Start “adulting School” When Your Kids Are Young

chopping wood

Nobody should have to figure out these basic life skills as adults. Better to start teaching them from a young age.

You’ve probably heard the word “adulting” if you’ve spent any time on the Internet in the past year. Despite the obvious annoyance that it’s a noun being used as a verb (this writer takes issue with that), it’s a cute moniker for (a) acting like an adult, or (b) trying to get someone to act like an adult.

Why does this word even exist? Well, my fellow Millennials have developed a rather unfortunate reputation for not being able to function as whole adults. We may look like adults and do adult things, but there are many things we’re clueless about – things that, in the traditional definition of adulthood, we really should know how to do. This could be changing a tire, fixing a broken window, budgeting and saving money properly, cooking dinner from scratch, or filing papers.

The situation has become so dire that places like Stanford’s grocery shopping course and The Adulting School in Portland, Maine, have popped up. Here, young people can go to learn how to do all the things they never learned in school and, for whatever reason, were never taught to them by their parents. As the Adulting School’s website says:

“We know you're sick of feeling like you're pretending to be a grown-up and that someone's going to realize you don't know the sh#t you're supposed to know.”

It’s a brilliant solution to the problem that will no doubt help many individuals. (I wish I could take the “Make It & Fix It Skills” course, since that’s one area seriously lacking for me.) It is imperative that we address the root problem, however, and that is teaching kids from a young age how to do the practical tasks that are necessary for a functional and satisfying life.

This brings to mind a catchphrase made popular within the CrossFit community by physical therapist and coach Kelly Starrett: “All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves.” While Starrett means it in a physical sense, I think the same message applies to other aspects of life. Knowing how to cook, organize, fix, and speak confidently are skills that will enrich one’s life and increase success.

What are some of the things that children should be taught? Let’s take a look at TreeHugger’s parenting toolbox for guidance:

1. It’s OK to give your kid a knife

It sounds counterintuitive. Most of us parents lunge for knives if kids get anywhere near them, but it’s important to realize that it’s by using them that a kid will get better at it, and learn how to respect its sharpness. Read article here. See also: 6 ways to start teaching your kid how to cook

2. Set your kids free in the kitchen, knives and all

Once your kid has figured out how to wield a knife without risk of amputation, let them go a step further and cook unsupervised. You may have to choke down some questionable meals, but you’ll have a gourmet cook in the family by adolescence. Read article here.

3. Let your kids pack their own school lunches

There’s no reason a school-aged kid cannot assemble his or her own lunch, especially if you place possible items in places that are easy to reach. Read article here.

4. Allow them to walk to school

Once they’ve packed their lunch, let them carry to school... on foot, alone. Such a suggestion sounds scandalous in today’s safety-obsessed culture, but what better way to start teaching your kid to be confident on his or her own? Read article here.

5. At the playground? Leave them to play without nagging about safety.

Parents are understandably concerned about their children’s safety, but physical play is what teaches a kid about how the body works. By playing roughly and pushing limits, a kid learns how to balance and be flexible, how to twist, jump, run, and pull himself up. This is all practice for real-life physical demands down the road. Read article here.

6. The more they play outside, the smarter they’ll be.

Outdoor play is linked to all kinds of benefits, including academic. Sending little ones outdoors every day is one way to kickstart their formal schooling, not least of all to challenge and develop important sensory skills. Read article here.

7. Put them to work when they get home.

Children should be expected to do chores around the house, for so many reasons. Not only does it help the parents get everything done, but this is real life training for the many things they’ll have to do on their own someday. It also gives them “a vital sense of being of real use in the world.” Read article here.

8. Teach them how to manage money.

Money is one of the greatest stressors in life. It can lead to anxiety and depression, and strain otherwise healthy relationships to the point of disintegration. Do your kids a favor and teach them money-smarts from a young age. Read article here.

9. Don't overdo the homework help!

Kids need to take responsibility for themselves and be held accountable for tasks such as completing homework. Helping too much has been linked to lower resiliency (the opposite of what every parent wants for their kid), greater depression, and decreased satisfaction with life. Resist the urge to get involved. Read article here.

Teach these lessons from an early age, and your children will thank you someday.