12 Basic Skills Every Child Should Have by the Time they Turn 18

skills every child should have by 18

As parents, our children mean the world to us and we would do anything to protect and raise them to become happy and well-adjusted individuals who are ready to face the world. However, this form of overparenting often ends up with the opposite effect, leaving our children unprepared to face and function in the world as adults.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and author of “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success”, says that we, as parents, might be doing too much for our children. “We have the very best of intentions, but when we over-help, we deprive them of the chance to learn these really important things that it turns out they need to learn to be prepared to be out in the world of work, to get an apartment, to make their way through an unfamiliar town, to interact with adults who aren’t motivated by love,” she emphasises.

So, if you are looking to free the reins of helicopter parenting and prepare your child for life as a confident young adult, Lythcott-Haims shares this list of basic skills which every child should know by the time they are done with school:

1. Wake up on time by themselves

Once your children grow up to become teenagers, they should have the confidence to wake themselves up and get ready for school in clean clothing. However, a lot of young adults are experiencing difficulties in basic skills such as this, as their parents are often on standby to ensure that the morning school routine goes smoothly.

“We feel the stakes are high, and therefore we must help, but the stakes are low in childhood compared to what they will be in college, and what they’ll really be in the world beyond,” Lythcott-Haims explains.

2. Put together their own meals

While it is normal practice for you to prepare meals for the family on most days, you might want to give your children the opportunity to learn to fix their own meals too. This sort of competence can be achieved with practice and over time, their confidence in this basic skill of survival gradually develops. “By the time your [child] is in high school, they really ought to be able to do everything related to their own care, if they had to,” Lythcott-Haims affirms.

3. Help with household chores and go grocery shopping

We need to teach our children to do basic household chores from young, as there are important lessons to be learnt from this simple act. Not only are you teaching them the value of helping out at home, this also teaches them about responsibility and the domestic skills that will come in handy later on in life.

Once they feel confident enough about their abilities in taking care of household chores, they should be ready to tackle grocery shopping as well. Teenagers should know how to find their way in a supermarket on their own and shop for essential items for the home, at least with the help of a shopping list. To do this successfully, Lythcott-Haims recommends that parents “show their [children] the ropes, watch them do it themselves once to make sure they’ve got it, and then let them handle it on their own.”

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4. Order at restaurants

If your teens have yet to order for themselves while eating out, it is high time that you let them give this a try – instead of them assuming that mum or dad will order for the whole family. To do this, remind them to look the server in the eye, be polite when communicating their request and end it with a “thank you”.

“One day before long, they’re going to be out with friends, and they’re going to want to have that skill to not only order food, but to do so respectfully,” Lythcott-Haims says.

5. Find his/her way around

Most of us have made it a habit to drive or accompany our children everywhere, even when they can easily make their way to the destination through public transport or by walking. As a result, they become heavily dependent on us for directions and struggle with deciding on the transportation options that will get them there. This is a skill which they will need later on in life as they navigate their way around the city where they are working or studying, both locally and abroad.

To give your children the confidence in finding their own way, do give them opportunities to run small errands by themselves (e.g. to head to the neighbourhood shopping mall for some groceries) and have a go at meeting their friends at a designated place with the help of Google maps and the public transportation system.


Teaching your child to “talk to strangers” and have the courage to take risks could benefit them as they grow up. More details of this on the next page.


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