9 basic life skills every kid should know by the age of 12

Kinderling News & Features

There’ll come a point in your parenting journey where you’ll be staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night asking yourself: have I done enough to help my kids?  The truth is, we may never have the answer to that question, but there are certain skills that ensure once kids hit the big, wide world, they’ll be OK.

According to Stanford psychologist Julie Lythcott-Haims to truly help our children make a success of their lives we need to let go of what she calls the ‘over parenting trap.’

“We have the very best of intentions, but when we over-help, we deprive them of the chance to learn these really important things that it turns out they need to learn to be prepared to be out in the world of work, to get an apartment, to make their way through an unfamiliar town, to interact with adults who aren't motivated by love,” Julie told American website, Parents.com.

And while these big life goals might feel a long way off, we need to begin with baby steps.

With this mind, here are nine things Julie will help our kids grow up without having to rely on ‘mum and dad to do the  'work' of life.

1. Cook a meal

Julie says by the time your child reaches high school they should be able to do everything they need for basic survival themselves – and that included making their own food!  By the age of 12 she recommends every child have the skills to make a simple breakfast, lunch and dinner for themselves. “There's a confidence that comes when we build competence,” said Julie. 

2. Get up (and wake up) on time

Stop being your child’s alarm clock, advises Julie. “They're late for breakfast; they're late to school; and we drive them. All that teaches them is, 'I'll always be there to wake you up and drive you,' which is not true." Teach your child to set an alarm and be conscious of the fact that they are in charge of their day.

3. Do basic chores – like the washing

Remember: We can’t get cross with our kids for not being able to ‘do’ something around the house, if we haven’t taught them. “Show them the ropes, watch them do it themselves once to make sure they've got it, and then let them handle it on their own,” said Julie

4. Help others

Julie calls this ‘pitching in’.  "Kids need to learn how to contribute for the betterment of the whole," she said. "Maybe they have siblings and one is stressed out about something, and the other says, 'I'll do your chore for you. Because I see you're stressed out and you need some help.' That's building a sense of it's not just about me. I can do for others."

5. Stand up for themselves

Teach your child how to have a conversation with an authority figure and advocate for themselves. Equally, teach them to really listen to what the other person is saying and understand it might not go their way. 

"Many times they won't get the outcome they desire, and it's 'Well, 'I tried.' And they come home and they learn to cope with it, because not everything in life will go your way,” said Julie.

 6. Pack their own bag

Instead of ‘saving’ time and doing it for them, encourage your child to pakc their pown bag. This means they have to think ahead about what they will need to see them through the day. It encourages forward planning and responsibility.

7. Respectfully place an order at a restaurant

Remind them to look the waiter in the eye, be polite, communicate their request, and say, "thank you."

“They're going to want to have that skill to not only order food, but to do so respectfully—and not look like a jerk who's an entitled kid with a credit card, who can pay for it, but can't really treat the server respectfully," said Julie.

8. How to talk to strangers

‘Don’t talk to strangers is the wrong rule to teach our kids, said Julie. Instead we need to teach them how to discern Let me teach you how to discern the very few, creepy strangers from the vast, vast majority of normal strangers.' That's a skill."

9. Navigate the supermarket

Teach them how to recognize the aisle signs and where to find products in each section like milk, laundry detergent, bread etc. Once your child is 12+ Julie suggests sending them off on their own with one of those little hand-held baskets to go get five or six things while you wait outside.