Young People Suffer From a Lack of Practical Skills

CC BY 2.0. peapod labs

More than half of 18- to 24-year-olds don't know how to set up utility bills.

When my sister hired a young teenager to work in her pizza and bagel shop this summer, she told him to start with dishwashing. It quickly became apparent that he had no idea what to do. He filled the industrial-sized sink to the brim with cold water (it took ages) and squirted in an excessive amount of detergent. Then he began to wash the dishes in no particular order, seeing no difference between water glasses and containers caked in tomato sauce or oily pesto. My sister had to show him, step by step, the basics of dishwashing and lamented to me, "How could a parent not teach this to their kid?"

So it was not surprising to me to learn about the Good Housekeeping Institute's recent publication of a dishwashing guide for all those young people (2 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in the UK) who have never learned the ancient art of washing up. In a nutshell, use hot water and rubber gloves, pre-scrape and soak dirty pans, change your water halfway through, and wash in the following order: glasses, mugs, cups, saucers, side plates, dinner plates, cutlery, serving dishes, pans, roasting tins.

While not knowing how to wash dishes is kind of a big deal, it's the whole idea of not being to handle oneself as a versatile, independent adult that is most concerning. Young people lack a wide range of practical skills these days, as revealed in a recent study by YouGov. More than half of young people (18-24) do not know how to set up utility bills upon moving to a new place; 54 percent cannot replace a fuse in a plug; 34 percent can't reset the fuse box after a switch has tripped; 37 percent do not know how to defrost a freezer; and 11 percent is clueless when it comes to changing lightbulbs. (You can see the entire sad list here.)

laundromat teens

Ashley Campbell/CC BY 2.0

Many young people live at home, which means they likely rely on parents to do these things for them; but perhaps the lack of knowledge is partly what keeps them at home. They feel helpless in the face of the real world's demands, terrified of not knowing how to handle themselves.

Parents, do your kids a favor and teach them how to run a household. Give them the tools for being a grownup and expect this of them from a young age. When I think back on some of the most useful tasks my parents taught me, these include changing a car tire (I've done it on the side of the road in emergencies), building a fire, cleaning a toilet, washing a floor, sewing on buttons, and using a chef's knife properly. Some other skills were less crucial, like changing the oil on the car (I pay someone to do that now) and ironing, but these build confidence and a willingness to try.

If you don't teach your kids, they may end up having to attend a place like Adulting School -- not a bad option (thank goodness it exists), but an unfortunate detour along the way to true independence.