Today we are talking about basic life skills that we need to be teaching our pre-teen and teenage children that will assist them in being a productive young adult once they leave the safe confines of mom and dads house. They will no longer have mom and dad to take care of their clothes, make sure the oil is changed in the car, things are clean and organized and all the other stuff we do for and with our children. As a high school teacher that specializes in working with kids with intellectual and behavior disabilities one of my main focus points all school year is growing the basic life skills of my students. As a coach I also assign certain duties to the team so they can learn how to do laundry, clean and keep the locker room neat and orderly. Our children do not need to grow up having everything handed to them or done for them.
Our goal as adults, parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, aunts and uncles should always be to help our kiddos learn to live, work and play the best they can once they are grown and can no longer depend on us for everything. With this said, I have put together a list of ten things kids need to be able to do before they leave your home and venture into the world wide eyed and bushy tailed to take it on. My parents taught me valuable lessons like cooking, cleaning, doing chores, working outside, gardening, fixing things, and most importantly to be able to depend on myself to get things done. My dad could fix anything and was very good with his hands. I tried to learn that but am not the most mechanical person so even in my 50’s I continue to tackle that task and get better at fixing things around the house. I assure you, my wife would likely hire someone else to do it versus allowing me to do it as I am not the best at reading directions.
My mom taught my brothers and I how to clean, shop, cook, take care of chores and be respectful to women, family, friends and neighbors. Both taught us the value of hard work, family, faith and being able to conquer lives challenges. Below is the top ten things I would like to see teenagers and emerging young adults be able to handle in life and these can be taught as they are growing up in your house. Take a few minutes and involve them in these things and watch them learn and grow into productive adults.
1- Laundry- Kids need to be able to do laundry. My brothers and I rotated helping my mom with laundry growing up. Did you know there are certain ways to fold certain things. I drive my wife nuts not folding underwear and tee shirts the ways she prefers (hee hee hee), got to get her someway right guys. Keeping clean, orderly, properly folded and hung clothing is an important part of life. Why spend the time rushing before work to press and get clothes wrinkle free when they could be hung properly so you can grab and go. When they go off to college, move out and begin life they need to be able to take care of clothes. Clothes are expensive and should be handled with care.
2- Shopping for groceries is another skill they need to have. I am not talking about running in and buying milk and eggs for mom real quick. Can they make a list of the items needed for the pantry, to make a recipe or prepare for a holiday meal. Do they understand pricing per ounce, what is the best buy and the difference in generic and name brand foods. Shopping can get very expensive if done randomly and without a process to maximize savings while getting every item needed. Teach them how to shop, ask them to do the math and compare prices for the best deal.
3- Teenagers need to know how to cook. I am not talking about just boiling macaroni and cheese. Can they prepare a meal that has the basic parts needed like a meat, protein and veggies. Can they measure out ingredients and properly season a meal. My mom taught me how to cook and I still love to cook to this day for my family. Taking a one semester class in school about foods and nutrition is pretty standard, but as parents and guardians we need to teach our kids to prepare foods, cook it and serve it to people.
4- Teenagers need to know how to manage money. Most kids take a basic class in school about finances or in business classes but can they actually manage money, make and count change, identify bills, coins and know how to save money. A piggy bank is not saving money so open an account with them not for them. When they get all that birthday money take them to the bank and have them save 50% of it in a checking account. Teach them how to write a check, make a debit card transaction and how using credit can ruin them early on as young adults if not managed properly.
5- Teenagers must learn to stay organized and not be so cluttered. They live a life on the go and one that involves the use of technology. Teach them how to stay organized, neat and clean in life. Do you allow their room to be cluttered with stuff laying all over the place. If they rely on you to help them stay organized and find stuff then hold them accountable and the next time they miss a deadline on a project then they get the grade they get. Teach them about organization at home, work and in life. They will need this skill later on to function as an adult.
6- Teach them how to manage time. As a teenager I grew up in a different time but kids are not that much different now from back then. They stay busy, on the go and are constantly looking for the next thing to do. However, they must learn as they grow up that managing time is important. Teach them to be on time, be early to events, manage the time they have between homework, sports and other activity. If you as a parent are always late getting them to school, going out the door and trying to manage life. Then it is time to sit back, reexamine you schedule and make positive changes so you can teach your kids the value of managing time.
7- Teach them how and when to communicate with people. Dealing with adults, at church and other events is not the same as talking to their friends on the phone or at school. Our kids are growing up in a technology age where everything is bam and done. They have 25 apps on their phones that they chat with, send pictures and share things with their group of friends. The question I have is do they know how to properly communicate with adults, teachers, parents, school personnel and the community as a whole. Do they know that street language, bad language and slang terms are not appropriate at work, church, in the community and at social events. I tell my students daily there is a time and place for certain ways to talk and communicate. I do not respond to my student/athletes saying “yo”, “hey”, “bro”, “what”, “dude” or any of that other street lingo.
8- This one may surprise you but it is very important. Do your kids know how to swim, tread water or survive or help if someone is drowning. My kids love to swim and grew up in a pool all summer, in the lakes near the house and learned how to swim. Water is a killer and knowing how to swim, tread water and survive is important. Take them to the YNCA, a lake or a local river and have them learn how to swim. You may think, is this really a life skill they need and I respond by saying what will they do “if” Oneday they see someone, maybe even their own family or child struggling. Are they going to stand there and watch the person drown or take action and try to save that life. Think about it!
9- How to do basic car maintenance. How many times have a I heard a mom or dad say that little tommy ran the car out of gas, out of oil or broke the tire off. Teenagers need to know how to get the oil changed in a car, to check the tires for air pressure before taking trips, check fluid levels and add fluids as needed. They need to be able to change a tire on a car. Yes they will call mom and dad or a friend, but they need to know where the spare tire is, where the jack is and how to use it. What if they are an hour away somewhere, they could have it changed or fixed before you get there. Do they know that the temperature gauge goes over a certain point or they smell fluids burning to pull over and call for help. I worked with a football coach years ago that actually took his players to the parking lot and with parental permission would have them change tires, rotate the tires, and check fluids in every car.
10- Teenagers need to know the value of hard work and what it takes to be successful. Are you teaching them that everything will be handed to them on a silver platter or are you teaching the values of work ethic, dedication, discipline and how to get ahead in life. Teenagers need to work a part time job if they can, especially in the summer time. It will give them the opportunity to actually put into practice the thing on this list we talked about. They will learn to make money, save money, work hard, take car of the car, live on a schedule, manage time and stay organized on their studies and life.
Lastly I beg of you to please teach your children what I call the Barney Principles of life. These are basic life skills that will enable them to find, keep and be productive on the job, in life and how they play. Please, Thank You, Yes Mam, No Mam, Yes Sir, No Sir, Your Welcome, No Thanks, Bless You and all those other sweet sayings that make people feel warm inside, shows respect for people and allows them to properly communicate with peers, family and friends. As a teacher I address my students with these kind words an sayings and expect it in return. As a parent, guardian, teacher, guide, mentor, aunt, uncle or coach we should raise the expectations of our youth, teach them these life skills and allow them to grow into wonderful productive adults they can be!