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Lately I’ve spent a lot of thought and writing on chores…the how, the why, the when, the importance. An underlying notion is

We do our children HARM when we . . .

do something for them which they can already do

do something for them that they can almost already do

parent from our own needs rather than theirs

Julie Lythcott-Haims, How to Raise an Adult

Julie Lythcott-Haims pretty much knows everything about getting kids ready for independence and heading off to college. The former dean of freshmen at Stanford for ten years, she is the author of How to Raise an Adult. As if that isn’t enough, she’s whip-smart, funny, well read AND raising two kids of her own in Palo Alto, CA.

I love her notion of “the checklisted childhood.” The one in which kids have so many must-do items on their list that they have no time left to learn to be themselves, the TRUE task of adolescence. But Julie gives readers a HUGE boost in her list of what every 18 year old needs to know to enter the world. Coming pretty much straight from her work, know that this is just the tip of the iceberg…grab a copy of How to Raise an Adult and read it with friends or join one of my Reading Groups. But whatever you do, don’t miss this book. For one thing, she says this about how chores and living prepare your kids for these essential tasks:

  1. An eighteen year old must be able to talk to strangers – people in the real world from faculty advisors to store clerks to bus drivers.
  2. An eighteen year old must be able to find his way around – campus, the town in which her summer internship is located, the city where she’s studying abroad.
  3. An eighteen year old must be able to manage his own assignments, workload and deadlines – he has to know how to set priorities, what’s urgent/what can wait, ask for help.
  4. An eighteen year old must be able to contribute to the running of a household – how to look after their own needs, respect the needs of others, do their fair share, fit self-maintenance chores into their schedule.
  5. An eighteen year old must be able to handle interpersonal problems – to solve misunderstandings and soothe hurt feelings for themselves.
  6. An eighteen year old must be able to cope with ups and downs – or normal life like college-level work; people they don’t like or who don’t like them; tough time; loneliness.
  7. An eighteen year old must be able to earn and manage money – hold a job, be responsible to another adult, manage time and money, play for the use of money or credit.
  8. An eighteen year old must be able to take risks – develop the wise understanding that success comes only after trying and failing and trying again; learn when to say, “nope too dangerous.”

Lythcott-Haims adds that kids must be able to do all these things without calling home. If they’re calling to ask how, they DO NOT have the life skill.

Closing out this section of thinking about and writing about chores, I suggest that with your mid-teen or late teen, you may be wise to pull the list above to use as a conversation springboard. Give them a copy of the list and keep one for mom and dad…then evaluate where he is on track or not. Identify new freedoms or responsibilities which will help him develop his skills before it’s time to launch.

Mastering this Different Kind of Checklist will fill you both with confidence!