8 Things Teens Need to Learn by 16/Driving Age


I've been on vacation for a week, and during that time last week's blog post "8 Things Kids Need to Master By Age 13" was circulating. I have a 13 year old son, and I was watching him and thinking about how well he has managed the 8 points on the list.

8 Things Kids Need to Master By 13

1. Choose kindness over popularity.

2. Recognize the harm from gossiping.

3. Name your feelings.

4. Stand up for what is right.

5. Walk away from trouble.

6. Take responsibility for your mistakes.

7. Become skillful at trying hard.

8. Know when to ask for help.

He's done pretty well, although there were a few reinforcements of these points during the week- "When you get corrected for doing something wrong, receive it, and accept it. Don't get defensive."

I also have a son who is pushing toward 16. He'll be driving unsupervised soon. Watching my boys and their 14 year old friend awkwardly navigate a street dance in a strange small town, I started to think about the giant leap in skills that happens from middle school to high school. What are the skills we want our 16 years olds to have mastered?

8 Things I Want My Kids to Master by Age 16

1. Put down your damn phone and look up! It's amazing what kids can miss while they stare down at a screen. Whether it's beautiful scenery, or an opportunity to engage in human connection, teens need to be reminded to look up.

2. Learn what is (and is not) "camper appropriate." My older son spent a week as a camp counselor in training. Back with the family, he asked if he could plug in his phone to play music in the car, but then paused and said "I don't know if all my music is camper appropriate." With 2 younger siblings and parents who might not want hear some of his lyrics, this was a good question to ask himself and a translatable skill: know what's appropriate for your context.

3. Just get out on the floor and dance. I watched those 3 teen boys, itching to get out on the dance floor at a small town street dance, struggle to overcome their insecurities. They eventually tackled it (see item 4), but not because of any prodding from parents. Older teens need to learn to face fear and do things anyway.

4. It's not about you. When a 6 year old who looks up to you wants you to dance, you suck it up and dance. At that point, you stop worrying about yourself and think of others. In fact, older teens need to think of others often.

5. How to protect a friend when something bad is about to happen. "No, Dude! Don't jump from there, it's too high." Whether your friend is about to literally jump, or is naively walking into a bad situation, by the time kids are old enough to drive and socialize largely outside the supervision of adults, they need to learn to protect each other.

6. Don't be afraid to lead. Sometimes you're the one who needs to step forward and take charge. By 16, it's time to get comfortable taking charge when the time comes.

7. Some itches shouldn't be scratched at the table. Literally and metaphorically. Some moments are to be taken in private, kids.

8. Mom and Dad are always here to support you. Even as you reach the home stretch of childhood, you still have parents. We're here to guide you. You don't have to be fully grown up yet, but almost.

Posted on July 10, 2017 .

8 Things Kids Need to Master By Age 13



I recently shared an article on my Facebook page titled "8 Things Kids Need to Do For Themselves Before Age 13."  It was a nice list of functional life skills, and I agreed with the idea that our kids need to learn how to do laundry and pack a lunch. But as I read the list, I thought some things were missing, for sure. Here's the original list:

1. Waking them up in the morning

2. Making their breakfast and packing their lunch

3. Filling out their paperwork

4. Delivering their forgotten items

5.Making their failure to plan your emergency

6. Doing all of their laundry

7. Emailing and calling their teachers and coaches

8. Meddling in their academics


Missing from this list are vital emotional and interpersonal skills. With outstanding social skills, our kids can communicate their needs and get help with the functional tasks they don't know how to do. And being a grown up is about more that doing your own laundry; our kids need to clean up their own interpersonal messes, too. 


8 Things Kids Need to Master By 13

1.  Choose kindness over popularity. We teach young kids to share and choose their words carefully, but teens face new pressures. Peers encourage them to exclude someone, or post a cruel comment on social media. 

2.  Recognize the harm from gossiping.   Teens are social creatures, and it's natural for them to want to talk about their experiences. But we have to teach them that gossip hurts. 

3.  Name your feelings . Being able to name feeling prevents acting on them instead. Naming feelings is a vital skill for the teen years.

4.  Stand up for what is right. Our children need to become people of principle as they enter the teens years. Upstanding has been shown to protect kids from bullying. Standing up is important for both.

5.  Walk away from trouble. Trouble can take the form of underage drinking, skirting rules, or a wide range of other possibilities. We have to teach our kids what to say and when so they're prepared when they find themselves on the cusp of a friend's bad choice, or their own.

6.  Take responsibility for your mistakes. Nobody is right all the time. We have to teach our kids how to own their screw ups and make right their wrongs. 

7.   Become skillful at trying hard. Hard work is a skill. Kids naturally choose what's easy most of the time. By 13, they need to learn the rewards of hard work.

8.  Know when to ask for help. This may be the most important skill of all for a teen: know when you need help, and know how to ask. Teens love their independence, but they need help sometimes. 

Posted on July 3, 2017 .

Parents: Start Off Summer Right (And Then Relax)

When kids of all ages get summers off, new stresses hit the family. Here are 10 tips to get your summer started off on the right foot:


1.     Decide up front how you’d like the household to run, and make sure everyone understands.

Does watching your teen sleep past noon, or seeing your 7-year-old watch TV all day drive you to the brink? Make a rule about wake up time, and another about how much TV is okay, and let everyone know.

2.     Make a schedule for camps, family trips, and important activities so everyone is on the same page.

3.     Plan at least one family trip. Lounging around the house has value, but making memories over the summer break can’t be beat.

4.     Identify your non-negotiables. If you’re not going to tolerate a lazy summer, or if you won’t put up with a messy family room, make this clear from the get-go.

5.     Write it down. When making new rules, it’s helpful for everyone if you spell them out in writing. This settles disputes over differing memories between family members.

6.     Give each kid a summer job. Whether it’s lawn mowing, or walking the dog, each child (or young adult) in the family can make a contribution.

7.     Make a budget. Summer fun can get expensive. Planning in advance can curb overspending.

8.     Be flexible. As important as it is to plan, things will still go unexpectedly. Be ready to adapt where necessary. 

9.     Start any required summer work (like summer reading, or applications for fall programs) early. Waiting until the end of summer for these responsibilities heightens stress for everyone.

10. Have fun! Take advantage of the slower pace and enjoy the break!


Posted on June 12, 2017 .