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 .