Let’s face it. . . parenting can really suck sometimes.
Now that I have teenagers, I can see in hindsight what I could have done better.
I want you to learn from my mistakes so you’ll be more prepared than I was.
It seems like “these days” (I know, what am I, 100?) kids leave home with less and less skills to get them through life.
Society is constantly talking about entitled, ill equipped kids going out into the work force with no basic skills.
Most of these skills aren’t taught in school and too many parents are too busy to notice what their kids are missing.
As homesteading families, I feel like our kids are more ready for the real world. They have chores, rules and they actually know where their food comes from. That’s a start, right?
But there are still life skills I wish my kids had learned at a younger age.
So let me share with you my list of essential life skills parents should teach their kids and you can add some others in the comments if you think I have missed something.
Cool? Ok. Let’s get started.
30 Essential Life Skills Parents Should Teach Their Kids
1. Do you own laundry.
Kids should be able to collect, sort, wash, dry, fold and put away their own laundry. So the next time you hear a child say, ” I don’t have anything to wear!”, let them know that they are fully capable of doing their own laundry. They don’t (and shouldn’t) need to wait for a parent to do their laundry.
2. Know how to cook atleast 5 meals.
These meals don’t need to gourmet, but they should be edible and not straight from a box or freezer.
Some ideas could be pasta (spaghetti or mac and cheese), breakfast (eggs and bacon, french toast, pancakes), grilling (hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken), crockpot meals (chili, stew, soup) or mexican (tacos, fajitas, nachos).
Allow kids in the kitchen to help you with a meal or assign older kids one night a week to make meals for the family. Practice makes perfect!
3. Personal hygiene
Kids should be able to keep themselves clean, such as taking showers, wearing deodorant, brushing their teeth and hair, changing their socks and underwear, etc. This seems basic, but it is vital that they do this without being reminded, atleast by the end of middle school.
4. Budget, spend and save their money.
Kids don’t learn much about money in school, so this is really where parents need to teach their kids.
They need to know how to earn money and then what to do with that money once they have been paid. They need to know how much they should spend, save and give to others.
They should know how interest works and that it is better to earn instead of pay interest.
5. How to drive a car.
Unless you live in a big city with ample public transportation, you should learn how to drive (and get a license) before you leave home.
Even those that use public transportation daily need this skill in case they need to rent a car for a trip or a moving truck or van.
6. Change a flat tire.
Having a flat tire is not fun and hopefully there will be others around if and when it happens. But teenagers that are driving should know how to change a flat and they should have the tools available to do so in any car they are driving. This will include a spare tire, a jack and other tools for the job.
7. Put gas in the car.
I have noticed in several gas stations lately that they have signs up saying you can’t pump gas unless you are over 16. I don’t agree with this, but nobody asked me.
Kids should learn how to pump gas and maybe even do this as a service to their parents if it is legal in their area.
That way they will be prepared and experienced when they start driving on their own.
8. Make their bed.
This is a basic chore that should be learned at a young age. Maybe as early as 4 or 5.
Whether or not they do it as they get older is up to them, but they should know the proper way to make a bed.
9. Basic cleaning.
Kids should know how to clean bathrooms, kitchen and their bedrooms at minimum. They should know what chemicals to use for different jobs and when they should not mix these chemicals.
They should also know how to vacuum and mop the floors, clean windows and take out the trash. The more they know about cleaning now, the better roommate and spouse they will be later.
10. Have a real conversation with an adult.
My kids really struggle with this one. I have noticed that they have some anxiety about talking to adults, especially teachers or other adults in authority.
I don’t know if it is because of technology and the use of texting, or what, but I have had to push them to speak to adults. This could be asking a teacher about a test, or a boy scout leader about a requirement, or talking to an older person at church.
If kids can learn this skill early, they will be so much better equipped to deal with other adults when they go out into the real world (or even college).
11. Basic manners.
Basic manners can include (but not only) opening doors for people, pulling out chairs, table manners, saying please and thank you, respecting elders and so much more.
We want our children to be thoughtful and aware of other people around them. Manners are the way they show these qualities to others.
12. Call a business and solve a problem.
Just like #10, making phone calls to people that aren’t their friends and family is really hard for kids/teens these days.
But what happens when they need to discuss a bill with a creditor or sign up for a service. Although many of these things can be done online, they still need to be able to call and talk to a person sometimes.
13. How to address a police officer or other person of authority.
This seems like #10 and #12, but I think this is really important.
Kids/teens need to know how to address adults in authority. They need to know how to show respect and listen to what others are saying.
Whether it is a police officer that has pulled them over or the lady behind the counter at the DMV. This can make a big difference in how these situations turn out.
So much of our news these days seems to be caused at the root by the lack of respect to elders and authority. Understanding these things can keep kids/teens out of trouble and help them earn respect themselves.
14. How to be a good employee.
As soon as they are old enough, kids need to learn how to be a good employee. This might be an employee to Uncle Bob on the farm or the manager at McDonalds. It doesn’t matter.
Being a good employee means showing up on time, following rules and laws, taking responsibility for wrong doing and respect for other employees and managers.
15. To get up on time without help.
This is something that has been a struggle at our house, but we are getting there.
We don’t allow our kids to have their phones overnight, so they don’t have them in the morning for an alarm clock. Therefore they actually need an alarm clock (old school!).
But they need to know how to wake up, if they need to use the snooze button and what is the best way for them to wake up on time, on their own.
16. How to set boundaries with technology.
Like I hinted above, we have rules with phones and technology at our house.
Kids need to learn how to put down the phone and interact with people on a personal level. This is an individual decision, but the more we can encourage our kids to be present in the real world, the better.
We also need to help them understand that social media isn’t real life and most people put only their best lives online. They need to be aware of this so they don’t feel bad about their own real lives.
17. How to grow food and where food comes from.
This should be easy for homesteading kids, because they usually help with the garden every summer.
Kids should know what grows on trees, what grows above the ground and what grows below ground. They should also know what you need to do to make fruits and vegetables grow (sun, water, weeding, etc.).
18. How to hunt for food and/or butcher an animal for food.
Some people might not like this, and that’s ok. As a kid that grew up in the city, I did not learn this skill.
In fact, I only learned this a few years ago.
But teens/adults need to know how to feed themselves, and not just by going to the grocery store. They should be able to kill an animal for food if necessary. This could be hunting or trapping.
This is basic survival that many people don’t know how to do anymore.
19. Basic home repairs.
People that know how to do basic home repairs will save a lot of time and money throughout their lives.
This can include: unclogging a toilet, fixing a leaky faucet, repairing a broken door or window, small roof repair, etc.
So when you are repairing something at home, let your kids in on it so they can learn from you.
20. How to start a fire.
This is a very basic skill that many people don’t learn anymore.
Whether you have a backyard campout, go on a 5 day hike or just starting a fire in your woodstove, starting a fire is a basic survival skill that every kid needs to know.
21. How to write a resume.
Resume writing may seem like a lost art, but it is still very relevant and important.
Kids may learn this in school, but not always.
Writing a good resume can be the difference between a good job and a great job.
22. How to leave a tip (and how much).
I still struggle with this, because I am used to my husband leaving the tip. So when I am by myself, I have to concentrate on it more than he does.
Many places will give you an electronic option to add a tip, but they usually start higher than needed (in my opinion).
I have always thought that if you double the tax, you are good. But that depends on the state (or country) you live in.
23. Basic first aid.
A calm, cool head and a little first aid knowledge can help your child/teen to be helpful in an emergency situation.
Basic first aid such as putting on a bandaid, treating a burn, treating a cut, taking someone’s temperature, etc are necessary for kids to learn fairly early in life.
24. How to read and follow instructions for medications.
Whether this is over the counter or prescription medications, teens (maybe older kids too) need to be able to read the instructions, follow instructions and figure out how much their dosage is depending on their age and weight.
25. How and when to call 911 (emergency services).
Young kids can learn how to call 911 fairly easily. You can put something on your refrigerator to remind them of the number if they forget in an emergency.
They also need to know that they shouldn’t prank call or call 911 unnecessarily, and the consequences of that action.
26. How to grocery shop on a budget
Most kids know how to go to the grocery store for lunch or to buy a candy bar. Especially now that most grocery stores have automated checkout where they don’t even have to talk to a person.
But parents need to take that a step further and show kids how to use a budget to buy a weeks worth of healthy food.
This can include meal planning, making a grocery list and calculating a realistic budget. They also need to know what to put back if they go over the budget.
27. Study skills
These can be taught in school, but they need to be practiced at home.
There are so many kids that go through middle school and high school not really having to study much and then they get to college and have no idea how to study.
This can also include time management skills.
28. Basic sewing skills.
Basic sewing skills are a lost art. They can include: knowing how to use a sewing machine, sewing a button or seam by hand and use a simple pattern to make something.
29. How to read a map
Most of us have a GPS on our phones, so people don’t use maps as much anymore.
But technology fails, so kids/teens need to know how to read a map as well.
You should have a map of your state or surroundings in your car at all times in case the GPS fails or your phone dies.
30. How to keep important records safe
Parents usually do this for the family until kids leave the home.
But before that, teens need to know what important papers they need to keep track of and keep safe.
This could include: social security cards, medical records, birth certificates, pay stubs, tax records, etc.
They can use an accordion file or small file folder.
This may seem like an overwhelming list for parents that haven’t been proactive in teaching their children basic skills their whole lives.
But it isn’t too late! Pick a few skills for each month, season or year.
Let the kids help you when you are doing something around the house that they need to learn, like cleaning, fixing things, gardening or hunting.
My kids have learned many of these skills from being in Boy Scouts with their dad as the scout master.
It is so important to teach our kids the things they will need to know so they can grow up and be smart, productive members of society. The life skills in this list are a great start to give them the leg up on other people their age.
We want our kids to be the best they can be, so make sure and teach them all you can while they are in your home. It will make all the difference!
What life skills did I leave out? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!