I recently took a 14-year-old on an outing. I collected him from his home when his parents weren’t there. He had been told for the first time ever that he was responsible for locking up the house – but I had to remind him to get the keys… and close the door… and then lock it.
I was shocked to realise this was a teenager who’s obviously never been given that sort of responsibility in his own home.
One of the smartest kids in his class, but not trusted enough to perform some basic functions of domestic life. Would he not need to know how to do that at some stage? Of course he would. So why hadn’t his parents taught him? Because while academic learning was of utmost importance to them, life skills were not.
Maybe they think that life skills come naturally to kids as they get older, right? Hm, perhaps not.
I’ve always encouraged my own now 10-year-old to be as practical as possible, and not just out of necessity because I’m an exhausted single mother, as some people have observed.
It’s because that’s how I was raised. My parents were extreme ‘intentionally lazy parents‘ – a term which is now being used to describe parents who disengage and don’t micro-manage aspects of their children’s lives that they could manage themselves.
And so, my sisters and I contributed. We worked in the family businesses. We were expected to perform adult duties as kids – like receptionist duties on a Saturday morning at our parents’ medical clinic. That not only taught us teamwork as a family, but also basic skills: how to answer a phone and take messages. Deal with impatient people. Re-order supplies.
Sounds really grown up for young teenagers, right? But it worked. We learnt how to ‘adult’ as they say these days, and adult well. While still knowing we were loved and supported.