10 Things You’re Probably Doing for Your Teen That’s Preventing Them from Adulting

Why we all need to be doing far less for our kids...

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: 10 Things You’re Probably Doing for Your Teen That’s Preventing Them from Adulting

Written By: Dr. Robyn Silverman, Ph.D.

I messed up. There I was, cutting my son’s sandwich when it dawned on me. What was I doing? He was 12 years old. I had taught my daughter, (my oldest), to do everything from making scrambled eggs to navigating the bustling New York subway, yet I was in my kitchen cutting my son’s sandwich.

I’m a Child Development Specialist and the author of a parenting book for goodness’ sake. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me!

I couldn’t help but wonder… what else had I been doing on autopilot? What else was I unknowingly (with all good intentions, of course) doing that was preventing him from adulting and being prepared to take on this world without me?  

10 Things You’re Probably Doing for Your Teen That’s Preventing Them from Adulting

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Putting pen to paper, I did what any writer would do. I wrote down every skill I could think of that my son needed to learn before leaving the nest.

This became a detailed checklist encompassing 118 Skills to Teach Kids Before Age 18 (You can receive the free download of my 118 skills when you order my book, “How to Talk to Kids About Anything,” on Amazon HERE.)

My brain dump covered everything from interpersonal and self-care skills to travel, budgeting, and simple car maintenance. Realizing I was essentially selling my boy short, we started tackling each skill one day at a time.

Julie Lythcott-Haims said it best on my podcast, How to Talk to Kids about Anything. “Too many of our youth have been deprived of the basic act of procuring groceries {and other basic skills}… they become young adults who feel stupid, silly, bad, embarrassed because they don’t have this basic skill and they’re wondering, why don’t I feel like an adult?” The answer is plain. “Well, you were never allowed to practice along the way.”

Essentially, it’s time we start doing far less for our kids…

According to research, this issue is more common than most parents realize. A survey conducted by OnePoll showed:

  • 81% of teen/young adults wish they were taught more life skills before graduating from college
  • 17% still didn’t know how to cook or do laundry
  • 26% felt lost when it came to basic household maintenance like unclogging a toilet
  • 70% said they were overwhelmed when it came to financial decisions
  • 3 out of 10 wished they knew more about budgeting

To all those who can relate, and all of us who want the best for our kids, it’s rehearsal time. Here are 10 things you’re probably doing for your teen that’s preventing them from adulting.

Making All Their Meals

Sure, it’s wonderful to cook a nice home-cooked meal for our kids. But when we make all their meals, how will they ever learn to do it for themselves? I have literally gotten up and walked into another room when my son was making mac and cheese to resist the urge to jump in and take over. When he has questions, I direct him to where he can find the answer. “You can find out how much milk to add by looking at the side of the box.”

Being Their Personal ATM Machine

“Mom, can I have $10 to go to Chick-fil-A?” “Dad, can I have the credit card to get gas? My friends and I want to go cruising tonight.” Oh… it’s SO easy to pass over the bucks every time they ask. But heads up, we’re doing our kids a disservice. Sure, we’ll always be giving our kids some money, but we also need to teach them the value of a dollar including how to earn, save, spend (without going into debt), and invest money so they can manage their finances on their own one day.

Paying All Their Bills

Along those same lines, teens need to learn how to pay their bills. Most will be approached (and tempted) by credit card companies when they move out or go to college. Whipping out a plastic card can make them feel divorced from money when they aren’t actually seeing and paying their bills. Start with a debit card and move to a credit card when they show you that they’re ready for more responsibility.

Doing Their Laundry

I get it. We want to lend our kids a hand and take at least some pressure off of them (and, of course, we should from time to time!), but when we do our kids’ laundry ALL the time, we’re robbing them of the chance to develop an important skill.

Teach them the basics and then cut them loose while they’re still under your roof. After all, we don’t want them calling us from college to ask, “MOM! How do I get ketchup out of my favorite hoodie?” or “Can I put something labeled ‘Dry Clean Only’ in the dryer?”

Making Their Appointments

Making appointments – doctor’s, haircuts, car service, etc. – is a skill all teens need to learn. It’s a little intimidating for them at first, but they’ll get the hang of it with you by their side. Above all, you want to avoid playing the “middle man,” relaying messages from one to the other, “How’s Thursday at 3 pm?”… “Sorry, my son says he has a meet, how about Friday at 4 pm?” “Nothing available?” “They said they don’t have anything that day. What’s another day that works for you?” (Also, make sure you don’t do the talking for them on doctor visits – they need to learn to communicate with medical personnel.)

Taking Charge of Their Meds

“Mom, my head is pounding. What should I take?” “I already took NyQuil, can I take Motrin with that?” Our kids won’t be in our tender care forever. We need to help them get comfortable with reading medical labels, figuring out what to take for what ails them, understanding possible negative side effects and interactions, and understanding which meds should not be used in combination.

Making Their Bed & Cleaning Their Room

This seems rudimentary but you have to ask yourself… “Does my teen really know how to make their bed and clean their room?” When our kids start their day by making their bed, putting their laundry in a hamper, and straightening up their room, they learn that it helps clear their minds and keep them organized! It teaches them responsibility and accountability. No more, “MOM! Where is my…?!!” (It’s tangled in the bed sheets, by the way…or thrown in with the pile of clothes on the floor.)

Owning Their Homework

It’s their classes, their homework, and their responsibility. Of all the things you’re probably doing for your teen, this might top the list. That’s not to say you can’t quiz them when they have a big test, help them get organized, or help them out when they’re stumped on homework, but you need to slowly pass ownership of their homework (and grades) over to them. 

Solving Their Problems

Believe me, I get it. It’s hard to hold your tongue when your kids are dealing with frustration at school, drama with friends, or fights with siblings.

But they need to learn conflict resolution skills, including the ability to compromise and communicate calmly NOW so they can master these skills before they leave home and the stakes are higher.

Using Basic Tools

I made it a point to start teaching my son how to use hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, and drills. When we purchased a new vacuum cleaner that needed to be assembled, we had him put it together. When we decided to update the toilet paper holder in his bathroom, he learned to spackle and drill. He gained the know-how and the accompanying pride when he finished the job.

We need to make sure our kids know they can always ask us anything. After all, we’re their safe person, advice-giver, and life coach. But to prepare them for the next big chapter in their lives, we need to step back, let go a bit, and let them do far more for themselves. We’ll be doing them a big favor. 

About Dr. Robyn Silverman, Ph.D.

Known as the “Conversation Doc,” Dr. Robyn Silverman is a child and teen development specialist and author of the book, How to Talk to Kids About Anything, as well as the host of the popular podcast of the same name. Dr. Robyn has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, and CBS Early Show and has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, and many other publications. Find out all about Dr. Robyn and the book at DrRobynSilverman.com. For anyone who wants the checklist, 118 Skills to Teach Kids by Age 18, it’s in the free bonuses for anyone who preorders Dr. Robyn’s book! Facebook @DrRobynSilverman, Instagram @DrRobyn, X @DrRobyn.

If you enjoyed reading, “10 Things You’re Probably Doing for Your Teen That’s Preventing Them from Adulting,” you might want to check out these other posts!

Help Your Teen Learn to Adult: 20 Life Skills They Need

If You Want to Let Me Grow, Then You’ve Got to Let Me Go

Life Skills for Teens: 21 Things They Need to Know Before They Fly the Coop

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Regina October 12, 2023 - 2:23 pm

One important thing you forgot is grocery shopping/food. How to read store ads/weekly and compute cost per unit/ounce to find best price. Also teach them cheapest is not skways best, someimes pating higher price for better quality (will last longer/not replace as soon). I have been taking my kids to grocery store & showing them (my personal way) of reading weekly store ad & showing cost/value at store/stickers.

Nancy Reynolds October 13, 2023 - 7:41 am

Yes! Good point! Especially with the cost of groceries. It’s important they know how to save money on groceries, but when to splurge on the namebrands.Thanks for weighing in!

Penni October 15, 2023 - 1:58 am

Love it!


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