dad started teaching me responsibility when I was as young as 6. I had chores I had to do every day in order to earn my allowance. I made more allowance than any of my friends did but I had to use it to buy my own clothes and shoes and school supplies. Helped me learn pretty early on how to budget and save and plan for future expenses.


There are many good reasons to dislike high school, but disliking it because the work is difficult is a very odd reason.