Add to This “Bubble List” — Things for Kids to Master Before 18!

Readers rayezbbnkn
— I was giving a talk at St. Stephens & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, VA,  recently, and afterward one of the folks who urged the school to invite me, Cara Weiman, sent me this wonderful post from the blog Mothers of Brothers. It begins with the writer, Emily, saying that she helped her high school son make Valentine’s Day reservations at a restaurant:

I was pleased for him – and proud of myself for the assist.  But then I started to wonder if he would know how to use the debit card with the server when the meal was over.  Sure he had seen Dave and I pay for meals and calculate gratuities countless times.  But when alone in the wilderness of mediocre dining, could he fend for himself?

I wasn’t certain, and made a mental note to run through it with him before the big night.  Yup —  before my son heads off to college, he needs to know how to confidently execute this social maneuver that we adults have taken for granted.  Hmm.  He probably needs to know how to make a restaurant reservation as well.

Damn.  In helping him arrange his evening, I had missed a teachable moment.

The parental slip got me thinking about all of the lessons my boys have yet to learn before they leave the nest and frankly, the list I came up with in a minute’s time left me a little panicked.  So, in an effort to maintain some semblance of control of a situation over which I have no control, I created The Bubble List.

The list is great. Check it out. It itemizes things like:

Deal with a cancelled flight

Take a taxi

Catch the subway [Lenore’s note: Yay!]

Plunge a toilet

Change a tire

And now — any items you’d like to add? Please do. And of course, not every 18-year-old has to master every one of these. For instance, us city-dwellers know how to take subways but not how to change a tire. And not everyone is going to take a flight. But you get the idea: What basics should most of us be making sure our teens know? Bubble on! – L

The list that lets kids float away.

The list that lets kids float away.

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126 Responses to Add to This “Bubble List” — Things for Kids to Master Before 18!

  1. Les Groby February 10, 2014 at 11:34 am #

    What to do when stopped by the police.

  2. SOA February 10, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    I am 33 and don’t know how to change a tire. That is what being pretty is for. I stand there and look helpless till someone stops and helps me. Also AAA.

    The toilet plunger is a great idea. My son was 6 and stopped up the toilet and it was the funniest thing. He tried to plunge it himself and we hear him screaming for us and he had the plunger and was trying to plunge it yelling “Help its not flushing!!” with his pants around his knees. He looked so panicked. It was hilarious.

  3. kate February 10, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    Find your way home without using an app.
    Make your own egg sandwich, cook a pasta supper (Not Ramen)
    Be able to ask a stranger for help
    Know the difference between debit & credit and that using your debit card at the mall will cost you fees- Twice!

    Hold a real job

  4. Pophouse February 10, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Just teaching them how to think for themselves and handle new situations confidently will take care of most of those items on the list, without getting caught up in the tiny nuances of every little situation.

    I would be happy to help a kid with anything in particular that they asked, but rather than offering to make a reservation I might tell the kid to make a reservation and pay for it with your debit card — don’t forget to tip; and then let the kid figure out the details of all of that on his own.

  5. Stacey February 10, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    After 1st day of kindergarten-we all walked to school.

    We were taught how to cross a street and expected to do so.

    Play outside unsupervised

    Dig in the dirt, climb trees, rocks etc.

    Rode our bikes

    Fly on a plane

    Play (tag/baseball/fungo/stoop ball or just have a catch) and other games we made up

    Leave school and go home for lunch!

    Return on time without parents taking us back

    Leave school and go OUT for lunch (to local pizza place/deli/candy store)

    We were fully capable of sitting ourselves down in a restaurant, ordering a meal, and even knew how to leave a tip. Most of the time we were afraid of the high school kids in there smoking, so we just got our pizza to go!

    Return on time

    Walk home

    Sometimes we rode our bikes and locked them up to the fence next to the school parking lot.

    We walked ourselves to the library and took out books

    We were responsible for returning them on time

    We walked to baseball/softball practice alone even though we had to cross a very busy intersection. It had a traffic light and a cross walk. Our parents showed up for games. Not practice.

    Our parents could drop us off at the movie theater and pick us up when the movie was over. We knew how to behave. They told us what time to be outside waiting. It didn’t’ require 3 phone calls and 10 text messages to coordinate picking us up.

    By age 10 we got on the bus and took ourselves to the movies. After looking in the newspapers ourselves and deciding which show/what time we wanted to go.

    At age 7 I was expected to take care of my infant brother-change his diaper in the am when we got up, feed him, etc… full nighttime babysitting duties started at about age 9

    We all had keys to our apartments and if we came home before mom or dad was home and we were expected to start our homework.

    In the winter we went sledding. We walked ourselves to the park/hill and did it ourselves. It was cold. We put on coats and boots.

    Sometimes we would walk to the Bronx river and fish or feed the ducks.

    We used to take the bus to Nathan’s on Central Ave and play at the arcade.

    Sometimes miniature golf.

    Help dig motorists out of the snow/clean off cars

    How to boil water for tea/hot choc
    use a microwave

    Do their own laundry
    Balance a checkbook
    Pay bills

    Not need the “don’t try this at home” warnings because we were not that stupid.

  6. Shawn B February 10, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Balance a checkbook, take a car in for service, turn off the water to a broken faucet, mow a lawn, laundry, basic power tools, start a fire, put out a fire, drive a manual transmission, and think logically through a problem before calling for help.

  7. Violet February 10, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    My son, 14, waited until the last minute to tell me that he needed a dress shirt for school the next day. We sped to Target and got there 15 minutes before closing. That was when I handed him the debit card and told him to go in. I wasn’t about to rush around, nor was I going to get into the petty and predictable arguments over which shirt to buy. Not at 8:45, no siree. He looked terrified! Twenty minutes later, he came out with a perfectly good blue button down that was $14.99. So, they need to be able to shop for specific items, compare prices, and buy them – in a hurry.

  8. SOA February 10, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    How to manage a calender is super important. Like how to make appointments and plans and then put them on a calender and then check said calender so you never forget appointments. There are many adults who can’t do this and it baffles the crap out of me. I have never needed a reminder call from a doctor’s office. I have it written there plain as day on my calender. I never miss or forget plans.

    How to not be tardy ever. Many adults can’t manage this one either. Leave early and give yourself extra time built into your schedule so you are never late.

    I think kids learn a lot of this stuff just by example. I don’t think my mother ever really taught me the above but she did it so I picked it up from her. I feel badly for my kids whose parents cannot model this for them.

    How to write a thank you note and to always do so.

  9. QuicoT February 10, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    Talk to a stranger

  10. librarian February 10, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    *basic healthy cooking for a limited budget (porridge, omelettes, soups)
    *basic understanding of shelf-life and proper storage for various foods
    *laundry rules for various kinds of items
    *basic skills in mending clothes
    *experience with using simple tools, such as hammer and a screwdriver
    *knowing how to act in case of a short circuit or power outages

    + 100 for using toilet plunger

  11. forsythia February 10, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Very timely! My eldest turned 18 today and I have had a similar list in mind all along. He hasn’t changed a tire yet, because he doesn’t drive yet (urban kid), but he does lead his friends in public transit expeditions and rides commuter rail and Amtrak with his bike.

  12. Brooks February 10, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    manage time, attend class, budget money so that it makes it through the semester, learn to say no (very important in college), how to react if a diabetic friend is wasted drunk and is fading in and out (from personal experience – he lived), set a meeting with a professor and solve a problem, apply for a job, etc….

  13. Stephanie February 10, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    My 13 year old recently learned out to turn off the water main in the basement when a frozen pipe burst while I was out of the house on an errand. She called me on my cell phone and I walked her through it. I actually couldn’t recall *exactly* where the shut-off valve was or what it looked like, but I was able to tell her that it would be near the water pump and that it would look kind of obvious. She found it! She and her 11 year old brother mopped up the mess (using every towel in the house) and all was under control when I got home.

    I never would have though of the water main, but as pophouse said, if you just let your kids have age-appropriate freedoms (like staying home while mom runs to the grocery store), stuff like this will come up. They will learn to handle it and their confidence will grow. I don’t think you need to stress about covering every single circumstance before they leave home. I remember being several states away from my parents and working my first post-college job when my car broke down and I didn’t know why. I got to the nearby coffee shop and called my dad! He couldn’t come rescue me of course, but he told me what my next steps needed to be. I managed the situation just fine after talking to him. It was OK that I didn’t know quite what to do. Even if I hadn’t been able to get hold of him, I would have figured it out, but it was nice to have his calming voice on the other end of the line when I was young and still experiencing things like this for the first time. We want our kids to be confident and independent, but it’s also good for them to know that it’s still OK to ask for advice/help if you get stuck or confused.

  14. Karen February 10, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    Make chicken soup for someone who is ill.
    Roast a chicken.
    Sew a button.
    Write a decent thank-you note.
    Do the laundry.
    Make a fire. Put out a fire.

  15. Deviant Ollam February 10, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    Additional items…

    * keep track of money (which is a whole larger matter, and one that many adults can’t even do, hah!)

    * do laundry (utter pity that this needs to be on a “by the time you’re 18” list)

    * pump your own gas (not so crazy if your child grew up in New Jersey or Oregon)

    * drive a manual transmission vehicle (if just to be able to get someone’s car moved for them)

    * handle a firearm (if just to be able to clear them and verify that they are unloaded and safe)

    * swim (is this REALLY something a lot of kids don’t learn? sadly, yes)

    * “Five minutes early is on time, and on time is late.”

    (loved the other poster’s comments who also mentioned stick shift cars and especially the comments about turning off the water if a pipe bursts or an appliance breaks. add to that some other basic household matters like fuse box / circuit breaker knowhow and small appliance/lamp repair)

  16. Marianna February 10, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    How to clean the house.
    How to apply/interview for a job.

  17. Ravana February 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    Things you need to learn before leaving the nest:

    How to do laundry (including sorting, temperature settings etc.)
    How to cook at least 5 balanced meals
    How to get around a city without a cab or car
    Have taken at least 1 five mile walk in hot and cold weather (and realized you can survive!!)
    Be able to sit alone, without electronic stimulation, for at least 1 hour
    What to do when involved in a fender bender
    How to sew on a button and repair a hem
    How to safely and hygienically clean a bathroom and kitchen

  18. LRothman February 10, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    Return an item both in person and on-line.

    Go INTO a bank and make a deposit/withdrawal.

  19. SKL February 10, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    Good stuff!

    Yesterday my 7yos went over to help my sister babysit my younger nieces. Miss A was put in charge of taking the 2yo to the toilet every time she needed to go (which was, reportedly, 17 times). She told me in detail what that responsibility entailed – right up to wiping the tot’s butt, and also changing the diaper when the tot didn’t raise the alarm in time. I was glad that my 7yo was getting an opportunity that many kids won’t get before they graduate high school. For that matter, I know adults (male and female) who have never changed a diaper.

    Some things I did at 15-16 that parents nowadays don’t trust their kids to do:

    Be responsible for the house and younger siblings for an entire day or more.

    Manage a small business.

    Complete the following applications & related interviews without help:
    * ACT/SAT/ASVAP or other testing
    * Drivers’ Permit
    * College Applications
    * Financial Aid Applications
    * Scholarship Applications
    * Advance Placement etc.
    * Job application, of course!

    By 18 (unless they have taxable earnings before that): file a tax return.

  20. Ann in L.A. February 10, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    * How to open a bank account

    * How to manage finances, create a budget

    * How to read a financial statement (bank account, credit card, etc.

    * How to annualize expenses (if you buy a $4.50 coffee 5 days a week for 48 weeks of the year, that comes to a total of: $1,080 spent on coffee every year.)

    * How to write a resume, look for a job, perform in a job interview

    * How to tie a tie, wear a skirt, wear a suit, use a dry cleaner (and what needs dry cleaning)

    * Laundry

    * Cook several meals (kitchen safety, knife skills, recipe skills, measuring skills, heat control, food safety and cleanliness.)

    * Shop for food

    * How to clean a house/dorm room/apartment

  21. Rachel February 10, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    How to read a bill, schedule payments, etc. My husband had to teach me those things.

    How to cook their favorite dishes for themselves. Begging mom for “chicken – you know, the kind with the corn flakes” gets old. 😀

    How to read an old fashioned paper map.

  22. Becky February 10, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    “I am 33 and don’t know how to change a tire. That is what being pretty is for.”
    best. reply. ever. lol!

  23. Mary February 10, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    When I was 20 I knew none of these. I just set out into life and as things cropped up, I dealt with them. I set out with a backpack for a year of volunteering in the UK. Kids don’t need to be taught specific skills – they just need to be taught polite manners, communication skills and the basics of how to keep the checkbook balanced. Sometimes the instruction manual isn’t the best way to do things any way. Sometimes you just have to be thrown in and swim. I did. My kids will. It still happens to me now, when I navigate a foreign culture. And every time I tuck away my apprehension and dive in, my kids watch me and learn to be adventurous, resourceful, creative and fearless. Because there is nothing to fear. If you don’t know – just ask, be polite and someone will be happy to help you out. That has been my experience and already my 7-year old is talking about packing her backpack some day and live in Europe. I am sure, she’ll get by. Why wouldn’t she?

  24. Ann in L.A. February 10, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    While most of these skills are probably best taught by parents, I’ve long thought that schools should have a multi-year course called “Life”. It would be the place where the current health and drug curricula would go, as well as driver’s ed, but it would also be basic finance info, budgeting, financial planning, basic home repair, cooking, sewing, auto maintenance, job hunting and job keeping skills, etc. All of the things mentioned above could be covered, and the class could start in the early grades and have age-appropriate topics all the way through high school.

  25. R February 10, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    In the realm of basic household utilities (since I work on home renovations and maintenance):
    * Turn off natural gas at the meter or propane at the tank valve.
    * Reset a circuit breaker and turn off all power in a house or apartment.
    * Add up power use to see if they are overloading a circuit (ie: the toaster, coffee maker, and microwave shoudn’t run on the same circuit simultaneously).
    * How and when to test a smoke alarm, how to replace the battery.
    * What Carbon Monoxide is, why carbon monoxide poisoning is dangerious, and what to do if a carbon monoxide detector alarms.
    * How and when to use a fire extinguisher.
    * How to relight pilot lights or call the gas company if you use gas appliances.
    * What odorized nautral gas or propane smells like.

    In the realm of being a safe and responsible adult:
    * Basic first aid and CPR
    * What constitutes a medical emergency that should result in calling 911.
    * What types of situations are ok to go to the ER or Urgent Care with a friend.
    * How alcohol poisoning can occur from heavy drinking (ie lots of hard liquor in a short amount of time), that it can be deadly, and to either place a person in recovery position with a responsible person monitoring them or calling 911.
    * Condoms, Condoms, Condoms, and that emergency contaception is available without prescription from nearly any drug store.
    * What to do if they are in a car crash.
    * That Crisis Hotlines exist if they or their piers need non-judgmental advice about issues (for example rape, domestic violence, suicidal feelings, depression, sexual orientation, etc.) don’t want to discuss them with other adults in their lives.
    * What types of natural and man-made disasters are likely and what are possible where they live.
    * How to put together a three day kit for their residence or vehicle.

  26. Coasterfreak February 10, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    It absolutely floors me how many of my teenagers’ friends have drivers licenses and sometimes even their own cars, yet think that the way to fix a flat tire is to whip out the cell phone and call Dad.

  27. JJ February 10, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    turn off the water (as in, if there is a leak)
    parallel park
    drive a stick shift (for emergencies)
    make an appointment
    prevent an impaired friend from driving
    shake hands with a firm grip
    do the Heimlich manuever
    memorize your social security number

    I could go on and on!

  28. Krystal February 10, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    Handle Money and the responsibility of a job!

    I had a job at 15, and am SO thankful I did. However, I was never taught about money, credit cards, savings, etc. and learned the hard way a decade later when I pulled myself out of debt on my own. It would have appreciated a discussion early on. I know so many parents that refuse to talk about money with their children, it’s nuts!

  29. hineata February 10, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    I could scream, reading this! My seventeen year old just returned from his nine week odyssey in Germany and Singapore/Malaysia. Survived fine while over there, though he did message his father about how to find the laksa (type of absolutely delicious curry ‘soup’) sellers in Orchard Road, and me about which Xmas presents were whose (!). Back here and he is back into anxiety mode, and asking silly questions. I think his main task this year (same as it has been every year for the past four at least) will be to sit and think “Yes, actually I can think this through, and find a logical solution to ‘X’. Yes, I am very capable of performing ‘Y'”.

    This is a kid who can run a donut cart alone, find his way through airports, look after his sick sister, provide sensible advice to the other sister, run the kitchen at church, yada,yada, yada. But still full of anxiety when facing something-anything- new. Am tempted sometimes just to kick him out of the house to convince him that he is a very capable lad.

    Otherwise he’s a great kid. A shame we can’t change the aspects of their personalities we can see are less than necessary for a smooth life :-).

  30. Sairen February 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    I love, like, 99% of these but I just have to object to “learning to drive a stick shift/manual transmission” as a necessary skill. I’m 30 years old and I live in the Midwest – Car Central, where we start driving at 14 and continue basically every day as long as we live here.
    Never once have I needed to know how to drive a manual; never once have I had transit plans stunted by not knowing. They are rare enough these days you have to really seek one out to even learn. I know I’m probably at the leading edge of never needing to learn this skill (that is, people even a little bit older than me probably did benefit knowing), but today’s teenagers certainly aren’t.
    Spend the time instead teaching teen drivers to change a tire, air their tires to the correct pressure, and check their own fluid levels.

  31. hineata February 10, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Am surprised about the OP’s talking about the debit card, though. All my kids know how to use my credit and debit cards, as my life is more convenient that way. They can take the cards to school to get their extra uniform requirements etc., do their own shopping etc (saves fights over colour with the girls, LOL!). Evidently the bank doesn’t like things like that (they were shocked that I knew my husband’s PIN too), but really, what else do you do? I certainly wouldn’t get a separate credit card for a 12 year old girl, for example.

    Maybe I’m naïve, but they’ve never abused the cards. What do others do?

  32. BL February 10, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    I don’t usually have anything good to say about gubmint schools, but …

    At my high school we couldn’t pass Driver’s Ed without demonstrating we could change a tire. We all lined up one day, there was a car in the school’s parking lot, a tire jack, and a fifth tire. And we all passed.

  33. Warren February 10, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    Changing a tire is a grey area one. I would not expect some, and yes mostly females to have the physical strength to do so. Really don’t care to much about the removal, but installing the spare it is important to be strong enough to get them on tight. Hell I know alot of guys that cannot do it.
    My brother has always been a momma’s boy. He admits it. He called me to come change a flat for him a couple years ago. He is 39 and in great shape. He didn’t like the fact he got a bill for my services. Got the family discount, but we are in the tire business.
    On the other hand my youngest daughter took auto shop this year, and corrected the teacher on his tire balancing methods. LOL.

    Just making sure they understand the importance of good vehicle maintenance, oil changes, lube, tune ups, brakes don’t last forever, tire wear, fluid levels. But keep in mind, if you don’t know, call to dad to confirm before being talked into something at a garage.

    Otherwise great list.
    Oh and Kay, switch banks, I pay $12.00 a month service charge, and that includes unlimited debit transactions, other than another banks ATM.

  34. Warren February 10, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    Am curious, because the majority of our customers don’t know. Who knows where to find the proper inflation pressure for their tires?

  35. C. McCord February 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    The Science Fiction author Robert Heinlein wrote the following list that I have always liked.

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects!

  36. SKL February 10, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    My dad taught me how to change a tire before I went to college at 16. And it’s a good thing, too, because I got my first flat at 18, out in the boone-docks. 😉 And I have changed flats a few times since then. It isn’t rocket science, and no, you don’t have to be the Incredible Hulk. The last time I made my kids watch, but since they were only about 5 or 6, they probably didn’t remember all of it….

    One time I did let a cop do it, though. That was the time I had my starving babies screaming in the car, on the side of the freeway. I was a little worried that another vehicle might hit my car and kill me if I tried fixing the tire myself. Called roadside service, but they always take forever to come, so a cop came by and helped this Damsel in Distress. LOL. The price was right! 😉

  37. SKL February 10, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Warren, I know how to find the PSI limit and check the PSI and fill the air. 🙂

  38. SKL February 10, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    Part of our driver’s ed course was to learn some basics about car operation and maintenance. Of course that was over 30 years ago, so a lot has changed…. I’m sure I can still check the oil, but to be honest, I never do it these days. The oil changes are frequent enough that checking the oil and adding more isn’t necessary. (No, I don’t change my own oil, though I do know how. No desire.)

  39. Sue February 10, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    Hineata: You trust your kids with your bank card but not their own? My daughter got a debit card when she got her first job at age 15. It was a mistake on the banks part, I figure that since she was depositing her first paycheck, they assumed she was old enough to get a card.

    Anyways, she has proven herself responsible, and knows to check her balance online regularly. My son, on the other hand was given a bank card and immediately began to rack up fees by using it at the non bank atms at the mall. Lesson learned! She lost her card once and I sent her into the bank on her own to get it replaced. The embarrassment alone is incentive to keep track of her card now.

    They both have paypal and ebay accounts and know about safe passwords and keeping track.

    When they do need cash, I immediately do an electronic transfer from their account into mine.

    They are allowed to shop online with our credit card. (you should not use a debit card online)

    We only had one problem- my son sold his xbox. None of us realized that the our credit card info was still accessible. Someone made several charges without our knowledge.

    Now that so much of our financial lives are online, it is important to teach good habits. Better they learn now, while you can keep an eye on things before they get out of hand. So many people get into trouble by not realizing that credit cards are real money and need to be paid back in full or the interest rates will kill you.

  40. Emily February 10, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    @Kate–What does a “real job” look like before the age of eighteen? Flipping burgers or scooping ice cream? Working at a store? Waiting tables? Mowing lawns or raking leaves? Lifeguarding? Babysitting? For babysitting, does it matter if it’s in a private home versus a licensed facility? I mean, you surely don’t expect a pre-eighteen-year-old to be working in an office or something, do you? It can happen (one of my dad’s assistants at the law firm started there at sixteen, left for a while, then came back), but it’s not common. For her first two years there, she was too young to witness documents being signed, because the law here says that a witness has to be at least eighteen, which is the age of majority. So, while it’s not a bad idea for young people to earn some of their own money, in order to learn responsibility, a “real job” for a teenager isn’t going to be the same as a “real job” for an adult.

  41. SKL February 10, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    Bank fees? I pay zero bank fees, ever, except when I make a dumb mistake. I get paid to use my cards and bank accounts. Hmph.

  42. kate February 10, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    Emily, You are right, I didn’t mean “real” job. I just meant working and earning your own spending money. That could be any of the various things you mentioned. The point I wanted to get across was to be responsible enough to show up and earn your own money.

  43. Emily February 10, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    Also, about the driving thing, I actually got my Bachelor’s degree before my G2 (graduated licensing in Ontario–G2 means you can drive alone, but can’t have any alcohol in your blood, and have to wear a seat belt). This wasn’t for lack of trying–it took me five tries to get my G2, and two more to get my full G, and I spent years believing that I’d never drive, because I was born with a spatial disability (stuck feet first, umbilical cord wrapped around my neck twice, cutting off oxygen to the left side of my brain), and I’ve also suffered from panic attacks since I was fourteen. University, on the other hand, wasn’t easy, but I always believed that I could finish in the standard four years, and I did. My point is, though, is that, during those years when I was living and functioning as an adult, attending university several hours away from home, getting reasonably good grades, participating in the university community, and taking care of myself, but not yet able to drive, I would have been offended if someone had tried to tell me that I wasn’t an adult, because I was–it just took me longer to learn to drive, because I had barriers in my way that other people didn’t have to contend with.

  44. SKL February 10, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    Real job: there are many adults who work in those “not real job” categories someone above listed.

    Personally I had an office job at 16. No big thrill, but I learned a few things. My biggest job before age 18 was as a nanny. My sister worked in a pizza place from age 15 and was a supervisor before age 18. (At 18 she took an accounting job.) My other sister had an Associates in Electrical Engineering at 18 and went looking for a job in that field. One of my brothers was a computer programmer (for pay) while in high school. Another had a job fixing musical instruments while in high school. He also worked in a nursing home at that time.

  45. Donna February 10, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    I will have to go with Warren on this one – I know how to change a tire but I generally don’t have the physical strength to do so. And, frankly, it is easier to just call AAA.

    I kinda agree with Sairen on the needing-to-drive-a-stick-shift thing. I drove manual cars for most of my driving life, but it is definitely a dying art form. Unless you are going to be traveling in remote areas where car selection is very limited, automatics are just not hard to find any more.

  46. Emily February 10, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    Hey there — so honored that you posted my piece! And I think these suggestions here are awesome. I’m adding to my Bubble List as we speak. Great stuff here at Free Range Kids — glad to have found you in the most wonderful way!

  47. Donna February 10, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

    *Build a fire, keep it going and properly put it out
    *Make your own appointments and be responsible for keeping those appointments
    *Master at least one really good meal that you can cook for someone you want to impress
    *Understand credit cards, interest rates and credit in general
    *Get your own job

  48. hineata February 10, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    @Sue – good point. Actually my son does have his own debit card these days, as he has a job. The other two only get piddly amounts of pocket money, except this time of the year when they collect their ung pao (red packets for Chinese New Year).

    We parents still pay for uniform expenses etc.

    @Warren – yes! I can actually answer yes to that, the PSI anyway! I can also change a tyre, mostly because there are some reasonably remote areas here where standing on the side of the road looking pretty will not net you a lot…..and those years are well gone for my middle-aged self anyway :-).

  49. E Simms February 10, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    You don’t need a lot of strength to change a tire. Just the ability to get the wrench level and the use of your foot. (…and the brains not to do that while the car is on the jack.)

  50. Taed February 10, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    * Read a bus schedule to plan a multi-bus trip.
    * Call a taxi service to be picked up.
    * Fill out a job application.
    * Fill out income tax form.
    * How to rent an apartment (plus deposit and how much rent is).
    * How to politely talk to a boss/professor about a problem.

  51. Sarah Williams February 10, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    When I was 14 I wanted to visit a friend in NYC. I was up in Maine, and my mom said I could do the trip if I figured out the bus schedule and how to connect with my friend once I got there. It was a great, eye-opening adventure!

  52. Craig February 10, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    It is obvious that this woman is what I call a “Momster”. One of the vast army of narcissist parents who fearfully micromanage their kid’s lives, not because their kids need it at all, but because they are so afraid of themselves not appearing a certain way to others, ie., a good parent that they parent out of fear. They also parasitically use their kids to fill their own fearful inner emptiness and stunted emotional development.

    Clear evidence of this is given in her own words; ”and proud of myself for the assist”. I have news for you lady, it’s too little too late. The damage has already been done. All these things on the list are things that they should know before they are 12 years old. Now with that statement, I can hear the whines of Momsters imploring, “but he’s just a child, let him have a childhood.” Well these days we have parents saying that about their 25 year olds as the school and other systems and structures have efficiently done their jobs of extending childhood into the 20s and soon the 30s.

    Friends who have businesses lament about not being able to find people under 25 who are not barely literate, and almost non-functional humans who need to be told when and how to do everything every minute. And when needing to do actual work for any length of time, whine about when they can get their checks and get time off. I have been told that having these people work for them is like raising a teenager again. So when you hear statistics about high unemployment among the young adults, keep this in mind.

    Now, of course there are exceptional young people who are extremely intelligent, articulate and operate in the world at a very high level, but these are exceptions and hardly the rule.

    We now have a generation of young people who, being raised by parents to fear everything, are afraid of life. Even the smallest challenges can send them running to the doc for anti-anxiety meds.

    We are only a generation or so from a time when 10 or 12 year olds taught themselves to drive a 3 ton grain truck, and then come harvest time, were expected to drive it full of grain, with a 4 speed manual transmission, standard steering and non-power assisted brakes, up a ramp, with other trucks in front and behind them, to drop off the grain at the local elevator, multiple times a day. We had kids who at 12 identified a talent they had, something they loved and started businesses selling their services or products. In Gatto’s book; “The Underground History of American Education” He reminds us that the future Admiral David Farragut was given his first command to take a captured ship to port at the age of 12. He was a midshipman at the age of 9.

    We are rapidly heading to a time where the country is ripe to be conquered by anyone at all. Because anyone or anything outside of an individual is a powerful authority that must be obeyed. A generation who very soon, might be scarred emotionally because they were “bullied” by someone who either looked at them for too long or not long enough.

  53. K February 10, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    Well this might be kinda obvious, but all basic household chores like vacuuming and doing laundry. Also how to cook a few basic meals, and know different cooking techniques and stuff so that they can follow a recipe. Other stuff like how to fix a leaking tap might come in handy too.

    If they have a licence, they should also know how to fill up petrol and pay for it! When my sister got her car, she knew how to fill up petrol, but before she filled up petrol for the first time, she asked her workmates, “How do I pay for petrol? Do I just go in and point?” This sparked a whole lot of jokes, such as “Nah, you just drive off,” etc. However, there was one girl who said that her parents would fill up petrol for her every single time!! I don’t know how old she was exactly, but she was probably at least 21 or so given that she’d have to have graduated from high school and then gotten an accounting degree!

  54. ChicagoDad February 10, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    By 18, a young man or woman should be able to:
    1. Behave like a responsible adult.
    2. Take responsibility for the inevitable mistakes that result from not behaving like a responsible adult.
    3. Have the pride, confidence and skills to figure out how to do things that she or he has not done before.
    4. Have the humility to ask for (not demand) help when it is needed.
    5. See challenges and difficulty as opportunities.
    6. Build and maintain good relationships with other people.
    7. Sever bad relationships.
    8. Look out for his or her own well-being and happiness.

  55. BK February 10, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    Okay, so my oldest child is only 12, but I have trouble envisioning myself worrying about this stuff in 6 years’ time…paying by debit – seriously? Kids now can do just about anything as long as it includes pressing buttons!! Perhaps bring some cash just in case? Remember, that paper stuff – but hold on – in Canada it is now plastic too! I don’t remember getting a primer on any of those things on the “bubble list”, I just figured them out if and when they happened, like most folks. Am I the only one still shocked by the fact that most people think their kids are completely helpless? When my son was nine, I started sending him to the grocery store with short lists and some cash, he messed up once or twice, but so what? Dealing with failure of one kind or another is part of growing up. Yeesh.

  56. Kimberly Herbert February 10, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    How to manage their bank accounts – especially with check cards and things like Itunes accounts were small charges for in game purchases can quickly add up.

    How to tip properly

    I know it is on the list by I’m going to add anyone that drives needs to know how to change a tire.

    Read a map

    Stand up for themselves and their rights.

    How to both be polite and not be a doormat (especially for girls that are often raised to always be “nice”)

    How to ask for information when they don’t know something.

  57. Andrea February 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    +How to call and make your own doctor’s appointments
    +How to call and talk to the insurance company
    +How to fill a prescription

  58. JP February 10, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

    an 18 year old, um?
    @ Stacey,
    That’s an awful lot of stuff by age 5-10.
    Brings back memories. This was the normal reality.
    By age 16….I did everything. 100%. Because I was on my own, and no-one else there to do anything for me.
    But just for kicks – I’d add a few things to this list:
    – iron a shirt, darn socks (say what?!) launder clothes correctly. Fix broken things (like a door hinge, a window frame, a short-circuited lamp, a chair leg….
    Cure a hangover (by cutting way down!)
    Write a competent business letter.
    Drive without technical “distractions.”
    Clean a home properly.
    File, sort, and keep a tidy workspace.
    Organize time (for all sorts of things in sorts of ways.)
    Keep in touch – with all the important people.

  59. Jill February 10, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    Or better yet @Les Groby

    What NOT to do when stopped by the police.

  60. baby-paramedic February 10, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    How to call emergency services.
    What information they are going to ask for.
    How you can help them (ie, lock away dogs, clear a path, have someone waiting out the front etc)

    Asked husband to call 000 one night when we came across an accident on the highway. I pretty much just said “Call 000, we are at approx 40kms from . Now, he muddled through, but admitted later he had had no idea, and that that had made the whole thing really stressful for him.

    Whereas a few weeks back I went to some young teenagers who had done dumb things, then thought it best to call for help. We were called, then they called their parents. The teenagers who had done dumb things were far calmer with their heads screwed on than the panicking parents. (They had the dog tied to a tree, had someone waiting out the front, had started to clear a path, etc).

    Also, presuming the laws in your area are the same, emphasise to young ones we don’t go telling the police things like when they take drugs. Better to tell us the truth.

  61. baby-paramedic February 10, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    And taking off the paramedic cap now…


    Seriously, so few people know about it, really know about it, and it is such a big issue. We need to be having this discussion with people, so they don’t wind up in bad circumstances.

  62. pentamom February 10, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    Yeah, change a tire is useful if you can manage it, but if you can’t, you can’t. That’s life — you call for help. There will always be something beyond the physical ability of any given person to deal with alone, and that line is just going to vary from person to person.

    That “deal with a cancelled flight” one sort of stopped me cold — I’m 48 and I’ve never thought that through. Of course, I haven’t flown in about 25 years but hopefully that will change some day.

    As I think about it, I’m pretty sure I could figure it out and handle it provided I was in a reasonably civilized place where English was spoken by enough people (or enough of my German came back to save the day), but I don’t know exactly what would be the proper procedure; I’d definitely be winging it.

  63. Z-girl February 10, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

    I think the idea of a bubble list is ridiculous! How about just teaching your kid to think for themselves and ask for help when they need it? Life will take care of the rest. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and you learn the most from your mistakes. Stressing over a bubble list seems more helicopterish than free-range to me.

  64. Warren February 10, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Okay, and not trying to be difficult. I am not talking about the max psi rating on the tire itself, because there is never a vehicle that uses that high a pressure. The proper inflation rate varies from vehicle to vehicle. Two cars with identical tires can require different inflation.

    The proper inflation pressure can be found on a sticker on the driver’s side door or door pillar. An over inflated tire is just as bad as an under inflated tire.

    As for getting the wrench level trick, I have seen people jumping on their wrenches and still not moving the lugnut. I am not saying not to teach them, but do not have someone do it that due to strength, won’t get it done right. One loose nut out in the boondocks can be a disaster.

  65. Dee February 10, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    I like this but at the same time I feel like creating a bubble list is a bit forced free range. Part of Free Range is learning how to do things as they come up and learning the confidence to handle situations as they arrive. I learned some of the things on that list just as life happened. My mom never created situations for me to learn any of it. It was just expected early that I would take care of my basic needs whether that’s handling flight arrangements, opening a checking account, or whatever.

    That said, I feel as though boys lag a bit in some of these areas (or maybe that is just my experience) so maybe a check off list is a good idea for boys. I guess I won’t be so formal with but will consider some of these.

  66. Wendy February 10, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    As part of dining out: how to calculate an appropriate tip for their server.

  67. SOA February 10, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

    It can be a good idea to get your kid a credit card at a certain age and let them start building credit. I did it about 19. I just had a small one but I paid the bill every month for whatever I put on there. Just a couple things and paid it in full. It helped me build really good credit.

    Explain to kids how credit works about how to build good credit scores and how to avoid mistakes that ruin your credit.

    How to handle medical insurance because it is a nightmare but there are some tricks and tips to it. Make sure they understand how it works.

  68. SKL February 10, 2014 at 11:46 pm #

    Has anyone mentioned managing the overall basic maintenance of a car?

    I mention it because if you get your car maintained within reason, your lug nuts will not get to the point of being impossible to remove. 😉

    What about jumping a car? Or do people not do that any more? That was one of the things every kid had to know before being allowed to drive when I was young.

  69. Lori B February 11, 2014 at 12:13 am #

    Cook a meal, do laundry, know your general directions (you’d be surprised how many people get away from their normal environment and have no idea which way is East), balance a check book, pay bills, create a budget.

  70. Rachael February 11, 2014 at 12:40 am #

    My parents made me demonstrate changing a tire before I could get my license. And the only thing they taught me about credit cards is don’t buy anything you cant pay for. There was never any discussion about how to actually use one, you just figured it out.

  71. Jenny Islander February 11, 2014 at 1:00 am #

    Some of the things I want my kids to know by the time they leave the nest:

    1. First aid.
    2. Disaster preparedness, from home fire drills to what to do if they hear the tsunami siren blow.
    3. How to drive safely in all weathers.
    4. How to deal with common car troubles, from flooding the engine on startup to changing a tire.
    5. How to buy, store, and prepare enough food for a week.
    6. Online etiquette and safety.
    7. Meatspace etiquette and safety, from how not to be a jerk to how to hit really, really hard and when to do so.
    8. Basic household bookkeeping.
    9. How to think logically and spot a scam.
    10. How to use maps to get around.
    11. Outdoor survival.
    12. Basic household and personal hygiene.
    13. Basic household maintenance and troubleshooting; when to call a professional.

  72. Ben February 11, 2014 at 1:24 am #

    How to cook a meal.
    How to navigate a strange city.
    Tune their scam detecting skills.
    How to pay taxes (including filling in the forms).

  73. dccdmom February 11, 2014 at 1:57 am #

    Nothing to add to the list, but we are in the process of buying a ticket for my daughter who will be 17 1/2 at the time to fly across the country. We have to pay an additional $75 to have her escorted to the gate because she is still considered a minor. She goes to college, drives, and has a job, but needs an escort at the airport.

  74. Andy February 11, 2014 at 3:03 am #

    My list:
    * ignore lists like this,
    * do not freak out about what everything you should do/try at whatever occasion/age.

    Could not resist. You can not formalize ability to solve problems into simple ticks. As long as the kid as the ability to figure things out, the kid will be fine no matter what kind of things it personally tried up to that point.

  75. Cassie February 11, 2014 at 5:07 am #

    18 is too old for a list like this.

    An 18 has been a biological adult for years and should by the time they are 18 be skilled enough to handle life completely without the aid of parents (not without some slips of course, but they should be able to generally handle everything in one way or another.

    18 is old enough to run a household and raise a family.
    18 is old enough to travel the world.

    You are asking for items on a list. The list would be a thousand pages long. It is a ridiculous question (without any offense intended toward the person asking the question) – but come on.

    It is like saying “What things should a person know by the time they are 35″… the answer is pretty much the same (with an expected difference in breadth of abilities and skill levels.)

  76. BeccaK February 11, 2014 at 5:43 am #

    Cook, clean, all that stuff.
    Use a bank account.
    Walk the dog and clean up after it.
    Use a sewing machine.
    Know how NOT to get pregnant.
    And on the part of the parent – trust the kid. My daughter always seemed to eat a lot of junk when she lived at home, but she went off to uni and is now living largely on vegetable soup. Clearly all the lectures on balancing one’s diet did sink in.
    You just build up to this gradually, but reading the comments has made me realise that a couple of my kids have never been shown how to lay a fire – something I learned at age 7.

  77. Suze February 11, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    Address a letter…

    I was absolutely shocked, about a year ago… that my 22year old college educated son didn’t know how to address a letter properly. I guess that is a product of this generation and e-mail. But, he had to send in a claim for his eye exam which requires attaching the receipt from the optometrist … so it needs to be sent by snail mail. It didn’t even occur to me that this simple task was beyond his grasp. So, a heads up !!!!

  78. marie February 11, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    How to install/uninstall software.
    How to tell if a website is safe/reliable or not.
    How to set up a wireless network.
    How to encrypt your hard drive. (Yeah…I don’t know either but should.)

    How to use a rotary phone. Not because you’ll need it but because it’s kind of fun.

    I do agree with those who say the lists are less useful than teaching your kids how to think things through. Problem-solving skills and general willingness to get your hands dirty will get you a long ways.

  79. pentamom February 11, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    I half agree and half disagree with those who say you should just teach your kid problem-solving skills and not worry about specific lists.

    Yes, problem-solving skills will help them in any of these situations, if they don’t have the skills. But the skills are the result of the experience of people who know how to do it, passing on the best, safest, and most efficient method for each job. Figuring it out on your own and doing it badly is a great ability because you can’t learn everything in advance, and it’s better than not being able to handle situations. But knowing how to do things the RIGHT way has value as well.

    So it’s a mixture, a balance, of knowing how to do specific tasks efficiently, with the optimal amount of effort and the optimal outcome, so that the simple things or the things you’ve mastered are no big deal, and of knowing how to handle whatever comes along, regardless of previous knowledge.

  80. Sara A. February 11, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    Cook at least 1 breakfast recipe and 1 dinner recipe from memory from scratch. My husband was able to cobble together a dinner when we first got together, but it wasn’t anything especially tasty, interesting or special. I had been helping my mom get meals together since I was able to follow directions and thus had a good stable of memorized recipes to pull from.

    How to shine your shoes. Nothing looks more professional before going into a job interview or big meeting than freshly shined shoes. If you have old, worn shoes a fresh shine disguises it. It just suggests fastidiousness.

    How to read a map.

    How to make plans and stick to them. I am 28 years old, most of my friends are at least 25. With most of my friends, I have to make endless confirmations that our plans are still on. If I don’t, then I’ll get stood up. I remember as a teen, before cellphones were so widespread, we’d make a plan and then at the appointed time/place everyone would show up. If you didn’t want to go, you either said so when asked originally or had to call the night before to cancel

  81. Donna February 11, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    “An 18 has been a biological adult for years and should by the time they are 18 be skilled enough to handle life completely without the aid of parents”

    I disagree 100% with this. They should be able to handle basic day-to-day living by themselves of course, but I know that I called on my parents for things all the time when I was in college. Heck, I called my mother last week and asked her how to do something that I probably should have already known how to do but for some reason didn’t and I’m 43.

    Until very recent times, children were not pushed out of the nest at 18. They stayed with their parents, at least until married and then either settled with their parents (on the same land or even in the same house) or a short distance away. Mom and dad (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc) were very available to help out and did. This lone wolf who set out to conquer the world alone at 18 that some on this site like to point to was the rarity, not the norm. Most prior generations traditionally lived surrounded by an extended family that was very interdependent. Many other cultures still live that way.

  82. BL February 11, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    “drive a manual transmission vehicle (if just to be able to get someone’s car moved for them)”

    I remember one time I was driving my sister and her friend to high school one very snowy morning. We got stuck in a snowbank and the girls had to push while I rocked the car out of the snowbank.

    A middle-aged woman stopped and scolded me for being a ungallant man, sitting at the wheel of the warm car while two girls did the pushing.

    The problem was, neither of the girls knew how to drive a stick-shift. And rocking the car out of a snowbank wasn’t the time to learn.

  83. Buffy February 11, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    (you’d be surprised how many people get away from their normal environment and have no idea which way is East)

    Uh, that would be me. Even in my normal environment, I am completely direction-learning-disabled. When someone says to me “it’s north of the airport”, unless I have a map or a clear frame of reference (‘I know that the road going past the airport is east/west, so north would be *here*, so north of the airport would be *there*’- it’s a whole thought process, usually involving tipping the map in my head so north is on top!)I am clueless as to what they mean.

    I am not otherwise a stupid person, and have gotten to my 50’s being this way and still manage to function in society and the real world. (Mostly!)

  84. CrazyCatLady February 11, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    My kids are able to wash dishes without a dishwasher. They are learning how to drive a tractor. Thanks to our current snow, they are learning how to drive safely in the snow and that it means doing a few donuts in an empty parking lot to learn how the car handles. They all know how to use a needle and thread, and a sewing machine. They will all know how to solder and the basics of welding. They know how and when to plant vegetables in a garden, how to care for animals beyond a dog and cat. Oldest can calculate a tip. All know how to compare prices at the grocery store. All know how to check air pressure in a tire and how to check fluids in the car, and where to add more if needed.

    I do need to teach them how to shop for car insurance, repair small holes in drywall, and how to do a proper pre-lease rental inspection so that they make sure they do not get dinged when they leave the rental unit. Any who go to college will be advised to stay a day or two late and be on clean up crew so that they can cash in on books, computers, and other stuff abandoned by students in too much of a hurry to care about what they leave behind.

  85. Eddie February 11, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    I don’t really have much to add; it looks like almost everything you can do has been mentioned by a previous commenter. I will say though, that everyone saying you need to know how to “balance a checkbook” needs to catch up to modern society. I was probably one of the last people who was taught how to do this in school. I’ve never used the skill in my adult life. Every credit/debit card purchase and every check I write shows up on my bank report on the internet, which I check every few days. Manually balancing a checkbook yourself is outdated.

    For the folks who say you don’t need to learn to drive a manual transmission car: What do you do if a friend of yours owns one, and you’re out somewhere by yourselves, and that person decides to drink? Or gets hurt? or for some other reason can’t operate the car? What if you *gasp* left your phones at home to get away from everyone, or have no cell reception? I know it’s a stretch.. But it’s not a useless skill.

  86. Brenna February 11, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    What I’d add:

    1. How to find the information you’re looking for on Google. (I still have difficulty sometimes getting the right words into the search bar.)
    2. Budgeting and sticking to it.
    3. How to write a check – probably not going to come up with debit/credit and billpay options, but still good to know.
    4. Car maintenance (fluids, air in tires, etc.)
    5. How to say sorry without justifying how you really weren’t wrong.
    6. How to clean the oven.
    7. Conflict resolution/compromise. Most people today start out in apartments, so this is a crucial skill.

  87. Steve February 11, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    Some good suggestions here, Lenore.

    Maybe this can be part of a chapter of your next book:

    “Things Your Children Should Do Before They Turn 21”

    Some time back I was looking on the net for lists of things people thought you should do before turning 21. Most of those lists left something to be desired. Some left everything to be desired, to put it mildly. Few contained words of helpful wisdom. I can imagine a chapter (or book) that divides potential skills and/or experiences into categories like: People skills, physical/practical skills, at home, business, school, community, etc. The sky’s the limit.

  88. pentamom February 11, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    “For the folks who say you don’t need to learn to drive a manual transmission car: What do you do if a friend of yours owns one, and you’re out somewhere by yourselves, and that person decides to drink? Or gets hurt? or for some other reason can’t operate the car? What if you *gasp* left your phones at home to get away from everyone, or have no cell reception? I know it’s a stretch.. But it’s not a useless skill.”

    Whatever you’d do if the car broke down, or you didn’t have a car in the first place, and you forgot your phone, etc., etc.. What if you were stranded somewhere, and the only way out was an F-14 fighter jet, and you didn’t know how to fly one?

    I’m not saying it’s not a worthwhile skill to have, but I’m not sure, given the relative unlikelihood of the scenario you offer in 2014, if it’s really a must-have for everyone, the way it would have been in, say, 1975. There are always other solutions.

  89. Donna February 11, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Eddie – Considering how few people actually drive manual transmission vehicles in the US today, I think the odds of my child being out with a friend who (a) drives one and (b) can’t drive her or himself is pretty negligible. I view this as something that is fun to know, but certainly doesn’t rank as a necessary skill for everyone anymore and definitely not something that needs to be mastered by 18 unless your particular life situation calls for it. If a manual transmission is readily available when my daughter is learning to drive, I will teach her – if for no other reason than I got great props from guys for being able to drive one in my younger years – but I am not going to go out of my way to hunt down a manual car for lessons.

    I guess I view a list such as this actual needed life skills and not what is needed to prepare for remote possibilities that will likely never be necessary in your life. I wouldn’t put CPR and advanced first aid on the list either (basic first aid, yes). Or disaster preparedness.

  90. pentamom February 11, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    “3. How to write a check – probably not going to come up with debit/credit and billpay options, but still good to know.”

    Not at all meaning to pick on the person who wrote this, but statements like this always baffle me. Sure, most bills and purchases are now dealt with by some other means, but doesn’t anybody write checks to:

    Donate to a religious community in real life as opposed to online?
    Make a gift or loan of money to a friend/relative?
    Pay someone back or in advance for something you’ve gone in together for, or they’ve bought on your behalf or for a personal loan?
    Send a gift for an occasion long-distance or otherwise enclosed in a card? Yes, there are gift cards, but you NEVER give cash as a present, ever?

    Checks are obviously less important than they used to be, but the idea that physically writing a check is close to being a completely unnecessary skill baffles me a bit.

  91. marie February 11, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    My fave, with an addition:
    5. How to say sorry without justifying how you really weren’t wrong or how it is the other person’s fault for being offended.

    As for checkwriting, I still write a lot of checks for someone who tries not to write checks. Girl Scouts at the door…my most recent check. I almost never carry cash.

  92. lollipoplover February 11, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    A lot of these involve activities of daily living which are good to teach to kids way, way before 18. All very important-especially inexpensive meals that use healthy ingredients. Making a reservation to a (assumed) nicer restaurant is fine but not all college kids will have fine dining budgets.
    I also think responsible use of social media and polite communication skills are musts.
    How to be a considerate roommate and how to resolve conflicts before they escalate.
    How to handle power outages and weather emergencies. I can’t tell you how many folks drove over (or attempted to) downed trees in the ice storm last week.
    You want to talk change a flat tire- how about avoiding them?!

  93. Louise February 11, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    Swim. Or at least, not drown.

  94. lsl February 11, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    How to register to vote.
    How to update your DL when you move.
    How to get a library card.

  95. Theo February 11, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    Really? 100 comments and no one has added:

    1. Know the branches the federal and state government and their respective roles;
    2. Know the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and fourteenth amendments to the US Constitution;
    3. Know how to maintain and use a firearm?

    Geez. Isn’t this a libertarian parenting blog?

  96. AB February 11, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Eat bad food.

    And I’m not talking about Ramen noodles and Dominos pizza. I’m talking about how you respond when someone puts a terrible meal in front of you. If it’s a social setting or you’re at someone’s home, you eat it (and smile, and thank the cook). If it’s all that there is to eat or you lost the debate on “where should we stop for food,” you need to eat it (and not demand a second stop or extra groceries.)

    Even way back when I was in school, I knew a lot of really finicky eaters whose parents had catered to their every culinary desire. The world doesn’t work that way.

  97. anonymous this time February 11, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    Designing our next home to be four semi-conjoined micro-lofts. At this point, the six of us will live in two and rent the other two out. As the oldest get to be 15-16 years old, they will have the option to take over one of the rentals, pay the market rent, and get a grocery stipend. I think of it as “home ec immersion.” Make your own food, your own mess, clean it up, realize that the dishes don’t do themselves, all in real time. My guess is that most teens are ready for this, but where would they do it? We’re building it right into our home: fly the coop, but we’re here to help out if needed. Looking forward to not sharing a kitchen with them.

  98. BL February 11, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    “1. Know the branches the federal and state government and their respective roles;
    2. Know the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and fourteenth amendments to the US Constitution”

    But … doesn’t knowing those things disqualify you from ever holding public office?

  99. C. S. P. Schofield February 11, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    From my personal experience as the teenager in question (decades back, but I remember);

    •Do your child a huge favor; when they leave home, give them a cookbook that is good at basic process. How can you tell? If it gives instructions on how to scramble eggs. My Mother gave me THE JOY OF COOKING (hand annotated, bless her), but there are others.

    • MADD will doubtless have a cow, breach presentation, but a parent who doesn’t encourage their teen to experiment with alcohol while still living at home is living in a fools’ paradise. Ideally, your child should not leave your roof before experiencing being really drink, and being really hung-over. Those experiences were great inoculations for me. Cut down on how much drunken trouble I got myself into by a significant margin. I still made a damn fool of myself a couple of times, but did so in safe company.

    • It took me far too long to learn how much saying “Thank You” for good service will endear you to retail and restaurant staff. I consistently get high grade service in several places because I asked to see a manager so I could compliment his (her) staff. This is kind of Advanced Living, but it really helps you from day to day.

    • How to put a drive-chain back on a bicycle. For a lot of living circumstances for young people, having a be is a lot more practical than having a car.

  100. Sharon Davids February 11, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Know basic first aid, let people out of a subway or bus before you attempt to board, say thank you when someone gives you a car or bus ride.

    Know how to use scotch tape, a photocopier, and a stapler (not prerequistes any longer in middle school). Know how to find a copyright date and a spine label on a libary book. Organize your own wallet and keys.

  101. Xena_Rulz February 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Re: Jenny at 1:00 am – What is Meatspace? and what and why do I have to hit hard? This kinda made me giggle

  102. BL February 11, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    @C. S. P. Schofield
    “Ideally, your child should not leave your roof before experiencing being really drink, and being really hung-over”

    Hmmmm. I’m well past adolescence, and I’ve never been drunk or hung-over. Mildly buzzed, once or twice, and I didn’t have any desire to go further.

  103. Papilio February 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    Sex ed: both the technical stuff (how to use a condom properly, knowledge on STDs and pregnancy and how to prevent that, where to get anti-conception), and some relationship stuff (equality, consent, being gay is OK, don’t copy everything you’ve seen on Youporn…). But having a book on all of that lying around somewhere where they can sneak it and read it during their teens worked fine for me, hahaha. And yes, they should know all of this stuff long before they’re 18, but I know in the US it just isn’t standard 8/9th grade material…

    How to cook a decent supper for (at least) each day of the week, including some basics with variation (and) tricks to get rid of any (partial) vegetables or meat of whatever meal ingredients you have left, and how to handle actual left-overs (when not to eat it anymore…).

  104. SKL February 11, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    Yeah, I am not sold on the “how to be drunk” suggestion. I have never been drunk and I have managed to get by OK.

  105. Papilio February 11, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    @CSP Schofield: Yes – I would have said how to handle alcohol responsibly, but since that’s only legal when they turn 103… :-/

  106. SKL February 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    Alcohol age limit – parents can allow their kids to drink alcohol at home (in some states they can do more than that).

    I very much agree with making alcohol a “no big deal” tradition, whether that means toasts at the holidays, a glass every time you eat Spaghetti, or a beer during the football game. (Unless, of course, your religion prohibits it.) I stop short of believing in teaching them how to be drunk. Not everyone wants to lose their inhibitions.

  107. kate February 11, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    AB: Thank you for suggesting that you do not always get to be picky about your meal. I recently told a 16 year old visitor that he could go home to eat if he did not want to join us for bean burritos. Politely accept anything that is offered, exceptions made only for severe allergies. This will especially endear you to potential inlaws.

  108. pentamom February 11, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    AB: EXCELLENT. Graciously eating food you didn’t and wouldn’t choose is indeed a valuable life skill. It enables you to function well in every situation from invitations to homes with strange tastes and/or severe economic limitations on hospitality, to international travel, to just plain not being a PITA about things when a bunch of people want to go out and have to decide on what/where to eat.

    SKL, BION there are states where alcohol is NOT legal underage even at home under parents’ eye. I live in one of those states, but we do it anyway. However, like others, I don’t believe that it’s necessary to teach kids “how” to get drunk since it’s possible to teach them not to — my parents managed it.

  109. Donna February 11, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    I do agree about not making drinking alcohol a big deal within the family, but I’m not sure what the point of getting drunk in high school is. I wasn’t, and still am not, a big drinker, but I have been drunk. I did get really drunk for the first time my senior year of high school. It did nothing to stop me from doing it a handful of times in college too. Hating being hung over made me stop getting drunk, but it didn’t happen the first time.

  110. hineata February 11, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    @Papilio – well, you teach them according to your own religious or moral code, so they have one, and then expect that they will decide about things for themselves.

    @Donna – good point. My grandfathers and grandmothers and their siblings who did leave home early (13 up) did so by going into other peoples’ homes for apprenticeships etc. Very capable, but still very much under the supervision of others. Frankly, you don’t learn how to be, say, a blacksmith, by experimentation…. Even running a household years ago involved a lot of training in the right way to do things.

    It would be interesting to find out how many white people actually struck out into the Wild West all on their lonesome. I doubt it would be that many, of the presumably millions who did so. Most I’m sure would have had the brains to travel in groups….

  111. Cassie February 11, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

    I am not suggesting that an 18 year old knows everything. However, I am suggesting that by 18 years old a list like this should be irrelevant.

    The idea that a group of avid free-range parents are listing all the things a precious 18 year old needs to know is crazy.

    You want to write a list about a 12 year old, go ahead. But 18 is an adult. They have been an adult for longer then modern parents are prepared to accept (whether they remain in the home, at other homes, or live alone is beside the point) they still should, quite simply, have such a long list of basic skills that ten thousand clever comments should not even come close to covering what they know.

    How to appreciate a bad meal? A 10 year old should know that.

  112. SKL February 12, 2014 at 12:07 am #

    If some states don’t allow kids to drink alcohol even at home with their parents, isn’t that an infringement on religious freedom? Or is there an exception for religion?

    That’s a pretty dumb law.

  113. Donna February 12, 2014 at 1:59 am #

    Cassie –

    First, it is a list of things we expect that a person should know before becoming an adult, not a list of things that a parent should teach their child on the actual eve of their 18th birthday and not a day before. I would assume that many of these things would come well before 18 in most free range families.

    Second, it was not meant to be a all-encompassing list that covers every basic skill that a person should ever know by age 18. Obviously, people are not including tying shoes, going pee pee in the potty and other skills that are ALWAYS mastered YEARS before 18. It is more of a list of things we’ve noticed some seem to be lacking, or things that our parents never taught us and we wish they had, or things they did and we found ourselves very happy to know once on our own but found to be skills far from universal among our peers.

    But, again, this notion that everyone was taking care of themselves solely by age 18 in prior generations is just wrong. It is relevant where they lived because many 18, 20, 25, 35 year olds in previous generations didn’t know many of the things listed here because mom, dad, grandma, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, and spouses did them. Many things they ultimately learned as the previous generation aged and the younger generation had to take over, but it wasn’t at 18.

    There were also very strongly differentiated roles. In true communal families it is very differentiated. A father doesn’t teach ALL his children to kill a pig; he teaches ONE and that person then slaughters the pigs for the whole family. No one person ever attains a full skill set needed to survive alone because it is never expected that they will need to do so. But even in more western ways of life, males did certain jobs and females did certain jobs and never the twain shall meet. You really only have to look back a generation or two to see clear evidence of this. Heck, I still wonder how my one grandfather who outlived his wife managed to survive for 5 years.

  114. BeccaK February 12, 2014 at 4:09 am #

    Oh, yes: eating what you are given and being polite about it! Glad I’m not the only one who feels like that. I have been dinning it into my kids since they were weaned: this is the meal, eat it and be grateful.

    Their friends’ parents love it… What? Really? You eat anything?

    And I have almost reached the point with one or two of their friends of saying, Look, love, if you won’t eat what I have carefully cooked, or a sandwich made with BROWN bread (which is all we have), or a bowl of the only cereal we happen to have in the house, you are gong to have to go hungry.

    Though I do make exception for allergies, vegetarians and people who keep kosher.

    Got the youngest downstairs to show her how to lay a fire last night, and found her father had taught her when I wasn’t looking…

  115. Jennifer February 12, 2014 at 4:54 am #

    How to find and reset breaker switches, turn off the water/gas, unplug a sink/toilet/drain, change a lightbulb, use a fire extinguisher. How to put gas in the car, change a tire, check the oil and other fluids (if they drive).

    How to sew on a button, mend a ripped seam, do a load of laundry (and read laundry tags), iron a shirt. How to vacuum, sweep, dust and mop a room, clean a bathroom.

    Basic first aid. How to recognize and handle the signs of alcohol poisoning in someone, and how to keep someone from driving drunk. How to use birth control.

    How to cook well enough to feed themselves – roast or fry meat, cook eggs several ways, make rice, pasta and potatoes, stir fry and steam vegetables, make pasta sauce, stew and chili, make a salad.

    How to pay bills, work out a budget, fill out a simple tax form, calculate tax and tip. Be able to make travel arrangements, ranging from calling a taxi to booking a plane or train ticket, to reserving a hotel room. Be able to use public transit. Know how to behave at a restaurant, including how to order politely when someone else is hosting. Know how a credit card works.

    Know how to deal with customer service politely, and how to make returns and arrange delivery. Know how to bargain shop. Be able to produce a basic CV, and behave properly at a job interview. Know the basics of how to dress for different occasions.

    I would replace the old standby of balancing a cheque book with being able to manage internet banking and how to do financial transactions on line safely – times have changed.

  116. Andy February 12, 2014 at 6:16 am #

    Ok, I criticized this list, but I will add some points too:
    * How to say no to someone trying to manipulate you into buying something you do not need. How to guard oneself against emotional or other manipulation used in ads.
    * You do not have to eat everything that in on plate and you do not have to eat the cake. It is OK politely refuse next food when you feel full.

    Note: I do not see second point as being opposite to not-pickiness people here complain about. Pickiness is not good.

  117. pentamom February 12, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    SKL, I don’t know how those states with the extreme alcohol laws work under religious liberty, but my guess is it went something like this. When Prohibition ended, every state passed laws restricting alcohol. That was also a time of very high anti-Catholic feeling in a lot of the country, so any Catholic voices speaking against severe restrictions would have been counter-productive. Though many Protestants also use wine in church, at that time the “temperance mentality” had been so beaten into people (hence the passage of Prohibition in the first place) that there was probably relatively little concern. (And yes, in this state and a few others, the alcohol statute actually makes no exception for religious ceremonies, so technically wine in communion is illegal. But nobody’s EVER been stupid enough to try to enforce it.) Basically the way the law is written is that people under age cannot consume alcohol, and there are NO exceptions for any place or circumstance. So there’s no specific language forbidding it at any time or place, it’s just not legal at any time or place.

    And of course, any attempt to change it afterward, even up to today, would have been met with howls of protest that we want kids to drink, and that could simply not be borne.

    Here’s a handy chart that I actually got from a comment here, years ago:

  118. Amanda Matthews February 12, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    I’m constantly amazed by the amount of things people MY AGE (late 20s/early 30s) don’t know how to do.

    And a lot of them don’t just figure it out as they go along. They continue to have their parents do it for them, or pay someone else to do it for them. I guess it lines the pockets of those few people that actually learned the skills. It certainly gives the older generation a sense of being needed, but… well those people are kind of screwed when their parents get too old to do things for them.

    I know someone my age that did not know how to pay at a real restaurant. He just wasn’t observant when others were paying for him, and he’d only ever paid himself at Steak & Shake (where you go up to a register when you’re about to leave, and pay)

    Whenever something goes wrong, my husband thinks we need to call someone. A repair man, a plumber, his father. He use to always have a family member that was a repair man or plumber or etc. but they are all too elderly to help now or died of old age. So he freaks out, wondering how much it’s going to cost to pay a repair man or plumber. How we’ll deal with the broken thing until we can get an appointment.

    Then I pull out the tool box and fix it myself, or google how to fix it. My dad knew – HOPED – that someday I’d be out on my own. That I may be unable to call him for help, and I shouldn’t have to pay/wait for someone else to fix things (and that I might not be able to – he grew up before cellphones, and didn’t always have the money for a payphone, if there was one around… his family didn’t always have the money to pay for a repairman/plumber/etc.). So whenever something came up, he had me watch him deal with it, and through this I learned to deal with other things.

    “Manually balancing a checkbook yourself is outdated.”

    Only if you have your account to yourself, purchase things only every few days and always remember every charge.

    My husband and I share one account. At any time one of us may be buying something online or in a store, and the charges may not show up for a few days.

    My husband had a few times of looking at the account, thinking (or saying to me) that it was okay to make a purchase, and then realizing a few days later that oops, a charge he had forgotten about hadn’t gone through yet, or an automatic payment was coming out the next day.

    So I said we need to start keeping a checkbook. He had no idea how to balance one.

    Writing a check has also come up a few times (mostly in paying doctor bills through the mail. Come to think of it, I can’t remember handing someone a check in person in all my adult life…), and he had no idea how to do that either. He had no idea how to cash one made out to him either.

    I may not have the physical strength to change a tire, but I know HOW to do it – and so can walk someone stronger through it.

  119. SKL February 12, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    I have adult friends who did not know you’re supposed to balance a checkbook. She just looked at her monthly bank statement and dealt with it if she had an overdraft. She was old enough to be a grandmother when she told me that. In contrast, my mom showed me how to balance a checkbook when I was in elementary school, long before I ever wrote a check. I opened my first bank account (savings) at 13 and kept track of that. My first checking account was joint with my mom, and she would have given me hell if I didn’t balance it, but I always did, in real time.

    I still manually balance my checkbook regularly. I now enjoy the added convenience of being able to check my records against the bank’s via the internet, whenever it is convenient for me.

    But I don’t write many checks. Most of my entries in my checkbook are for electronic transfers – past or future.

  120. Papilio February 12, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    @hineata: “you teach them according to your own religious or moral code, so they have one, and then expect that they will decide about things for themselves.”
    Yes, OK, but just a religious code is not enough to keep them out of trouble, as the US teen pregnancy rate shows. Ultimately they do have to decide for themselves, but it better be a well-informed decision.
    This is also why it’s easier to let school deal with this: that way the parents can simply disagree with school and stick to their religious code, and the kids still learn what they need to know, even if they never use that knowledge.

  121. hineata February 12, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

    @Papilio – agree with you on teaching the mechanics of sex. Was just the idea of teaching things like ‘being gay is okay’, which I believe is a moral issue best left to home. I think the same about teaching ‘it’s okay to live together’ etc. That isn’t for schools to teach, though I’m sure it happens in NZ now. (I teach younger kids, so not a lot comes up).

    I have, incidentally, expressed all my own moral views to my kids, as well as the religious codes we live by, while at the same time telling them that regardless of what they decide to do in any area they are still my kids and will be accepted by me (though if they decide to be, say, serial killers, they had better be prepared to accept the consequences of their actions, LOL!).

  122. Mike Monaco February 12, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”–Robert Heinlein

  123. Beth February 12, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    “How to update your DL when you move.”

    I just assumed I would go to the local DMV’s site online and find the instructions. Is there more to it than that?

  124. MrsSell February 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    I would add how to contact a locksmith to deal with a keys-locked-in-car/house situation, and with that, how to 1) use a pay phone or 2) request to use a phone at a place of business. Not so much necessary now with all the cell phones, but if your keys are locked somewhere, it’s very possible that your phone is locked in with them.

  125. MrsSell February 13, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    I have to bring up another one: how to maintain a clean living space even if you personally aren’t bothered by living in a mess. A lot of people get through their teenage years in a filthy room using the “it’s my space so I can keep it the way I want” mentality, and this continues if they have their own apartment when they’re older. But if they ever want/need a roommate or a significant other, it’s not just “their space” anymore, and picking up after themselves is no longer a matter of personal choice.

  126. jess February 22, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

    Adding to the list: A firm handshake, polite small talk (no fiddling with your phone) and listening with intention. How to interrupt someone politely.