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When I was a teenager, my older brother had a friend named Mike who hung around our house a lot…like a LOT! Sometimes he seemed like an additional brother and my parents might have been a little worn out with his presence. Mike wasn’t exactly the brightest guy but very nice and eager to be helpful. So, to save himself the trip, one day my dad gave Mike a ten dollar bill and several envelopes that needed to be mailed asking Mike to go buy some stamps and then mail the envelopes. Mike happily obliged returning before long. When my father asked for his change from the ten dollar bill, Mike was confused. It seemed that he bought ten dollars worth of stamps and put them all onto the envelopes that needed to be mailed! And all those stamps at a time when postage was about 10 cents! He went on to explain that he thought something was odd because there wasn’t room enough for all the stamps on the fronts of the envelopes. . . so he’d put some on the backs too! Our family enjoyed this silly story for years.

Not so long ago I heard the story of a young guy, shopping at the grocery story for the first time on his own, who tried to tip the checkout clerk. His parents were astounded. . . tempted to make fun of him. But then it occurred to them, how would he know? So instead, the experience became a chance to talk about wage earnings versus tip-based earnings. Since he’s not too far from the age to seek a job, the whole topic was of interest to him.

The two boys’ experiences point to the fact that our teens have much to learn about how the world works, things that, as adults, we often assume they know. It’s worth noting that each of these boys got their lesson from being out IN the world on their own, trying out managing fairly simple, real-life tasks. Further, if you stop to think about it, teens have an astonishing array, a huge number of tasks they need to be able to manage on their own by young adulthood. To name a few:

  • managing a bank account
  • preparing a simple meal
  • doing laundry
  • taking out trash, separating recycle materials
  • navigating to public transportation OR figuring out how to drive to a new place
  • paying bills on time + handling credit
  • planning their own work load
  • eating, drinking in a wholesome way
  • meal planning and grocery shopping
  • maintaining their own personal space
  • filling a car with gas and checking the oil

The list goes on and on. The actual skill required for most of these chores is simple. But learning the timing and being able to do them confidently with ease. . . that takes some practice! Wouldn’t it be simpler for them to learn before they leave home, before they’re also trying to balance demands of a new school environment or new job?

Consider the relationship between competence and confidence. If I’m not so sure I know how to do something, especially if it’s something which is required, it requires extra attention, extra focus for me to accomplish it. I might feel a little nervous if I’m doing it right or if it’s going to work out okay. If, on the other hand, I’ve done it many times before, I feel relaxed . . . I may even chat on the phone while I fold laundry. Consider too that when a young person leaves home, there is so much which is new and likely to be challenging. Why not help them develop that extra measure of competence and confidence from mastering chores gradually, long before they launch? How could NOT doing for your kid actually end up building her competence and confidence?

What daily life skills do you expect your kid to need when he leaves home?
What opportunities does she have to learn those right now?
Which chores could you start with?