There are a lot of lists circulating on the internet detailing skills that all children should have by age 18. They’re particularly popular this time of year. While I absolutely believe that a parent’s job is to help prepare their offspring for adulthood and see it as part of the parental mandate, I don’t love these lists. As someone who has a deep-seeded appreciation for, and almost unhealthy obsession, with lists, that’s really saying something.
They’re not absolutes. I’m pretty sure your kid is going to need to do more than 9 or 13 or 18 things well and independently to be a responsible, high-functioning grown-up. Adulting is complicated. AND it’s likely that the world will not come to an end if there are a few skills they haven’t yet mastered.
Science has shown that the brain keeps developing into an individual’s mid-20’s. Chances are that a kid still in his teens doesn’t have it all figured out.
Maybe your kid hasn’t mastered an entire list. It’s okay! Really! And I say this from experience.
I have a confession to make. I recently shared a post on the Between Us Parents Facebook page about how to address and stamp an envelope and kids needing to know how to do it. However, I am living proof that you can make your way in the world even if you don’t master a skill the first time.
After I shared the image, I had a flashback to high school when a friend and I were asked by a teacher during a study hall to address and stamp some envelopes for a mailing. My mom had dutifully shown me, and I had addressed my share of thank you notes, but I had a brain cramp. I put the stamp in the wrong corner.
“You don’t put the stamp there! I know you get good grades but are you telling me don’t you know how to address an envelope?” my friend asked incredulously.
“Apparently?” I said meekly.
She showed me and just as I peeled the stamp off, poorly, the teacher walked in.
“You wasted a stamp?!?!” he asked.
“Uh…..,” I stammered, afraid that he really was angry.
“I’m kidding. Looks like you’ve got it now. Just try to be more careful, we need that quarter” he said and moved on to something else. (And yes, stamps were a quarter back then. Talk about dating myself. And goodness knows “Googling it” was not an option yet.)
Was I embarrassed? Yup.
Did I learn? Sure did.
Did I make the mistake again? Nope.
Newsflash: The world continued to spin, and I was none the worse for wear.
I still adore that friend and she hasn’t brought up the stamp incident in at least a few decades.
I thought about this when I heard a mom tell a story about her daughter doing laundry her first semester of college and using only softener, no detergent. The girl had a great first semester and while her clothes may not have been sparkling, she smelled fine enough to make friends. (Her mom straightened her out over holiday break.)
These just illustrate that we are all continuously learning. While yes, we should have basic skills, there are always going to be things they don’t know.
What would happened if we taught our kids to accept that they’ll never know everything and help them learn how to inform themselves?
I don’t see “learn how to research something” on any of these lists. Any why aren’t items like “develop some resources of helpful information” or “be comfortable asking for help” on those lists, either?
While we’re at it, let’s add:
– be kind,
– be capable of empathizing,
– recognize when you don’t know something and have be able to make a plan for figuring it out,
– always be learning, because you will never, ever know it all, but
– you will know some things so know how to share your knowledge with others in a non-judgmental way. Even better, learn to find organizations where you can use your knowledge to benefit those in need.
Also, call your mother.
Prior Post: Why I vaccinate my teen
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