12 Things You Need To Teach Your Kids Before They Leave For College

teaching kids life skillsWhen I got to my college dorm for the first time, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I assumed that there would be lots of cable knit sweaters, elbow patched tweed, ivy, and that it would be pretty much perpetually autumn wherever I went.

That turned out to be false, obviously, since I lived in Savannah, the place where autumn never comes and the air smelled like butts and paper mill.

By far the largest surprise though, was how many of my peers appeared to be completely and totally unprepared to be away from mommy. Every dorm floor had a laundry station, and if I had a quarter for every time I saw some girl in tears or some boy just staring in bewilderment at the machine, I’d have enough quarters to replace all of the ones I used teaching these idiots to wash their clothes.

I tried to be understanding, but it truly baffled my mind that a person could go 18 years of their life and never learn how to wash laundry. I decided before I even had a kid that when I did she was going to know all of the basic life skills. Someone forced me to learn all of these before I left for college (some before high school) and she will too, because I refuse to raise a child that doesn’t know why it’s important to sort reds and whites in the laundry bin.

 1. How to do their own damn laundry.

2. How to make a bed the right and proper way with hospital corners and pillow shams.

3. How to change a car’s oil.

4. How to file their own taxes, FAFSA, whatever.

5. How to change a flat tire.

6. How to use public transportation.

7. How to make a menu and grocery list and shop on the cheap.

8. How to open up utility accounts and pay their bills.

9. How to make a budget and manage their money.

10. How to eat at a nice restaurant and not look like a jackass.

11. How to clean their gross dorm room and later, their gross apartment.

12. A little (or a lot) of empathy.

This is the boring side of parenting. Surely it’s more exciting to teach your kids how to make bees out of pool noodles, and that’s fine. You don’t have to teach your kids how to balance a checkbook when they’re toddlers. But no one else is going to do this stuff for them. Part of getting them ready to GTFO is teaching them how to function. Don’t skip it, or some rude, eye-rolley college freshman will have to educate them instead. The world will thank you.

(Image: auremar/Shutterstock)

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  • Jessifer

    A bed with hospital corner and pillow shams?


    • https://twitter.com/FaintlyXMacabre Theresa Edwards

      No. It has to happen.

    • Momma425

      Ha, I don’t even do that with my own bed!

  • Spongeworthy

    I was considered something of a financial whiz by my circle of friends in college. Why? Because I was the only one who knew how to fill out a check correctly. Fill out a check! I mean, the instructions are pretty much right on it.

    • Rachel Sea

      I process all the checks my company receives, and am continually amazed at all the creative ways people fill them out.

  • Meg

    I would add basic cooking techniques.
    The importance of budgeting and money management cannot be overstated.

  • Ursi

    Parents, please teach your kids how to shop or at least point them in the right direction. It would have saved me so much money if I’d just been encouraged to pay attention on grocery trips and I don’t think it occurs to a lot of people that you can start doing it as soon as they learn math.

    It takes time to develop a knack for knowing how much a thing *should* cost, how good a deal actually is, how to maximize with coupons, how much to buy and when it’s worth it to buy the smaller size; etc.

    These are life skills every person needs. Most people start from scratch when they’re adults. It’s one thing when you move to a place where the price of things are drastically higher or lower but in general your kid can learn the average prices of the following:

    -seasonal fruit by the pound/kilo
    -meat (ground and in cuts)
    -bulk grain/rice

    Obviously learning to cook with maximize all that but even younger children can learn these things.

    I probably sound fanatical but my spouse never developed a knack for this (never needed to, really, I do 99% of the grocery shopping) and will pay $.50 for a lime he needs one because he doesn’t know you can get them 10/$1.00 down the street.

    It adds up!

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Kay_Sue

      And basic cooking. I watch my sisters, who do attend college out of town and stay on campus. Both of their dorms actually have kitchenettes, but they’re eating out every night, and then they wonder why they run out of money later on in the week. If they could throw together a couple of quick things (or eat Ramen, as is only proper), they’d be so much better off.

    • Larkin

      It never ceases to amaze me how many grown-ass adults legitimately don’t know how to cook. I’d say a huge percentage of adults I know can’t make anything beyond mac & cheese or ramen. These same people are amazed to learn that we cook the vast majority of our meals at home during the week.

      It’s seriously baffling.

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Kay_Sue

      <<< I was one of those people that couldn't cook until this past year. I mean, I could read directions at least, but actually cooking is a new skill. It still amazes me how much money and time I've wasted over the years because I had never learned.

  • JenH1986

    Budget…budget…budget….budget. Did I mention budget?

  • noelle 02

    See, you made me feel bad. I know how to change a tire and oil and taxes, but not well enough to actually do the job.

  • G.E. Phillips

    All of this, and may I add–how to properly RSVP to things, how to send a thank you note, and how to write a resume and a cover letter.

  • jane

    I’m with you for all of them except pay taxes. I don’t know how to pay my taxes. But I do know how to call an accountant. I do not feel bad in the slightest that I am all about outsourcing that shiz.

    Actually, same thing with changing the oil. Yes, it would save me a few bucks to do it myself, but I can sit and read for a few minutes if I have it done at Sears.

    But laundry? Tidying? Make a bed. We’re on it.

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Kay_Sue

      I use software. So yeah. I wouldn’t be able to fill out the paperwork, but I feel like that’s what people smarter than me are for. Which is probably what I’ll pass on to my children…;)

    • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

      My mom still does my taxes. Shhhh.
      She also does my dad’s, too, though, because she just finds it easier to do everyone’s all at once. And she’s been meaning to teach me, I’m just never home during tax time. She uses software, too, though, and told me it’s super easy.

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Kay_Sue

      Ours have always been easy, so fingers crossed that the internet doesn’t crash any time soon. ;)

    • Rachel Sea

      It’s good to know how to do it so you know if the professional helping you is an incompetent tool.

    • Larkin

      Yeah, I have no idea how to change my own oil… but, eh, it costs $25 and takes maybe 20 minutes to go have someone else do it.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      You almost can’t change your oil anymore (I used to) but legally getting rid of old oil is hard and you end up at the same shop anyway.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    YES. My parents taught me all of these things but I’m surprised how many people don’t learn basic life skills.

    I started doing my own laundry when I was like, 10. Because I started caring about my clothes, and realized that clothes come with little picture instructions on the tags. And because my dad did the laundry in our house, and as a result, I inherited many sweaters from my mom that my dad shrunk in the wash.

    So I started stapling notes with washing instructions to my clothes so my dad wouldn’t fuck up my clothes. That’s when my parents decided I was old enough to do my own damn laundry. And also that I’m kind of an asshole I guess.

    • K.

      That’s HILARIOUS.

      And if I were your parents, I would have shit a brick if I got instructions on the wash and been like, “Yeahhhh…you can do this for yourself now.”

      (Although I also would have saved one of those lists of instructions, had it framed, and given it to you upon having your own child :)

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      Yeah, that’s pretty much how it went. I wish they’d saved it though!

  • K.

    Not that I don’t agree with this list, but on the bed-making…

    …Uh, I knew *how* to make a bed and to tidy up, I just didn’t want to. Isn’t that sort of the point of going to college? …To realize what real responsibility means–ie, no one’s going to make you make your bed or vacuum or do the dishes or your laundry, but if you don’t do those things, it’s YOU who is going to suffer (well, your roommates too, but you’ll also have to contend with the strife).

    Sometimes you need the whole experience to have that sink in.

    • Guest

      I think that is the key. Know HOW to make a bed but that doesn’t mean you have to since you’re an adult…

  • lpag

    I still don’t make my bed,and I’m married and a mom. I don’t see the point and I don’t think anyone’s affected by my not making the bed. The rest is all true, although I think for the car stuff, you could just teach them to sign up for AAA.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      I don’t make my bed because that is what husbands are for.

    • CMJ

      +1 for husbands who make the bed!

    • Mystik Spiral

      That’s why I like when my boyfriend stays over. The bed gets made while I’m in the shower.

    • Harriet Meadow

      I also don’t see the point in making the bed. My husband, being an ex-Marine, is adamant that it should be made. So he makes it. =) I mean, I KNOW how to make a bed, I just don’t do it.

    • Rachel Sea

      If you sleep with a bed hog, making the bed is a total necessity, because it’s the only thing that redistributes the covers and pillows equitably.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I am the bed hog :)

    • Sri

      I would generally agree, but I went to college with a woman who genuinely didn’t know how to put a fitted sheet on her bed. Like, she was perplexed by the concept. Someone had to show her how at like 3 am the first night, while she broke down in tears. She’s a doctor now…

    • lpag

      Well, I do that. I change the linens every week (a little more often for the kid currently undergoing night training). That’s obvious. But I don’t see the need to make the bed all nice and fancy. So long as the sheets are clean, the rest doesn’t matter.

    • Sri

      Yeah, I agree with you on that. I’m the frigging ice queen sleeping under a blanket fortress, and I swear my husband is part sauna, so it makes no sense to put blankets on his side of the bed, when he’s just going to throw them on my side, anyway.

      I was just totally shocked that this person actually didn’t know how to apply sheet to bed, because they never did at home.

  • K.

    One more to add:

    Please teach your kid how to write a formal email to a person who is in a position of authority (ie, a professor):

    1. Retire your high-school email of “OKokGrrrl1995″ and get an email address that is plain and boring, like “JDoe@gmail.com”. And for fuck’s sake: “RowdyRacy69″ “XXXManMeat,” “HotChica.NextDoor” …just don’t. It’s weird. Even to your friends.

    2. You have to use a salutation. Figure out the correct title–”Mr.” “Dr.” “Prof.” etc. DO NOT start in with “Hey–” In college, “Professor” is generally safest–if it’s a TA, they won’t care; but if it’s an actual professor, they might.

    3. Identify yourself, first and last name, as well as the course that you are in. Your professor might have 4 courses and 300 students and have no idea who you are.

    4. Conclude with a sign-off: “Sincerely, Jane” or “Sincerely, Jane Doe” is fine.

    • chickadee

      And punctuation. Please, people, don’t use text rules in your email when you are asking for an extension, for a meeting, or for anything at all that it is in my power to deny you. I *do* judge you by your email etiquette, because it reflects your maturity and judgment.

      I received an email from a student with the gmail account ‘chocolatebooty85′ once. No lie. The next class meeting, I made everyone create a boring email account to use while they were in my class.

    • K.

      Oh god! The punctuation! And the text-speak. I’ve also had to tell students, “You know, the Chair of our department is a really hip cool guy, but he’s 73. He’ll have no idea what you are talking about if you write ‘JSYK’ or ‘TIA.’” Then I write the rule on the board: “Spell S-H-I-T out”

      PS–The three emails I listed are verrrrrry close to emails that I actually received from students! And the “Okok” one was similar to a HS student who was a fan of “Fault In Our Stars.”

    • Guest

      When I was a TA, I told my students that if they wanted to write to me, they’d have to do it with their official university email account, otherwise I’d assume it was spam and/or virus and would delete it. Don’t need an inbox full of junk.

    • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

      Maybe it’s a new thing or maybe it’s only up here, but we were told that we were only allowed to communicate with our official university emails and when I was a TA that students could only contact us with their official university emails. (though my thesis advisor emails me to my personal one, but it’s firstname.lastnameAThotmailDOTcom and I think a little different with grad students)

    • ted3553

      we did a mass hiring at a plant we started up and received hundreds of resumes from emails like BigSean Stud or HotandSweaty which were two of my favorites. Teens need to know that they are judged on this.

    • Larkin

      We’ve had people apply for JOBS with emails like “sexysurfer.” Seriously, WTF?

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Kay_Sue

      I feel like this can’t be stressed enough. Even in the workplace, I’d have employees send us emails for time off or benefits questions or whatevs, and they would be…horrific. Just…traumatic to read.

    • D

      Even more annoying is when you go to the trouble to craft a nice email and an older person in a position of authority responds “K”

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Kay_Sue

      Yeah, it’s annoying regardless of who does it.

    • ted3553

      ugh. My boss replies “10-4″ to e-mails. I really want to but have yet to fire one back with “STFU”

    • Larkin


      That’s all.

    • K.

      I agree with you!

      (although I have told students before, “If I don’t respond to your email, it’s because your email is stupid and doesn’t warrant a response. “I missed class, so can I have your lecture notes?” is a stupid question.)

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Ugh. I an seriously considering putting NEVER ASK ME FOR NOTES BECAUSE YOU SKIPPED CLASS in my syllabus. I can’t believe they do that. Ask a god dammed friend.

    • K.

      And you want to be like, “People! It doesn’t have to be fancy! Just say hello, who you are, what you want, thank you and goodbye. Batta-bing, batta-boom.”

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Kay_Sue

      Exactly. Proper grammar and punctation, and spell check to boot, and you are good to go.

    • Sri

      Good goddamn, you should see some of the emails I’ve been CCd on TO PARENTS! You would think that we would want to impress the parents of our pupils, right? I’ve seen the most ridiculous portmanteaus in some of these things, things like “Totesapols.” Do you mean I totally apologize? Is that what you mean? Because you can, you know, just say… that. I’ve never wished I could unsend someone else’s emails so badly. Like, I had to take a course on how to talk to parents in college. Apparently, some of my colleagues did not, or maybe they did and just failed.

    • K.

      And “totesapols” is like, the worst portmanteau ever, if you actually mean to convey what you’re abbreviating and not being a jerkoff.

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Kay_Sue

      That is crazy. I would definitely think in a parent-teacher relationship you’d want to convey message with an air of authority…

    • Sri

      I know, right? I get all stuffy and serious when I’m writing teacher emails because I want the parents to have faith that I’m actually competent and able to teach their child.

      (And, no, I never use like to start a sentence in a parent email, I just tend to write comments very conversationally (maybe as a backlash against the stuffiness?) and I’m too damn lazy to write a better alternative. I could write a professional sounding comment without swearing, but where’s the fun in that?)

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Kay_Sue

      That would be no fun at all. I oscillate back and forth between extremely formal and extremely conversational on this site, so I totally get that, honestly, lol!

    • Guest

      OMG yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I made my brother do a boring email when I helped him with a resume. I’m so agast at some of the people we get resumes from and the emails that come with them. Hint: If I see that you can’t spell I’m already irritated. The last person we hired- I knew he was good because he didn’t sound like a moron (or a high high schooler) when he called in to set up his interview. #winner

    • Harriet Meadow

      One of the most prestigious professors at our university (who was the chair of our department for a long time) told us the story of when he was teaching a large lecture course and one of the students, asking for some sort of ridiculous accommodation, began his e-mail with “Hey Pete” (the professor’s first name is Peter). No. Just no.

    • K.

      I also get PAPERS from students in which they will refer to an author by their first name.

      “When Virginia wrote ‘Mrs. Dalloway’…”

      And then they look at me like I’ve grown three heads when I tell them, no, you really don’t ever use a person’s first name by itself.

    • CMJ

      To this day, momjones and I are shocked at the number of people who don’t know how to write a coherent sentence. We talk about it regularly.

    • Harriet Meadow

      And you especially don’t give them a nickname without express permission! “When Ginny wrote ‘Mrs. Dalloway’…”

    • Lackadaisical

      What irritates me about this is that a lot of people only do that for female authors while male authors are referred to only by last name. Charles Dickens will always be Dickens while Jane Austen will often be Jane. Also when surnames are used many people will use just surnames for men but always put a first name in for women, for example if I say Shelly people will always think of the poet, if I want to talk of the author of Frankenstein I need to add Mary.

    • Guest

      To add to these: please please please do #3 – I can’t tell you how many times I have students email me to say “I won’t be in class” or “could you tell me what we went over in class” without specifying which class. (Hint: saying “English” class or “history” class or whatever doesn’t help, since chances are high that all of the professor’s classes are in the same field. It might narrow it down for you but not for us.

      Also, unless expressly requested, do not refer to a female professor as Mrs. X. 1) you should probably be calling her prof or dr. X anyway, 2) she may not be married, 3) she may well have kept her own name even if she is married. Mrs. X, in my case, refers to my mom – I’m not that person and I assure you that you don’t want her help with your paper, as awesome as my mom is.

    • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

      I agree to a point with the Mrs. X thing. Not all lecturers are professors or have their doctorate. If anything, call them. “Ms. X” if it’s a female and you’re unsure, but there’s also the university website that will usually have the instructors for each department, or the best way is to ask them in person before or after the first class.

    • K.

      The “Mrs.” drove me nuts.

      Even when I was still a graduate student, I told my students that if they were corresponding with a woman in a professional capacity to use “Ms.”

    • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

      In addition to that, I would also say, find out what the professor likes to be called (staying after class and asking politely; it’s also a good way to get the prof to know you and give you an extra edge if it’s a large class because the prof will know your face and name instead of you just being number 237 of 300). Some profs are VERY picky and prefer Prof. or Dr., some don’t care either way, and some very much prefer you to use their first name.

      Also, it’s a wonderful thing that universities have been giving out emails for students for several years now and a lot of profs aren’t allowed (or at least strongly discouraged not to) have correspondence with a student’s personal/non-university email address.

    • K.

      Hmmm…I’ve never been advised or discouraged from corresponding via personal email.

      For me, it depended on the school–at a community college or a university with a big commuter population, I got a lot of emails from personal accounts (my own graduate school was a big public university and everyone got an institutional email; none of the graduate students actually used theirs and only about half the undergrads did). And if I were a visiting prof or adjunct, I sometimes didn’t get an institutional account, so I had to use my regular personal one.

    • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

      Maybe it’s a newer thing or just up here, but both schools I’ve been at have really stressed only corresponding with institutional accounts (or any institutional account if it’s a visiting prof). My undergrad was a small school of only about 7000 and my grad school has about 40,000.

    • Lilly

      All the schools I have gone to have automatically given me a school account (I do a lot of continuing studies, probably too much). The account can be set to forward emails to a personal account but profs, TAs, admin people all seem to only send info to that account (I think for a lot of classes a class email list is setup with the student accounts). So I always use it to emails profs, TAs, admins etc, keeps school stuff separate from personal. I really don’t understand why people are so adverse to using it though.

    • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

      I have, I think, 5 different email addresses that help keep everything separate for me. 2 are school ones (undergrad and grad) and 3 are various personal ones (including a “professional” one that I put on my resume) and they all are set up on my phone so I always get everything that’s sent to me.

      I never understood when my classmates would say that they never checked their school emails and then complained about not being warned about a building being closed for flooding or class being cancelled or missing a cool event. They were warned, they just didn’t check their school email where the bulletin was sent to.

    • Jallun-Keatres

      Haha I made my current email address in early high school and it’s still going strong 10 years later. It’s funny because it’s an alias that I no longer use and actually HATE (because I associate it with high school) but I can’t think of anything better to call it. I have to spell it out every time which I guess is good cuz I can pass it off as an acronym or something. It’s not Jallun or Keatres so no spamming me!

    • Lackadaisical

      Our UK university staff love American students as you keep promoting them by calling them professor. Here professor is the title for the senior academic of the department, everyone else is plain doctor.

      I absolutely agree with you about being able to write an email to a person in authority, whether teaching staff or campus staff.

    • Zoe

      This. I work in HR in a field that a lot of young people want to get into. I’ve seen some shocking email applications – text-speak, inappropriate informality, sex-and/or-pot-related email addresses, spelling so poor it was nearly indecipherable, total lack of punctuation, CC applications to multiple companies (seriously, if you’re going to be that lazy you can at least BCC!), all-caps or no-caps… and it goes on.

      It gets better – more than once I’ve had an irate parent (of a 26-year-old) call me to demand why I rejected their little angel. Because they WANTED this job. Real bad.

  • The Actual Devil

    People who can’t do laundry make me laugh. Wasn’t your mother ever sick or tired or gone? What if you realized needed a certain piece of clothing for the next day? Did she drop everything?

    People who can’t cook confuse me. Like, you can’t feed yourself. Especially people who can’t make mixes from a box. I made pancakes by myself when I was nine. It was fun!

  • chickadee

    I’d say be able to check the oil and fluid levels rather than change the oil. Most campuses aren’t keen on students changing their oil in the parking lots.

    Brown sludgy oil = no.

  • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Kay_Sue

    My mom taught me how to do laundry at 11…my military father taught me how to put hospital corners on a bed at 5. No shams though. He doesn’t do shams.

    It really did amaze me to see other people’s dorms and apartments in college. I lived at home, so there wasn’t any change there. But the level of people that had no idea what they were doing was mind-blowing. It really is an important part of parenting.

  • Spiderpigmom

    Hmmm… The embarrassing thing is the number of items on this list I actually can’t do myself. Responsible adulthood FTW.

  • Warren Pacholzuk

    #1,2,6,10,11 they should all know before they go to high school.
    #3 never change their own oil. Not worth it. Have it done at one of the lube joints.
    #4 go to a tax preparer. Better safe than sorry.
    #5 most adults do not know how to change their tire. And if they are not strong enough to tighten the lugnuts enough, it can be dangerous.
    But 1,2,6,10, and 11 they should be doing before high school

    • SA

      #4 – Depends. Most college students are still considered dependents or just have W-2 income which can be done online for free and you’d have to work HARD to mess it up. I wouldn’t advice any college student visit a tax preparer if they were filing an EZ, they’d just be throwing away much needed money.

    • staferny

      All I had this year was 1 T4 and a couple transit passes to claim, I’m not paying someone $50 for that, not when it would be better used to purchase all the wine… okay, maybe just a couple bottles.

    • SA

      I’ll shamefully admit we purchase cases of wine for $36 a piece. That would still leave room for a bottle of vodka! :) $50 can go far!

    • staferny

      I used to make wine with my mom, she’d make a red and I’d make a white and then we’d tradesies. I think we could make about 25 bottles for $50, best deal ever but the hangovers I get now from homemade wine make me want to reach into my skull and rip my brain out for death by fire. Getting old has really diminished my tolerance for alcohol, it makes me sad.

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      Up here if they are working at summer jobs and part time, and have made over X amount, they are not dependants. After they have done their taxes, some tuition and other deductions can in part be used by a parent on theirs.

  • http://facebook.com/guineverew Guinevere

    2, 3, 5, 6, and 11 still elude me.

  • staferny

    I was taught to and do all of these except for the budgeting and managing money, I wish someone would have taught me to save first & spend later rather than buying random shit (like my Spirooli veggie spiralizer) on credit.
    I did somehow manage to get stuck under my car once while doing an oil change, ponytail got rolled up in the creeper and I had to phone my dad to come over and pull me out. Lesson learned, I now wear a hat.

  • SA

    #2 and #12 were about all I was taught. I WISH I had know the others (except oil change and tire change – Valvoline and AAA are good enough for those!). I wasn’t really given a ton of home responsibilities. I was an honors student, very involved in school activities, and had a job as well so I think they just let that one slide, but meal planning (COOKING even) and budging would have been a really great thing to learn. Oh yeah, and LAUNDRY! I was terrified the first time I went to the dorm laundry room. I plan on starting early with my kid.

    • Guets

      I intend to make my kids choose a night of the week that they will cook dinner EVERY week when they’re old enough to cook. My mom let me do it occasionally and it was sooo helpful. I started doing laundry in second grade so when people tell me they don’t know how I’m terribly embarassed for them.

    • Lackadaisical

      Oh yes, my parents also asked me and my brother to cook for the family and it really helped. I would even put being able to cook on a list of things to be able too do before secondary school (11 years) as kids who are squeamish in the kitchen look daft in home ec classes

    • Larkin

      Is home ec still a thing??? I never had to take that. Ha.

      We did have “senior economics,” which taught us how to write checks and budget and whatnot before we graduated, so that was awesome.

    • Guest

      We still had home ec in 7th grade… we did a little bit of cooking and sewed a pair of shorts from what I can remember. Even the cooking though was easy as hell..like bubble pizza really? I don’t think most adults are going to make this a go-to recipe even though it is tasty.

    • Lackadaisical

      For us sewing was in textiles which was technically part of home ec but was taught as a separate subject. In my brothers school they did home ec focusing on the kitchen, like us, but did woodwork and metal work instead of textiles. Yay the inherent sexism of single sex schools that you can’t prove is sexism because they are two different schools and neither has the other sex to treat differently. Girls in mixed schools tend to wear trousers in the UK because with boys wearing them it is discrimination to not allow the girls to do the same. Girls in all girls schools tend to only be allowed skirts (or at least that is the case in my old school) because it isn’t discrimination if everyone has the same dress code, even though all the boys locally can wear trousers to their school.

    • Lackadaisical

      I am English so it would be a different curriculum. When I was at school I think home ec was mandatory for 11-14 year olds (year 7, 8 and 9, the first three years of secondary school). Some schools had better home ec departments than others and some schools got away with very little practical cooking, hence a lot of kids who can’t cook at uni. I believe they have now renamed the department food technology and shifted the focus, but it is still mandatory for 11-14 year olds.

      What is the cookery teaching like in schools where you are?

    • Sri

      My school now: They learn the basics of baking (bread and sweets) and some basic pasta dishes (pesto and with jarred red sauce). The course itself has been mostly focused on nutrition and not doing drugs. I have no idea how the drugs part got added, to be honest with you, and why it isn’t part of health class.

      My school growing up: We learned how to make basic meat dishes, like meatloaf, meatballs, how to bake a chicken, we learned how to make real macaroni and cheese from scratch, we learned how to make veggie dishes beyond “steam this thing, profit” and we learned how to make a few different types of breads and desserts. We had another “life skills” class where we learned how to mend, do laundry, fill out job applications and balance a checkbook.

      I blame standardized testing, to be honest with you. When I went to school, we had big tests in 4th grade, 8th grade, and high school (every year of high school). My students today have state tests every year in math and English, and those tests determine our school funding, to some extent. In addition, we are a pretty rich suburb, and parents demand we score in the top 5% of the state or so, or else they will actually pick up and move to another district, because they can and because selling their house and buying a new one is still cheaper than private school.

    • Larkin

      I actually instigated this myself. At some point in high school, I asked if I could start making dinner one time every week. Totally planning to do this with my kid once he’s old enough to handle it, and I’ll have him helping us put stuff together before that so he gets the hang of it. So, so helpful in learning how to cook actual non-instant food.

  • loser_sneeze

    I’m iffy on the public transportation one. So many people in America never have any reason to use public transport or even access to it. I didn’t growing up. I moved to a city that had great transport when I was in grad school and was able to get along just fine. Just be sure your kid has some common sense and they can figure out transportation if necessary. It’s not rocket science.

    • SA

      Agreed. Public Transportation was not a thing in my small town. Even though I live in a bigger place now it still isn’t public transportation friendly so I have never taken a bus and have only used subways in big cities.

      I’d say more than anything tell them to keep a list of cab phone numbers in their phone and to USE THEM if they have been drinking.

    • Guest

      I would say around here most don’t use public transportation. I never have. However, I would want my kids to know how car insurance works and how to purchase a vehicle, what tabs and the title are etc. I’ve worked in insurance and it amazes me how many kids (and adults) come in and have no clue what they’re doing but just want the cheapest garbage coverage they can find because Flo told them to in a commercial.

    • Larkin

      I never once used public transit before I moved to Boston for college. I learned how to navigate through the city within a week, easily. As long as you teach your kid to have common sense and know how to figure stuff out, they should be fine.

  • Lackadaisical

    I would add being able to cook. Because I arrived by train on my own with all my worldly goods in a backpack (some parents can take the independence thing a little too far) I had to buy pots and pans when I arrived. This was no problem as for the first couple of weeks my fellow students on my corridor offered me free food if I cooked for them as they were utterly,utterly clueless. I didn’t drive so couldn’t do the tire

    • staferny

      I grew up in a really small town that had a strong red neck population, we didn’t have high end restaurants or a variety of different foods to try. Other than the typical fast food chains we had 1 Chinese restaurant and I use that term very loosely, they were pretty much a buffet that happened to have chicken balls and rice as part of the spread. I still remember the first times I had sushi and Ethiopian, there was more food on me and the floor than in my mouth, two of the most embarrassing outings of my adult life, I was 27.

    • Lackadaisical

      I can see how that would feel awkward but as long as all you did was make a bit of mess I would have no problems with you as a dining companion. Unfortunately a lot of students and even young mums from my kids’ school reacted to embarrassment or fear of new tastes with rudeness about the food or to the restaurant staff. Those are the only people I was ashamed to dine with. Those are the kind of public manners I worry about with my kids. Fine, someone uses the wrong fork or can’t use chopsticks, that is not a big deal. Young adults being rude and boorish in public is a big deal and something I try to avoid in my own children’s futures as I raise them.

  • wispy

    My mom NEVER let us touch the damn washing machine growing up so I went to college without knowing how to do laundry. She never let us do anything actually because it took too much time to teach us and she’d rather get it over with on her own. Lovely parenting. We had to sneak if we wanted to cook something while she was out of the house because we weren’t allowed to be in the kitchen, wash dishes, etc because she was SURE we were going to break everything in the house. Thankfully my lovely boyfriend at the time taught me how to do laundry and let me cook whatever the hell I wanted AND do dishes.

  • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

    Let’s see, I could do my laundry (despite not really having done laundry before…it’s not brain surgery and there were instructions on the wall), make my bed with hospital corners (didn’t have shams), use public transportation (there were only 2 or 3 routes I needed to use up there and the routes were online), kind of make a menu and grocery shop on the cheap (can be hard when you have a picky roommate who’s particular on name brands…more about him later), I learned how to open a utility account and pay bills when I started grad school (just phone them up and bill comes to my email), how to eat at a nice restaurant and not look like a jackass (parents started me young on that one), how to clean up after myself, and empathy. I could also follow directions on boxes and recipes like a pro, despite my limited cooking experience.

    In my first year of my undergrad, I lived in my own dorm room and was on a meal plan, so I didn’t need to worry about a whole lot except not spending all my money, cleaning up my room/laundry, and going to class/handing in assignments on time. In second year, I moved into an on-campus townhouse with my best friend and her boyfriend. My bff was awesome; just as big about keeping the common areas clean, washing dishes, and just generally being decent human beings, but her boyfriend…yeah he was interesting to live with. He grew up super privileged, his mom doing basically everything for him. My bff told me that the first time did laundry, he didn’t know he had to put soap in the washer because he thought the washer already had it in there (this became known as the “soap fairy”). He also did a shit job at washing the dishes the one time we asked him to do it (the only time we asked him..) and would put off cleaning the bathroom for weeks (the ONLY chore we got him to do, mostly because he would have like 3 baths a day). Oh, and mentioning the baths, he would use up all the hot water so my bff and I would often have cold showers or not be able to clean the dishes. He also would be playing his Xbox which was hooked up to my TV (that part I didn’t have a problem with, I was the only one with a TV that could hook up to the cable box so I shared the love) but have to go to class or go for dinner so he would pause the game but not turn off the TV and leave it for HOURS. It didn’t matter how often we’d tell him to turn the screen off. He insisted he was too good for leftovers (so much wasted food that he’d heat up for like 30 seconds then throw out…) and only wanted name brand things (we were splitting groceries at the time, but for 3rd year, my bff and I cut him out of the grocery pool).

    I would say, teach your kid to be a decent human being and respect other peoples’ belongings. And common sense, because a lot of these things, like budgeting, doing laundry, following a simple recipe, and using public transportation can all be figured out by using a bit of common sense and google. How to address a professor or other authority figure in person/writing is also good. And to be responsible for your own actions and accept consequences of those actions. I don’t know how many people I knew complained about getting caught drinking underage or in areas where they weren’t supposed to and bitching about paying a fine. You signed the form that outlined the rules, meaning you agreed to them and drinking underage is illegal (I’m not against it, just about bitching when you get caught doing something you shouldn’t). Time management/scheduling is a plus, but if a kid can’t get themselves up in the morning and get to class, even if it’s at 8:30am, for the majority of classes, or nap through their afternoon classes all the time, I would say maybe university/college isn’t for them right now. And decision making, too, but I also think kids need to learn “in the trenches” whether they can afford a night off to go wild and party or whether they should finish their paper that’s due at 9am.

  • redzulu

    I love the dog vacuum gif! (That is now what happens to TK) And cleaning is important!

    • https://twitter.com/FaintlyXMacabre Theresa Edwards


    • redzulu

      lol That is included in my cleaning statement. ;) I love me some hospital corners! Actually this is a really good list. All these things need to be done.

  • KatDuck

    Total agreement, though I’d amend the “use public transit” to “know how to get around in various situations.” But yours is shorter and sounds better so there’s that. But the point being that the young adult never feels trapped someplace because they don’t know how to get themselves home.

    We had a dorm fire because one bright student thought you did laundry by shoving everything you own into the washing machine until the drum can’t turn and leaving it. Worse, the machines were free for students so it’s not like he was saving a few dollars. Nope, just clueless and a bit lazy.

    I refused to let my brother do something that stupid and taught him how to read care labels (both he and my DH were amazed that those exist. I … really? How do you NOT notice that those little tags have info on them?) and the basics. I’m not some laundry genius but, really, it’s not hard. But it really amazed me that without me he would have gone off to college that fall with no idea how those dirty clothes in the hamper transformed into the clean ones hanging up. I swear, our parents never pampered me like that. By the end of high school I was in charge of my own laundry. In part because my mother had ruined one too many of my clothes and used an unholy amount of greasy fabric softener, but still. That made college that much less intimidating.

    I have fond memories of my father teaching me to change the tire. I had a behemoth of a car and he explained it all in great detail before popping the lid for the winch … and turns out my car had instructions right there. With pictures! That car gave me many opportunities to put those instructions to use…

  • AP

    We had to have a dorm meeting sophomore year because someone tried to use one of the shared dorm vacuum cleaners to clean up vomit. It was NOT a shop vac.

    All the vacuums were named to keep track of them, so at this particular meeting, we had a discussion about how someone broke Kierkkegard by using him to suck up vomit.

  • ted3553

    I had a friend in grade 12 who made tea for her grandmother by filling the ceramic tea pot and putting it on the stove. Seriously?? thankfully her grandmother caught it before it heated up and exploded.

    • Larkin

      I know someone who, in her early 20′s, trying to make mashed potatoes… without realizing you need to cook them BEFORE you mash them. She called her mom to figure out why they weren’t mashing, and her mom asked how long she’d boiled them. “Uhhhh… boil them?”

  • Rachel Sea

    I wasn’t allowed to do a lot of household chores, because my mom was afraid I would burn myself with bleach and become disfigured, or break a glass, and slit an artery and die, or fall off a stepladder and break m neck and die.

    Her mom shamed her into letting me do my own laundry when I was 13, but I moved out not knowing how to cook anything except spaghetti with jarred sauce, and I learned how to make a bed from watching tv.

  • emilyg25

    Agreed with all of this except changing a car’s oil. A person should know how to check oil and understand that it needs to be changed regularly, but if you drive a compact Japanese car like mine, actually changing the oil is a huge PITA. Totally worth the $35 at Midas.

    Also, public transportation systems vary so much city to city. Like, where I live, it’s virtually useless. So that’s kind of location-dependent.

  • Katherine Handcock

    I think I’d change this to two rules: one would be teach them how to be a functional human being in your environment. You should be able to feed yourself, clothe yourself (and keep yourself clothed through laundry), buy what you need without running out of money, and get yourself around…and anything you don’t know, you should know how to find out (I don’t know how to change my car’s oil, but I could learn tomorrow; ditto for getting around on public transportation here.)

    But Rule 12 should stay. 100%. Empathy is so important, and a lot of parents don’t like to talk about it.

  • itpainsme2say

    I kew how to do laundry (even separated colors) but i never had quarters, I knew in theory how to change a tire, and i was a master at making my bed. Everything else NOPE.

  • Bludab

    I was talking to my almost 11 year old the other day, and we were discussing the fact that some of her friends don’t have chores. Their parents prefer to keep their childhoods as worry free as possible, or that seems to be the reasoning. My daughter looked at me, with her mouth a little agape (and I prepared myself for the inevitable whine), and then asked – “But how do they learn what to do? If they don’t have chores, that means they don’t know how to do laundry or the dishes or run a lawnmower or take care of the garden or babysit the kid next door or cook a quick dinner! Mom, no offense, but if you got hit by a bus I could run the house if I had to.” She doesn’t have a ton of chores, but I’ve taught her how to manage most of them.

  • 2Well

    Why do you need hospital corners to make a bed? I live alone. As long as my blankets are straight, that’s good enough for me.

    I’m one of the few young people I know who can change oil. The only problem is I have no place to do it. My apartment complex has rules against doing car work in the parking lot, and my nearby gas stations are kind of frightening. I can’t even check my oil there without someone coming up to me thinking I need help or that my boyfriend should be doing it or asking for money. So I use the lube joints anyway.

    I always feel like a jackass in nice restaurants. I grew up where Olive Garden and Red Lobster were considered fancy. Multiple forks and crystal make me nervous. I know nothing about wine and don’t even particularly care for it, except for cooking.

  • notorious

    I think it’s nuts that there are still young people who don’t know how to do these things and need someone to show them. Most of them own smartphones and/or computers. You can find out how to do just about anything in about 2 minutes. There are even youtube videos if you need visual help to understand how to iron your pants or whatever. Come on guys.

  • Grace

    Basic. Freaking. Cooking. I’m only 16 and I know how to cook better then a lot of my parent’s friends. So many people my age and even older don’t even know how to make anything other than ramen and mac n cheese. My parents were big cooks, so I knew how to make pasta, lasagne, enchiladas, homemade pizza, even homemade salsa and so much more by myself by the time I was 13. So many of my friends call me up when they’re home alone asking if I want to go get something to eat since they can’t make anything themselves. My parents could go away for days and I would be able to make all my own meals, it’s something that’s so helpful that every single person needs to learn.
    Honestly. One of my friends parents makes spaghetti by mixing pasta with KETCHUP, because she thinks that’s the proper way. Come on people, cooking isn’t even hard if you just try it. To all new parents, TEACH YOUR KIDS TO COOK.

  • Sara610

    I agree that basic menu planning and cooking needs to be on this list.

    Also……PLEASE make sure your kids know how to talk to their own damn teachers/professors and advocate for themselves if they have questions about their grade or don’t understand the material. There are kids IN FREAKING COLLEGE whose mom will call up the professor to demand to know why Special Czneauflayke got a B instead of an A on the term paper, or explain that she slept through the final exam but should be allowed to take it late, or whatever. Your kid in college may still be your kid, but he/she is an adult and you should not be involved in his/her academic life in any way except to check up on grades (by having your kid show you the grade reports, not calling the professor to request an update) if you’re footing the bill and you feel that’s appropriate. The professor can’t even legally tell you anything, because again–the college student in question is probably (unless he’s a 12-year-old prodigy) an ADULT.

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