7 Adult Things Kids Need to Start Doing

how do you teach kids to be responsible
how do you teach kids to be responsible

Parenting Goal:  Give your kids the skills and knowledge needed to become a productive member of society without living with their parents as an adult.

But there are many daily situations where parents perform acts for the kids that we don’t even see as a hands-on opportunity to meet the parenting goal of raising productive members of society.

Why is this?  There are adult functions and child functions.  It’s because we think we have a certain parenting chores that society expects us to perform without question.

Look, I have three kids with their own set of challenges and strengths, and some days my parenting goal is just to get them to school with all their clothes on and teeth brushed.

But honestly, there are lots of things that we as adults step in and do for our kids that we never consider our kids can actually do also.

Here are seven “adult” things we can start letting our kids do today:

#1:  LET THEM CHECK IN

Have your kids check themselves in for medical, dental or any other routine appointments.  As soon as kids know how to write their name and date of birth, they are fully capable of checking themselves in for appointments.

At first they will need instruction on what to do. Talk with them ahead of time about what information the staff will need. Role playing is helpful.

Once you arrive at the location, go sit down in the lobby and be on stand-by (mostly in the event that a form has to be completed, but have your child bring the form to you).  Two problems to watch out for and help your child with if they get into a bind:

  • They are short and the person behind the desk may not see them, or another parent may cut in front of them on accident.  Rehearse with your child ahead of time what to do in case this happens.
  • The person behind the desk isn’t used to kids checking themselves in for appointments, so your child will need to be able to speak up and clearly state that they are checking in.

#2: LET THEM ORDER

Even when you’re short on time, kids can practice independence.

Whenever you have to grab dinner at a drive-thru, let them order and handle the transaction from the back seat.

I’m serious, literally pull up to the drive thru far enough for your child to roll down their window and place the order, pay for the food, and distribute the food.

This accomplishes a few things:

  • By feeling the pressure of getting everyone’s order in the car correct, your child will get a first-hand understanding of how it feels to be in your shoes.  They will become less demanding and picky at future drive-thru moments.
  • They have to speak loudly and clearly enough for the person taking the order to understand them.  Practicing projecting their voice for an “audience” will come in handy in the future whenever they have to stand up in front of a class to give a presentation.
  • Handling money in a drive-thru literally helps them become aware of their motor skills.  In addition to the obvious benefit of counting money under pressure, they have to hand the money over to the cashier without dropping it, and receive the change without dropping it also. 
  • It builds confidence and an atmosphere of fun.  They feel very proud of handling the transaction, and the more they do it, the more they’ll feel comfortable being in charge of this type of transaction and feeding the whole family. 

#3: LET THEM INVEST IN THE STOCK MARKET

Some families automatically put a chunk of money into an account for kids when they’re born.  Bravo to parents who can do that!

But that’s not the kind of account I’m talking about investing in here.

I’m talking about encouraging kids to build up a piggy bank in their very young years.  Then when they have enough to open a mutual fund with the piggy bank money, open a custodial account mutual fund for them.

And let your child actually see the month to month gains/losses.  A custodial account is an instrument that allows kids to have their own accounts through a parent’s bank.

Call your bank to see what the options are for custodial accounts.

Your bank can even talk with your child directly about the options.  When my son did this, he actually called the bank frequently himself to ask questions about investing.

He was 12, so the financial advisors were nice enough to give him an in depth education about the stock market, the Great Depression, and transaction terminology.

There is no way he would have learned all that in school or from me…and he paid complete attention because it was his money on the line.

After he opened his mutual fund, he developed his own little methodology with how to research companies so he could venture out into actually purchasing stocks in companies.

As a teenager, he owns stocks in several companies and he knows more about investing than any adult I’ve ever personally known.

Another bonus that comes along with researching companies learning about the global economy.  Some companies are based in countries with unstable economies, as my son found out the hard way!

But he has learned a great deal about how other countries govern and the end financial result of how their governments work.

By investing his own piggy bank money, he is more cautious about his decisions and he has direct ownership and control over his money…with custodial consent of course!

My thoughts are that if he is going to fail in the stock market, it might as well be when he’s a teenager instead of when he is in his 20’s or 30’s and has a family to support.

Get your kids investing!

#4: LET THEM DO THEIR OWN LAUNDRY

when can kids start doing laundry

I learned this from a social media post that said “If kids can operate an iPad, they can operate a washing machine.”  It’s the truth.

This one is probably the hardest independence opportunity to digest as a parent because what happens if your child DOESN’T do their laundry?

Do you swoop in and handle it for them to rescue them from going to school with dirty clothes?

Or do you let them face the peer pressure consequences of wearing dirty clothes.?  My children are horrified at the idea of wearing dirty clothes.  For my 13 year old, it’s a matter of germs.  For his younger siblings, it’s a matter of looking ugly.

#5:  LET THEM SHOP

It’s okay to hand over the grocery list and a set amount of cash to kids in the store, especially when you’re just make a quick trip to grab a few forgotten items.

Kids need to know that money has a limit and that money does run out.

Letting them do this as soon as they’re old enough to add and subtract two digit lines accomplishes a few things:

  • allows them to compare prices
  • introduces the concept of taxes to them
  • gives them insight into why we don’t just grab everything we want in the store
  • helps them develop a sense of accomplishment when they stay within the budget
  • gives them confidence to take charge

6: GIVE THEM A BUDGET

If you’re feeling really bold, give the kids a set amount of money each month to buy their own personal hygiene items and clothing items with. 

This works best for tweens and teens.

I tried it when my son was about 6 and he really had a hard time buying toilet paper instead of toys.

#7: LET THEM COOK

mearuring ingredients

Kids really can help with cooking!  It’s an easy way to let them learn about orders of operation, measurements, nutrition, safety, and it is a great opportunity for some family bonding time while creating great memories.

Cooking with kids is a win win for everyone.

Not sure where to start with teaching your children how to cook? Here are the age and skill guidelines I go by:

There are probably lots of other things we just naturally overlook that kids can start doing, but hopefully these seven have given you a starting point.

Every time kids complete meaningful tasks and have meaningful exchanges in the “real” world, those little connections in their brain start forming a more solid path, building confidence along the way.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas about how kids can start learning tasks that we as parents typically overlook.

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