Believe it or not, there are some things that your kid should not be asking you to do for them. And unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily even the problem. Parents have got to stop doing literally everything for their kids. It stunts their ability to mature appropriately. Kids are more than capable of doing a lot of things on their own. The bad news is, if you don’t teach them, they probably won’t learn.
Here’s a list of things your kid should be able to do by the time they are 12.
1. Using An Alarm Clock To Wake Up And Getting Ready For School
The first in a list of responsibilities that your child will probably think is fun. An alarm clock makes a great gift for a kindergartener. Even if he or she won’t be going to morning kindergarten, it’s a milestone to be attending school on a daily basis. And kids at this age love feeling like they are responsible for something.
By the time your child is school full time, or daily, they will be expected to be able to follow directions given by an adult that is not a parent. Having an alarm clock can be a good introduction to understanding the personal responsibility. At five, they’ll need help with this. But if they have an alarm clock that goes off at the same time on every weekday, by the time they are 12, the habit will be there.
2. Making Breakfast
Like the use of an alarm clock, food prep should start early in life and kids love doing it. And, again, 5 is a good age to start teaching this responsibility. It can go hand in hand with teaching the responsibility of getting yourself ready for school. When they are younger they can help with steps of preparing and cleaning up after breakfast. My kids loved to mix ingredients, stir batter, crack eggs and even stand on a stool and watch over something cooking, stirring or flipping on occasion. Just like eating, preparing food at age 5 requires supervision.
Since kids are enthusiastic to help at this age, teaching now helps them understand later, this is not a choice; if you eat, you better know how to prepare food. Don’t get me wrong, putting dishes in the dishwasher, and washing pots and pans will get old later. But the requirement of it should still be in effect because kids who are taught to be self-sufficient have more respect for themselves as well as the teachers (parents, included).
By the time your kids are 12, they can reasonably be expected to take turns preparing breakfast for everyone. I’m not talking about Belgian waffles and eggs Benedict, although if there is interest, that too is possible. Simple scrambled eggs and even eggs, to order, is not hard to learn or teach. Cooking sausage or bacon and adding fruit to that plate is also easy. My 11-year-old cooks, on the cooktop, steel cut oats for him and his 8-year-old brother every day.
3. Packing Lunch
This one is even easier than breakfast for the simple reason that there is generally no cooking when packing a lunch. The hardest part about teaching the packing lunch responsibility is getting into the habit, but even that’s not hard if you start early. Forming habits when they are young prevent the constant phone calls asking for someone to bring them their lunch. As soon as they are in school full time, or even just bringing a snack in kindergarten, they can be responsible for packing. In the beginning, it’s your job to instruct, and after a while, they remember on their own.
4. Completing Homework
All the experts say that children can be expected to need guidance with homework through the third grade, but that by the time they are in fourth grade they should be ready to complete without any help. I’m not sure how I feel about the experts’ opinions, but I do know through the experience of homeschooling, that the longer you sit with a child through anything, even if it is silent reading, the longer they will require you to do so. Encourage independent working as soon as your child seems ready. Ready doesn’t mean they won’t want you sitting there if you are willing. Ready means capable.
Set a time for homework and stick to it. My kids were always instructed to do homework immediately. By the time they are 12 and older, they should be given some leniency on when they are required to do homework, as long as they know it is a requirement. Example: Homework must be completed and sitting right here (on the kitchen counter) by such and such time. Or, homework must be completed before dinner. Homework must be completed before eight o’clock, but, if you want to play outside or hang with friends, homework comes before that. Or, homework must be completed before extracurricular activities. You decide what’s best for your family.
You can do it however you want, but creating a habit requires consistency, enforcement and about eighteen days in a row (which never happens because you don’t have school eighteen days in a row). Just stick on them until you know you don’t need to.
5. Keeping a Calendar With Important Dates/Reminders
Anymore it seems like teachers and coaches automatically expect kids not to remember due dates, practice times, picture day, tryouts, auditions, game dates, etc. Parents are being bombarded with newsletters and reminders and ways to make sure they remember, rather than requiring it of the kids. If the schools and coaches and piano teacher left it up to the kid, then the kids would be more likely to remember/set reminders and put on calendars. If they knew there would be no teacher sending home a reminder, emailing, and sending calendar invitations to parents, well I guess they would have to do it themselves. The sooner kids are faced with consequences of forgetting, the sooner they’ll make an effort to remember. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this will work if parents are not requiring it of their own kids.
Teach your kid how to use a calendar, either a paper one or a computer or smartphone. This is fun for younger kids as well. As soon as they learn how to write, get them a calendar and go through it with them and have them write family and friends birthdays on it. Have them write on when you want to shop for birthday presents (if you’ll be doing that). Have them write down anything they want to remember.
My daughter, Nicole, (13) has been placing cool things on our calendars like dates of meteor showers, eclipses, and interesting planetary events because she got a telescope for Christmas a few years ago and wants to remember to use it for those things. She also babysits and uses a calendar to keep track of her schedule. We homeschool, so she doesn’t have the same type of school schedule, but she does have an agenda/school planner. She keeps extracurricular activities, assignments, field trips, etc. in that planner. And she is expected to keep track of it herself.
6. Doing Laundry
Doing Laundry is the chore I hate the most. It’s time-consuming and never-ending, and as a mom with a growing family, the laundry piles kept getting bigger and bigger, so that by the time I was doing laundry for six people, laundry day was taking up pretty much the whole day.
When I was pregnant with my 5th child, my laundry room was in the basement and all the bedrooms and bathrooms (where you would shower, change, and dress) were on the top floor. My oldest two were 12 and 11 at the time and pregnancy had just started to make me hate laundry even more. One particularly difficult laundry day, carrying up and down all day long, I realized, I did not need to be doing their laundry. I could just teach them how to do it, assign them each a day and be done with it. And that’s what I did. Trust me when I say it single-handedly changed the way I felt about the kids’ role in household chores. It was one of my best ideas.
Today, my oldest still does his own (second oldest lives on his own) and my three youngest, 13, 11 & 8 are responsible for doing their laundry as well as the towels from their bathroom. So there is no waste of soap or fabric softener, or over stuffing of machines, I still supervise. But this system runs like a well-oiled machine. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ps. Doing laundry always includes folding, hanging, putting away. Clean laundry does not live in a basket. No exceptions.
7. Making Dinner
By the time your child is 12 they can be entirely capable of making a few solid dinner menus. Dinner requires a bit more of a recipe following skill. Start around age 10, with five ingredients and a crockpot. These dinners are especially easy because you add everything at once and then you’re done. The ability to follow a recipe is important. 10-year-olds are good at this. As my daughter would say, “easy-peasy.”
When it comes to cooking and meal prep, there are literally thousands of resources you can use to help teach kids. Learning how to make one meal a week, or even a month, just using youtube videos is entirely doable. Start with the crockpot and then move to baking. Soon he or she will be ready to use a burner at the same time as the oven and or the crockpot (Fried chicken, green beans, and baked potatoes).
No, your kid doesn’t need to be preparing gourmet dinners every night, or even regularly. But he or she should be capable of cooking. And when they are teenagers, not only do they not have an interest in learning how to cook, they don’t think they should have to. Because, why do it for yourself when mom will do it for you?
8. Doing Dishes
This one starts with teaching kids to clear their own dishes from the table and trust me, you want them doing this. Just fast forward 10 years in your mind, and ask yourself how much you love cleaning up after capable beings who have learned to spread messes everywhere they go because it’s been allowed to happen. As soon as they are capable of understanding this concept, teach them to place dishes in the dishwasher, or in the sink (whichever you prefer). In the beginning, when you are assigning chores, doing the dishes can consist of helping mom or dad load/unload the dishwasher. Sometimes kids cannot reach shelves, so this one is a work in progress. But they can definitely help until they are tall enough to reach without help. By 12, this can be a daily chore that which earns them an allowance.
9. Cleaning The Bathroom
Again, I’ll refer you to the handy youtube tutorial. There are thousands of channels out there that teach super quick and easy ways to keep spaces clean. I started my kids out with just tidying (removing laundry and garbage, organizing toiletries), wiping down sinks and mirrors and sweeping at around age 8. They were able to move to toilets, bathtubs, and showers at around 10. They will not be the best at these jobs and you may have to go over it once a month or so and/or help them to improve.
It’s important that kids learn how to clean a bathroom as well as prefer a clean bathroom. Being ok with a disgusting bathroom leads to the feeling that it is not necessary to clean it. If my kids want to have guests over, who may use their bathroom, it needs to be clean. This is another chore that can earn them an allowance. My three youngest share a bathroom, and it is their responsibility to keep it clean.
Vacuuming is not hard, but does require the strength to do it so if you have a really heavy vacuum (I have a Kirby, which is heavy to carry for a little kid), then you may need to place the vacuum in the room you want them to vacuum, especially if it is up or down a staircase. It also requires the capacity to understand that there are some things you cannot vacuum, which is one of the most important factors. Currently, my 13-year-old is the only one who vacuums although she does not do it on a regular basis. If I need her to help in a pinch, she can do it. The others will be learning soon.
If your 12-year-old is an only child with no experience with babies, who exhibits irritation or annoyance with small children, then this one may be an exception. As the oldest child in my family, I was not a good babysitter because I had almost no tolerance for children. My slightly younger sister was great with kids and she usually got the jobs. But if you have a few kids, babysitting is generally something your 8, 9, 10-year-olds can be getting used to the idea of and can be helping out with just around the house while you are there.
My daughter took babysitting classes through the Red Cross and has Babysitting Certification. She did this while she was 12 and started offering services in our neighborhood as soon as she turned 13. She currently babysits every single week and has some solid experience with several references.This skill is one that can be utilized in a continued effort to learn responsibility as well as resume building for future job and college applications.
12. Cleaning Up After Self
Generally speaking, you’re going to have a kid or two that will leave their belongings laying around. My daughter will leave her drawing and art supplies in a room where she was watching TV because she intends to come back to and may not get back to it. My younger ones will leave playing cards, or personal items in rooms on occasion as well. What never happens in my house is the leaving of coats, shoes, backpacks, etc. in common areas. There are no exceptions to the rules that your shoes, coats, and backpacks get put away immediately upon entering the house.
Way back when I first sent my oldest two to school, I started noticing that shoes and backpacks and papers inside were somehow ending up all over the place. This was a problem for more than one reason. One, just the mess it made. And two, it was becoming more and more hectic in the morning trying to find things.
I’m sorry, but you should always know where your shoes are. Because, why not? Backpacks and important papers/homework/anything that needs to be read, signed, returned, etc. can be removed and placed into an appropriate area for later addressing by a parent. Believe it or not, kids can and should be taught to take care of this themselves. And as with everything you want them to learn, it should start when they are young, so when the backpack comes home on the first day of Kindergarten, that’s a great day to start.
Obviously, your 12-year-old is capable of doing more than 12 things. There are a bunch more household chores you could have them doing. But having them do everything at once is not the point. Teaching them to do things they will eventually need to be able to do is just a good idea.
Household chores give your kids their first exposure to a work environment and the chance to compete with siblings for earnings. Things like taking out the garbage and bringing in the cans from the curb, yard work including cutting grass, dusting, and mopping and caring for pets. The list could go on but I think you get the point. Kids who live in a house where cleaning up and tidying are a part of life are also better suited for teen employment because they have learned the importance of completing a task properly (think grocery baggers).
Kids are capable of doing a lot more than most parents realize. Some kids remain ignorant that they are even capable of doing the things their parents do for them. And most kids who make it to the teen years without any of these skills still don’t understand their capabilities. This ends up being an unnecessary struggle in early adulthood. As I mentioned above, teens are generally not receptive to learning how to do chores. Kids under 12 are a different story. Take advantage of that.
Some parents realize their children could be doing these things, that they are capable, but simply don’t want to spoil their childhood. What they don’t realize is that this is how you spoil adulthood. The reason your 12-year-old should be doing these things is so they know how when they are young adults.
Opting to teach these things, in the teen years, once the magic of childhood is almost over, may seem like a good idea. I’m going to reiterate one very important point: Teens do not want to learn how to do chores. The teen years will not be when they are creating habits for lifestyles. So you can wait if you want, but teens who were not taught responsibility as younger children will not generally exhibit responsible behavior.
Don’t be surprised when you suddenly expect more responsible behavior but you’re getting regular phone calls requesting that you bring something forgotten (lunch, sports uniform, permission slip, field trip money, etc.). Don’t be surprised when teen bathrooms remain unclean, bedrooms are exploded with laundry, both clean (that you washed) and dirty. Expect to find dishes and garbage being left in bedrooms and all over the house. All for someone else to come along and take care of. The list really does go on.
Will you be paying for drivers ed for this child? Does this child deserve driving priveledges? Will this child have a job? What about gas and insurance? Who will be expected to pay for that? The child that has been taught responsibility, the value of a dollar and work ethic will want to earn these things. The child who you’ve been an assistant to since they were born, will continue to expect, need and require that assistance. They will expect driving priveledges, a car and everything associated to be, once again, handed to them, just because. And your actions as a parent determines the outcome here.
No, your child is not your maid, and that’s not the point of any of this. Your kids don’t exist so they can cook for and clean up after you. But you weren’t born to be someone’s maid, either. Part of your job as a parent is to teach self-sufficiency. Ultimately what you want is a child who understands that once they learn how to do certain things, it becomes their responsibility. It becomes part of everyday life. You are helping to prepare them for adulthood.
Incapable Teen Syndrome = Baffled Parent Syndrome
One of the most important factors here is that your child will not learn any of this in school. Why this isn’t obvious kind of blows my mind. When your child is 17 and you are scratching your head with a severe case of baffled parent syndrome, understand that this is your fault.
Once you find yourself observing, waiting and wondering about when this teen-child will realize he or she is expected to do certain things they were never taught to do, it’s too late. It’s not going to happen if they were not taught. Realize they have only experienced what you have exposed them to in life. They will not learn or understand that they are responsible for helping out. They won’t be receptive to doing things for themselves because they didn’t learn to do so.
Deficient parenting leads to incapable teens, young adults and then to baffled parents, but can be prevented. If you expect your child to one day, suddenly be miraculously enlightened, be prepared for disappointment. It’s not going to happen. If you’re sitting around wondering why your teen knows how to do literally nothing without help, look to yourself.
Major Problem In Society
It’s affecting young adults in a way that makes them almost handicapped to the idea of living on their own. Thanks to kids who haven’t been taught to work, the current teenaged workforce is basically garbage. If you’re one of those parents who believes that childhood is for fun only, understand that you could be dealing with an adult child that is desperately lacking the skills necessary to care for themselves. Understand that your job, to turn out a productive human being onto society will have failed. This has become such a widespread problem that there are now actual “adulting” schools.
Society Needs Parents To Do Better
Should we be paying for our kids to go to adulting school? Should our kids be seeking out and paying for this type of education? Shouldn’t we be at least a little embarrassed if our kids need this?
If you’ve made this mistake once, for whatever reason, don’t let it happen again. Don’t be the proud parent of an Adulting School graduate.